The Legislative Council has passed a bill to extend statutory paternity leave in Hong Kong from three days to five.

It was passed by 54 “yes” votes. Civic Passion lawmaker Cheng Chung-tai voted “no” in protest after amendments tabled by lawmakers to further extend paternity leave to seven days were rejected. Ray Chan, Fernando Cheung, Eddie Chu and Leung Yiu-chung voted “abstain” in protest.

The new arrangement could be implemented as early as February 2019, before the Lunar New Year holidays.

Federation of Trade Unions
A banner of the Federation of Trade Unions advocating for seven days of paternity leave. File

New People’s Party lawmaker Eunice Yung, who is pregnant, voted “no” on amendments to increase paternity leave to seven days.

Federation of Trade Unions lawmakers, who supported the increase to seven days, were present but did not vote on the amendments. The FTU lawmakers and Yung, however, voted “yes” during the final vote, increasing paternity leave to five days.

The policy was proposed by Chief Executive Carrie Lam in her first policy address last year, and was passed by the legislature on Thursday.

Eunice Yung
Eunice Yung.

During the debate at the legislature, Secretary for Labour and Welfare Law Chi-kwong said that the government considered the employment situation before proposing the paternity leave increase.

“According to investigations conducted by the Labour Department, some employers indeed said they may face difficulties in manpower, but most employers of small and micro-enterprises said they should be able to afford two more days of paternity leave,” Law said.

But Law said he could not see any justification for the government to subsidise companies to cover the two extra days off.

Law Chi-kwong
Law Chi-kwong. Photo: LegCo screenshot.

Paternity leave was only introduced to the Employment Ordinance in February 2015, providing three days off, after years of campaigning.

Current laws stipulate that the father must have been employed for more than 40 weeks under a continuous contract, working at least 18 hours a week, and four weeks per month.

The father will be paid 20 per cent less than for normal working days while on paternity leave.

Male civil servants have been enjoying five days of paternity leave with full pay since 2012.

Kris Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist with an interest in local politics. His work has been featured in Washington Post, Public Radio International, Hong Kong Economic Times and others. He has a BSSc in Sociology from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Kris is HKFP's Editorial Director.