Guide to Maternity Leave in Hong Kong

Posted by Ed 13 mths ago
The policy on maternity leave entitlements is a complicated subject that commonly confuses many expats in Hong Kong who are soon to give birth. Currently, pregnant women in Hong Kong have the right to a continuous 10-week maternity leave, despite the International Labour Organisation’s recommendation of 14 weeks.

Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam is currently working on increasing statutory maternity leave days for pregnant women in Hong Kong, and retaining the standard four-fifths pay of their average daily earnings but not more than $36,822 per employee. This move aims to transform a 48-year-old policy and push women’s rights forward while adhering to global standards.
Below is a useful guide from AsiaXPAT that lets you in on what you need to know if you’re an expectant expat in Hong Kong.
The Law on Maternity Leave. A pregnant female employee who is currently under a binding contract with her employer is entitled to a 10-week maternity leave. This will take effect upon the female’s given notice of her intention to avail of the entitlement, and shall be carried out on a continuous period in accordance to Employment Ordinance Cap. 57.
Notice To Employer. You must first secure a medical certificate from your registered doctor, midwife, or medical practitioner proving that you are on the way. After securing your certificate, draft a formal letter of notice addressed to your employer stating your intention to take your maternity leave benefits of 10 weeks. Some employers may need the expected date of delivery stated on your medical certificate so be sure to ask your attending physician.
Start of Maternity Leave. By default, pregnant employees may start their maternity leave one month prior to their due date. However, you may also request leave to commence as close as two weeks before your due date provided you have an agreement with your employer. If you and your employer fail to meet an agreed start date, the maternity leave will commence a month before your due date leaving you with a good six weeks to take care of your baby after birth. Lastly, in case your baby is born earlier than the expected due date, then your maternity leave may start sooner.
Maternity Leave Pay Eligibility. Take note that before you become eligible for full maternity leave benefits, the law requires you to have worked under a continuous contract with your employer for not less than 40 weeks, with at least 18 hours per week if you are a part-time employee. That means you need a minimum of 720 hours in total and must be under a binding employment contract before you are eligible for the benefit.
Informing your Employer. This is one of the most important things you’ll have to consider when filing for maternity leave. Submitting a notice of pregnancy to your employer to let him know your condition will secure your job as you commence maternity leave. The law does not prescribe any set period for when you should give the notice, but it’s always wiser to submit it sooner than later so that you’re well prepared. Make sure you follow this step to protect your tenure and to ensure that your position is not jeopardized during your pregnancy.
Maternity Leave Pay. As mentioned above, maternity leave pay is usually set at four-fifths of your average daily earnings based on the previous year before the first day of your maternity leave. Calculate 80% of your salary per day and multiply it by the number of workdays in a month to find out how much you should get after taxes and other mandatory deductions. Compensation will still be given every payday. If you are employed for less than a year but have been working for 40 weeks or more, you are still eligible for maternity leave benefits. However, your pay will be based on the same period as your service.
Maternity leave for less than 40 weeks of service. Pregnant employees who have rendered less than 40 weeks at work will also be entitled to 10 weeks of maternity leave but without pay as per Hong Kong laws.
Absence from work related to pregnancy. If you incur a leave from work due to an appointment with your doctor, physician, or midwife related to your pregnancy, and the date is not within the continuous period of maternity leave, this will be categorized as sick leave or partial sick leave. The pay remains similar to that of maternity leave or 80% of your average daily earnings. Sick leave with pay may be used in events such as post-pregnancy checkups, miscarriage, or confinement after giving birth. As with filing for maternity leave, you should also secure a medical certificate from your doctor stating the dates of your confinement or check-up, and the reason for your visit. This type of day-off is only granted to employees who have already incurred some earned sick leave with pay while they were rendering service to their employers for a certain period.
Additional maternity leave. An additional four weeks of sick leave benefits on top of the regular maternity leave may be added in cases where the child may have an illness or is disabled upon birth. The same applies to complications that you may suffer as a mother immediately after giving birth. Sometimes, additional post-pregnancy leave entitlements may be provided but these are at the discretion of the company. Generous employers in Hong Kong have been known to grant as many as 20 weeks of paid maternity leave for employees.
If by chance you give birth after the due date stated on your medical certificate, the number of days from the estimated due date to the actual date of birth will also be considered as additional maternity leave, on top of the allotted 10 weeks. This is to allow either child or mother to recuperate and heal after birth before the mother reports back to work. However, additional maternity leave incurred after the due date or those that resulted from illnesses or birth defects will not be paid by the company.
Benefits of maternity leave. One of the main reasons why Hong Kong laws entitle pregnant employees to a 10-week maternity leave is to protect the wellbeing and financial needs of the mother and child. Aside from the difficulties experienced by women during the usual nine months of gestation, post-pregnancy can also involve numerous challenges which may include recovery from labor, physical and emotional adjustments, and learning how to take care of the newborn. Studies show that women who enjoy longer periods of maternity leave reduce the risks of premature births, postpartum depression, and even infant death.

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