Secretary for Labour and Welfare Law Chi-kwong has said that the government will take at least three years to increase the duration of the 10-week statutory paid maternity leave.
Law said on a Commercial Radio program on Friday that three years was an “optimistic” and “reasonable” timeline, as it would involve changing laws and administrative arrangements.
“Many people are waiting to have children, so I would say: you should consider [going ahead with] it, I hope by the time you have your next child we have already improved the maternity leave.”
Carrie Lam’s policy address, released on Wednesday, said the government will commence a study on the enhancement of maternity leave on the premise of “balancing the needs of working women on the one hand and the affordability of enterprises on the other.”
Law said that the matter of increasing the statutory 10-week maternity leave was trickier than increasing the three-day paternity leave, as increasing it to the 14 weeks recommended by the International Labour Organisation would have a much bigger effect on employers.
“So the chief executive already said… she thinks that the government may have to help out, but we have to study these small details a bit.”
He added that providing funding was one way that the government would help businesses out, and that the government would use as a reference Singapore’s practice of the government paying for businesses’ additional costs caused by the increase.
Law also said that increasing paternity leave would only have a “limited” impact on the business sector.
According to the policy address, the Labour and Welfare Bureau has completed its review on statutory paternity leave and gave an initial proposal to increase paternity leave from the current three days to five days.
Law said that the business sector considers the proposal acceptable, but some members of the sector worried that the measure would be followed by further increases.
“But of course, some of those in the business sector would say: ‘after you do one thing you’ll do another, and then another’, so they’re a bit worried.”
Law said that the increase will only cost all employers an estimated HK$80 million.
The Labour Department will report the outcome of the review to the Labour Advisory Board and the LegCo Panel on Manpower and consult their views within this year.