New fathers in Hong Kong will soon be entitled to five days of paternity leave, or two more days than is currently mandated, after the Legislative Council passed the Employment (Amendment) Bill 2018, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.
The government proposed in the bill earlier this year to increase the statutory paternity leave from three days to five, saying it had taken into account the views of employees and employers including small and medium enterprises, as well as the operation of paternity leave since 2015.
On Thursday, the bill passed the Legco by 54 votes to 1, with four abstentions.
Lawmakers from the pan-democratic camp had suggested the paternity leave should be increased to seven days, two days more than the government had proposed, but that, along with other amendments, had been voted down.
The new law is expected to take effect before the Lunar New Year in early February next year.
Before the second reading of the bill, Secretary for Labour and Welfare Law Chi-kwong said the five-day paternity leave was a consensus reached between representatives of employers and employees on the Labour Advisory Board.
It was the only proposal that the board agreed to, Law said, adding that the government would withdraw the bill if lawmakers insisted on further raising the paternity leave to seven days.
People Power lawmaker Raymond Chan Chi-chuen criticized the government for taking a tough stance on the issue and forcing lawmakers to choose between an unsatisfactory “yes” and an abstention.
Lawmaker Ip Kin-yuen representing the education sector also lashed out at the government for not respecting lawmakers’ right under the Basic Law to amend a proposed bill.
In the end, Chan, Leung Yiu-chung, Fernando Cheung Chiu-hung and Eddie Chu Hoi-dick abstained in protest.
In her policy address on Oct. 10, Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor announced that female government workers can now enjoy 14 weeks of maternity leave from 10 weeks previously.
In line with the new policy, the board of the Hospital Authority endorsed the new arrangement with immediate effect after a meeting on Thursday.
Although the 14-week maternity leave does not apply to private companies because it would still need Legco’s approval, some enterprises have decided to follow the government example.
Fashion retailer Giordano announced that its Hong Kong headquarters has started implementing the extended maternity leave from Oct. 23.
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