Historically Hong Kong’s parental leave entitlements were among the shortest in Asia and have been criticised as failing to protect parents’ interests or promote family-friendly working practices. The Hong Kong SAR government (“SAR”) sought to remedy this situation with the introduction of the Employment (Amendment) Bill 2019, that was passed into law as the Employment (Amendment) Ordinance 2020 and came into effect on 11 December 2020.
By Adam Hugill, Hugill & Ip Solicitors
Maternity and Paternity leave changes
The Employment (Amendment) Ordinance 2020 increases the period of paid statutory maternity leave from 10 weeks to 14 weeks. During the first 10 weeks of maternity leave employees will continue to be paid 4/5ths of their average daily wages.
Employees will also be paid 4/5ths of their average daily wages during the additional four weeks, but this will be capped at HK$80,000 (approx £7,650) per employee. The SAR will reimburse employers for the payment that relates to the extended period of maternity leave, subject the above cap, per employee.
Protection from termination shall be extended to cover the entire 14 weeks statutory maternity leave period.
In addition, the period of time during which paternity leave may be taken increases from 10 weeks after the date of birth to 14 weeks. The paternity leave can still be taken during the 4 weeks prior to the expected date of birth.
Further minor amendments have been made so that a Certificate of Attendance will become acceptable documentary proof for entitlement to sickness allowance where an employee attends a medical examination related to her pregnancy.
The period of pregnancy effected by miscarriage is reduced from 28 weeks to 24 weeks. An employee who suffers a miscarriage at or after 24 weeks of pregnancy is entitled to maternity leave, provided that all other conditions are met.
Further legislation has been passed to make it unlawful to discriminate directly or indirectly against breastfeeding mothers. This legislation is expected to come into force during June 2021.
Maternity leave entitlements have not been reviewed since they first came into force in the early 1980s and any changes to promote family-friendly policies will be welcomed. However, while the changes are welcome, not everyone will benefit:
- The right to paid maternity leave only applies to employees that are employed under a continuous contract of employment for no less than 40 weeks. A continuous contract of employment is a contract for 18 hours or more per week for four or more continuous weeks. Employees who are not employed on continuous contracts of employment still don’t have any right to any paid maternity leave.
- The right to paid paternity leave is limited to only five days.
- No maternity or paternity benefits are offered to the self-employed.
© 2021 Hugill & Ip Solicitors
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