CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Sunday, 1 September 2019

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Diocese announces a new policy on paternity leave


HONG KONG (UCAN): A new policy on paternity leave for employees of Hong Kong diocese was announced in late October.

A five-day leave period will apply equally to all male diocesan employees at the time of the birth of their child.

There is nothing startling or revolutionary in this policy, as it is a standard industrial practice in the Hong Kong civil service and also government-aided schools.

The diocese has formulated its practice along the same lines and the leave is pinned to the birth of the child, not the relationship between the employee and the mother.

The policy is formulated on the basis of cherishing and nurturing life. It is an attempt to allow the father of a child to have as much time as possible to both tend to the mother and the child itself, so it applies whether the child is born in wedlock or not.

However, UCA News reported on November 7 that complaints have emerged from some catechists in the diocese about the policy, saying that it degrades the status of marriage as the right and proper place for bearing children.

The diocese says that paternity leave is to allow the father to take better care of the mother and baby.

Kevin Lai, the executive secretary of the Diocesan Pastoral Commission for Marriage and the Family, called it a dilemma for the diocese, as it has to uphold Church principle on the one hand and meet the needs of mothers and infants on the other.

The diocese employs around 400 people in parishes, commissions, service centres, offices, cemeteries, seminary and retreat house, with about one quarter of them male.

Francis Law, head of the Hong Kong Catholic Institution Staff Association, said employees have been asking for paternity leave since 2007. “The diocese wanted to see how the government implemented it first,” he explained.

The policy states that a male employee with not less than 40 weeks continuous service prior to the expected or actual date of childbirth may take five days leave on full pay.

Diocesan chancellor, Father Lawrence Lee Len, said the diocese agrees with and supports the government’s family-friendly policy.

The diocese respects equal opportunities, but this “does not imply the Catholic Church has changed its position and teaching on marriage,” he said.

“It is regrettable that nowadays many people have a separated concept on marriage and childbirth,” Father Lee said.

He said that the policy is not designed specifically for non-Catholic employees, but rather is an attempt to prevent discrimination against a father’s right and duty to look after his family.


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