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:

  1. be the father of the child;
  2. have been employed for 4 consecutive weeks for at least 18 hours a week immediately before taking leave;
  3. give prescribed notice to his employer (see below for details).
Notification requirements The employee must inform the employer of:

  1. his intention to take leave at least 3 months before the expected date of birth; and
  2. the intended date of paternity leave at least 2 days before that date (or at least 5 days if the employee fails to notify the employer regarding item (1) above).
Any other requirement The employer may require the employee to provide a written statement stating:

  1. that he is the child’s father;
  2. the name of the child’s mother; and
  3. the expected/actual date of the birth of the child.


B. Paternity leave pay mechanism

Pay rate 80% of daily average wages
Entitlement to PLP The employee must:

  1. have been employed for 40 consecutive weeks or more (for at least 18 hours a week) immediately before paternity leave commences;
  2. provide the birth certificate of the child (or any other birth registration record issued by the authorities of the birthplace if the child is born overseas) to prove the father-child relationship between the employee and his child.
Timing of payment of PLP If paternity proof is duly given:

  1. on or before the leave day – PLP is due when the employer next pays the employee’s wages after the leave day (or within 7 days if the employee is no longer employed).
  2. after the leave day – PLP is due when the employer next pays employee’s wages after the proof is provided (or within 7 days if the employee is no longer employeed).

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.

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