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Hong Kong Government introduces bill to increase maternity leave from 10 weeks to 14 weeks

  • Hong Kong
  • Employment law - HR E-Brief

16-01-2020

The Hong Kong Government has introduced the Employment (Amendment) Bill 2019 (“the Bill”) to the Legislative Council on 8 January 2020 which proposes to increase the statutory maternity leave entitlement of pregnant employees from the current 10 weeks to 14 weeks, with the maternity leave payment for the extra 4 weeks reimbursed by the government. It is expected that the Bill will come into effect in 2021.

Under the proposal in the Bill, the maternity leave payment for the extra 4 weeks will be paid at four-fifths of the average daily wages of the pregnant employee, but unlike the existing 10 weeks of maternity leave which is not subject to a statutory cap, the total maternity leave pay for the extra 4 weeks is capped at HK$36,822. The government has explained that this represents four-fifths of a 4-week salary at HK$50,000 which covers more than 95% of the female working population in Hong Kong.

The employer will first have to make the maternity leave payment (including the extra 4 weeks) to the pregnant employee before an application for reimbursement may be made to the government. The government will announce the administrative arrangements for reimbursement at a later stage.

The Bill will also update the definition of “miscarriage” in the Employment Ordinance from “before 28 weeks of pregnancy” to “before 24 weeks of pregnancy” to allow female employees who have a miscarriage or stillbirth at or after 24 weeks of pregnancy to be entitled to claim maternity leave. Currently female employees are entitled to claim maternity leave only if the miscarriage or stillbirth happens at or after 28 weeks of pregnancy.

The Bill will also relax the documentation requirement for pregnant employees to claim sickness allowance for attending medical examinations in relation to pregnancy. Currently the Employment Ordinance requires an employee to produce a medical certificate specifying the number of days on which the employee is unfit for work and the nature of the sickness or injury before an employee can claim sickness allowance. This can often pose a difficulty for pregnant employees as medical practitioners are often reluctant to issue a medical certificate specifying that the pregnant employee is unfit for work on the day of the medical examination in relation to pregnancy if there is no sickness or injury. The Bill will relax this requirement and allow a pregnant employee to claim sickness allowance by providing a certificate of attendance issued by registered medical practitioners, registered Chinese medicine practitioners, registered midwives or registered nurses for a day which she has attended medical examination in relation to her pregnancy.

Implications for employers

While the Bill is unlikely to become law until 2021, employers may wish to review their maternity leave policies now to ensure compliance with anticipated changes in the legislation.