In the absence of mandatory paternity leave, balancing work and family life has been a challenge for working parents with a newborn, or for parents-to-be, in Hong Kong.
Currently, only male government employees are entitled to a 5-day paternity leave on full pay. If a male employee working in the private sector wishes to take time off to care for his newly born child or his spouse, he will have to utilize his annual leave or seek other applicable leave,such as compassionate leave. Male employees may be reluclant to seek such leave for fear of risking their job security or even losing their job.
After 8 years of public discussion and in view of the low birthrate in Hong Kong, a draft legislation to introduce mandatory paternity leave and paternity leave pay (PLP) in Hong Kong was tabled for the local legislature’s approval in March this year. A special bills committee was set up and met in April and May to examine the bill. Under the bill, parents will be entitled to take maternity and paternity leave at the same time. This advance in the provision of paternity leave will set Hong Kong ahead of many other countries.
The following table sets out the key features of the proposed paternity leave and PLP mechanism:
A. Paternity leave mechanism
|Duration||3 days (consecutive or separate)|
|Timing of leave||Any time during the period from the 4 weeks before the expected date of birth to 10 weeks after the date of the birth.|
|Entitlement to paternity leave||A male employee must:
|Notification requirements||The employee must inform the employer of:
|Any other requirement||The employer may require the employee to provide a written statement stating:
B. Paternity leave pay mechanism
|Pay rate||80% of daily average wages|
|Entitlement to PLP||The employee must:
|Timing of payment of PLP||If paternity proof is duly given:
Note: If the employer has paid paternity leave before the paternity proof is provided and the employee fails to provide it within the required period (such as 3 months after the first day of paternity leave), the employer may deduct the PLP from the employee’s wages.
In view of the expected arrival of statutory paternity leave in Hong Kong, employers should review their existing employment policies and procedures and consider what amendments should be made or what other arrangements are needed to enable them to comply with the statutory requirements for paternity leave when the legislation eventually comes into force. It may be necessary in many cases to prepare a paternity leave policy and standard forms of leave application and statement.