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Paternity leave across labor force, Monday July 23, 2012
Jul 23 2012, 11:14 AM
Joined: 24-December 06
Member No.: 2,491
All fathers can look forward to between three and five days paternity leave, extending the perks of civil servants into the community. That's the word from Secretary for Labour and Welfare Matthew Cheung Kin-chung, who said yesterday the Labour Department has completed a study on paternity leave. The Labour Advisory Board will discuss the move in the fourth quarter and the legislative process can start next year. Some companies have already voluntarily given new dads 2.9 days of leave on average, while civil servants have been granted five days since April. However, Cheung said the issue of standard working hours is more complicated and controversial, and will take much longer to resolve.
About 40,000 babies are born each year and the extra cost of three to five days' paternity leave will range from HK$100 million to HK$400 million. "The effect on business is limited," Cheung said. "The overall rise in wages is only about 0.02 percent." Cheung said the board will have to discuss details, including the legal issues of what to do with a father whose spouse is not his common-law wife and with babies born abroad. Cheung said companies should be able to afford granting paternity leave to employees and the government will not need to provide subsidies. But it will look into the possibility of allowing such benefits to be deducted from taxes.
Federation of Trade Unions vice chairman Pan Pey-chyou welcomed the move and hopes the government can start the legislative process early next year. "Hong Kong is lagging behind in protecting labor rights and benefits," Pan said. "More than 50 countries including the mainland have already introduced paternity leave." But he hopes the government will increase paternity leave to seven days. He said mothers normally take five to seven days to recover from childbirth and fathers should be free to take care of the family. However, it may encourage Hongkongers to have more children. "Citizens may get an impression that the government is encouraging them to have babies," Pan said, but the effect will be limited because having children "does not mean having more holidays but spending more money."
On standardized working hours, Cheung said it will take much longer to reach a consensus. He said the issue is complicated and controversial because the entire three million labor force will be affected and society needs to agree on "which group of labor should be exempted with how many working hours." He said the Labour Department will send a report on its study to the Executive Council as soon as possible. Cheung said that as promised by Chief Executive Leung Chung-ying, a working group of government, labor and business representatives, academics and social leaders will be set up to review the hours.
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