(May 14, 2017) The DAB Women Affairs Committee (“the Committee”) held a petition on Mother’s Day proposing that the length of maternity and paternity leave be extended in order to relieve stress on new mothers and to promote family harmony and also encourage childbirth among couples.
According to statistics, live births in Hong Kong reached approximately 60,800 in 2016, an increase of 1.5% over the approximated 59,900 in 2015. This shows that the number of live births in Hong Kong is increasing. The Committee has always requested the government to enact policies that encourage childbirth such as providing a positive environment and support for families, hopefully leading to an increase in the birth rate.
Currently, maternity leave in Hong Kong only lasts 10 weeks. As many new mothers are reluctant to take unpaid leave due to the fear of being laid off and as many mothers are breastfeeding while WHO recommends breastfeeding exclusively for six months, extending maternity leave will help them breastfeed their infant. The idea of maternity leave was to protect the rights of the mother and to allow her to recover physically from childbirth. At the same time, maternity leave also allows mothers to breastfeed their infants and to have time to take care of their child, which promotes the health of both the mother and the child. On top of this, women are susceptible to suicide due to postpartum depression and the presence of the husband at her side helps alleviate not only her mental stress but also help take care of the infant, taking more pressure off the mother and helping improve family harmony.
Committee Chair Elizabeth Quat said that “We hope the government will take the lead in encouraging businesses to lengthen maternity leave on their own in order to help breast-feeding mothers. At the same time paternity leave enables fathers and husbands to support their wives and help take care of newborn infants, setting up a more equitable division of family responsibilities, to support gender equality and to encourage more childbirths”.
Currently some local banks have already extended the maternity and paternity leave they provide their employees, therefore we request the government to extend the 10 weeks of paid maternity leave and to extend paternity leave from the current 3 days up to 5 days. At the same time, we propose an amendment to the Employment Ordinance to forbid discrimination or firing of women due to pregnancy and to add the salary given during paid maternity leave to the overall salary of the worker in question.
Media Contact: Chairperson of the DAB Women Affairs Committee and legislative councillor Elizabeth Quat 9031 7995