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Article | Global News Briefs

Hong Kong: Proposals to extend maternity leave and public holidays

Health and Benefits|Integrated Wellbeing|Future of Work
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By Eva Liu and Elaine Hwang | April 27, 2020

Employers should review leave policies in light of proposals to increase paid maternity leave to 14 weeks and change number of holidays.

Employer Action Code: Monitor

Amendments to the Employment Ordinance (EO) would increase the duration of statutory maternity leave from 10 to 14 weeks. Draft legislation has been published in the Gazette and submitted to the Legislative Council for its approval.

Key details

The provisions of the Employment (Amendment) Bill 2019 include:

  • Increasing statutory maternity leave from 10 to 14 weeks
  • Maintaining statutory employer-paid maternity pay at 80% of the employee’s average daily wages (over the prior 12 months) for the duration of leave, but maternity pay would be capped at HKD 36,822 for the duration of the additional four weeks of leave
  • Reducing the minimum term of pregnancy required to qualify for maternity leave in the event of miscarriage from 28 to 24 weeks
  • Introducing a requirement for female employees to provide their employer with certification from a medical professional in order to receive sick pay for days when they are absent from work to attend medical appointments relating to a pregnancy

Although not covered in the draft legislation, the Labour Department has indicated that the government would reimburse employers for the cost of the additional four weeks of leave (subject to the cap outlined above). If approved, the amended legislation is expected to take effect by the end of 2021.

In a separate development, Hong Kong’s chief executive has proposed increasing the number of statutory public holidays from 12 to 17. The proposed increase involves changing the five general holidays observed by banks, schools and the government into statutory holidays, requiring employers to grant leaves on those days. The proposal was put forth as part of a general economic relief package. The change in the number of holidays is not expected to become law in the near term.

Employer implications

Few of the employers surveyed as part of the general industry practice surveys conducted annually by Willis Towers Watson’s Data Services provide paid maternity leave in excess of the statutory requirement of 10 weeks, but two-thirds provide a pay-replacement benefit of 100% rather than 80% of average wages. Exact details of how the government reimbursement will work, and how this could impact employers (especially those that are already providing pay-replacement benefits in excess of the statutory amount) are yet to be confirmed. Employers are encouraged to monitor the progress of the proposed legislative amendments and review their existing leave policies to ensure that they comply with the new legislation by the time it comes into force.

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