Paternity leave has been thrust in the spotlight recently with bold promises to staff from Virgin’s Richard Branson and Wall St giant Goldman Sachs. Here’s what you need to know about paternity leave in Singapore, Hong Kong and Malaysia.
And while we would all love for fathers wanting to take paternity leave to opt for the unpaid option, this is likely to be the exception rather than the norm.
Paternity leave is not necessarily a bad thing for HR. According to a recent article in The Economist, research shows that enabling fathers to play a role in caring for their newborn has positive effects for bonding and development.
It also has a positive impact for business. Richard Branson, who has recently offered all Virgin Management staff the opportunity to take up a year of paid parental leave, said: “If you take care of your employees they will take care of your business.”
Earlier this month, Wall Street giant Goldman Sachs also announced it was doubling its paternity leave, with the firm’s top HR executive Edith Cooper saying the change was part of "the firm's ongoing commitment to working families”.
So how do employers legally stand in relation to paternity leave in Asia?
Recent changes to Hong Kong law means fathers are now entitled to three days’ paternity.
Amendments to the Employment Ordinance came into force on February 27, enabling fathers employed by private companies to claim three days’ leave on four-fifths of their regular pay.
Hong Kong lawyer, Anita Leung, of multinational firm Jones Day, provided some tips for employers about the changes.
“Pursuant to the Employment (Amendment) Ordinance 2014, male employees with a child born on or after February 27, 2015 are now entitled to three days' paternity leave for each confinement of their spouse or partner, if they have been employed under a continuous contract and have notified their employers in accordance with the law,” Leung said.
Employees must be employed under a continuous contract for more than 40 weeks immediately before the day of paternity leave and provide the birth certificate of the child within the stipulated period.
The employees may take paternity leave at any time from four weeks prior to the expected date of delivery to 10 weeks after the actual birth.
The paternity leave may be taken together or on separate days, Leung said.
She advised both employers and employees to note their obligations under the Personal Data (Privacy) Ordinance in relation to the disclosure and use of personal data of the mother of the employee's child for the purpose of granting or claiming paternity leave and paternity leave pay.
“Employees should obtain the consent of the child's mother before disclosing her personal data to the employers.”
Singapore employers have less of an obligation than those of Hong Kong, with paid parental leave funded by the Government.
Eligible working fathers, including those who are self-employed, are entitled to one week of paid paternity leave, and can apply to share one week of their wife’s 16 weeks of Government-Paid Maternity Leave (GPML) on top of that.
In order to be eligible, the child must be a Singapore citizen, the father must be lawfully married to the child’s mother, and employees must have served their employer for a continuous period of at least three months.
There is no law in Malaysia currently requiring employers to provide paternity leave, although many employers do.
Some companies provide between one and three days, others up to 14 days a month. It really depends on factors such as role and tenure, and is something generally agreed on at the point of signing an employment contract.