Representatives from Macau’s labour sector believe government-proposed amendments to the city’s labour regulations do not go far enough in some areas: maternity leave is one of them.
Ella Lei Cheng I, a member of Macau’s Legislative Assembly and vice president of the Macau Federation of Trade Unions, told GGRAsia: “Our maternity leave [system] is still backward when compared to nearby regions. In the future, maternity leave should be extended to as much as 90 days, which is what a lot of regions are pursuing.”
The Macau government announced a 45-day consultation period – starting on September 25 – for the public to comment on the changes to the Labour Relations Law, a statute originally enacted in 2009. Some of the proposed amendments include: an additional 14-day unpaid leave for new mothers in addition to the current entitlement to 56 days of paid maternity leave; and the introduction of three to five days of paid paternity leave for new fathers.
The government also proposed that if an employee’s weekly leave clashes with a mandatory public holiday, the employer must then provide the employee with one extra rest day.
The suggested amendments to the law also include the employee being able to choose – via a written agreement between the employer and the employee – to designate three mandatory holidays as normal work days as well. The employee would then be able to select three non-mandatory holidays and enjoy the mandatory leave.
This idea also fails to meet with labour rep Ms Lei’s approval.
She explained: “Employers and employees are inherently unequal. Employees don’t have much bargaining power when facing their employers… Therefore, when the labour law contains too much leeway based on agreement, problems can occur.”
Ms Lei believes that the community has already reached consensus on issues such as paternity leave and compensation for individual worker leave that clashes with public holidays. She nonetheless expected the proposed changes to the law would trigger intense debate in the Legislative Assembly.
Cloee Chao, director of the gaming worker group Professional for Gaming of New Macau, also criticised the proposed supplementary 14-day unpaid leave for new mothers, describing it as “disappointing”.
“We know that maternity leave in Hong Kong is already 10 weeks (70 days) long. The Labour Law in mainland China even gives 120 days of maternity leave. As for Macau, the maternity leave for female public servants can last for 90 days… Is it that only mothers who are public servants can enjoy special privileges in Macau?” she said.
“The 14-day unpaid [supplementary maternity] leave is meaningless [for casino workers]. When we are already heavily pregnant, our company will even agree to give us one-month unpaid leave. I think the only meaningful thing in the amendment is the paternity leave,” she added.
Ms Chao also stated that the proposed arrangement regarding the clash of personal leave and public holidays would only bring new benefit for a fraction of gaming industry workers, as the majority of the six gaming operators had already voluntarily adopted the practice.
Instead, she thinks the government should look into the possibility of establishing a mandatory allowance for working night shifts.
“There is a clause in [casino employees’] contracts that requires us to work shifts, which excludes us from receiving a night shift allowance… This means that the six gaming operators are treating their employees worse than the small- and medium-sized businesses do their workers,” she said.
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