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Hong Kong: Legislative Council Passes Bill to Extend Statutory Maternity Leave

(Aug. 17, 2020) On July 9, 2020, Hong Kong’s Legislative Council passed the Employment (Amendment) Bill 2019, which will increase the statutory maternity leave for female employees from 10 weeks to 14 weeks. The new measure was published as the Employment (Amendment) Ordinance 2020 (Amendment Ordinance) in the Government Gazette on July 17, 2020. The Amendment Ordinance will come into force on a day appointed by the secretary for labour and welfare and announced by a notice in the Gazette. The government expects to implement the new ordinance by the end of 2020.

Under Hong Kong’s current Employment Ordinance (Cap. 57), a female employee who has been employed under a continuous contract of no less than 40 weeks is entitled to 10 weeks of statutory maternity leave, subject to other conditions being met. The maternity leave is paid at a daily rate of four-fifths of the employee’s average daily wages earned in the 12-month period (or shorter period if she has been employed for less than 12 months) preceding the first day of leave. (Employment Ordinance §§ 12, 12AA, 14.)

The daily rate of the additional four weeks’ maternity leave provided by the Amendment Ordinance will remain four-fifths of the employee’s average daily wages, but the additional pay will be capped at HK$80,000 (about US$10,322). (Amendment Ordinance § 13.) Employers may apply to the government for a full reimbursement of the additional maternity leave pay they have paid under the Amendment Ordinance, which will be handled by an administrative program.

The Amendment Ordinance will also update the definition of “miscarriage” under the Employment Ordinance to afford maternity leave to a female employee whose child does not survive birth at or after 24 weeks of pregnancy instead of 28 weeks as previously stipulated. (§ 3.)

In addition, the Amendment Ordinance will entitle a female employee to receive sick pay for the days on which she attends a pregnancy-related medical examination that she documents with a “certificate of attendance.” (§ 10.) The certificates of attendance may be issued by medical professionals, including registered midwives and registered nurses. (§ 11.) Under the current regime, an employee who attends such a medical examination must produce an appropriate medical certificate issued by a registered medical practitioner or registered Chinese medicine practitioner to qualify for the sickness allowance. (Employment Ordinance § 33.)