Pregnant, Working Moms in Hong Kong: Do You Know Your Maternity Rights?

Important update: in her 2018 Policy Address on 10 October 2018, the Chief Executive of Hong Kong, Carrie Lam, announced the Government’s intention to increase Hong Kong’s statutory maternity leave from 10 weeks to 14 weeks. Hong Kong’s current maternity leave policy has been in place for 48 years. Under this proposal, employers would provide eligible employees with 14 weeks of statutory maternity leave at four-fifths of their average daily wages subject to a cap of $36,822 per employee. Employers would get 100% reimbursed by the Government for the extra cost, whereas now employers only need to offer working mothers 80% of their wages. This important change aligns Hong Kong with the International Labour Organisation (ILO)’s recommendation as well as other jurisdictions like Japan or China (see exclusive table in our article “The Ultimate Guide to Maternity Leave”).
 
 
If you are pregnant or thinking of becoming pregnant in Hong Kong, you should know about your pregnancy rights. We’ve delved into the nitty gritty law jargon to make your maternity rights clear and concise and had the content verified by a lawyer. From maternity leave to discrimination, we at Healthy Matters cover it all!
 
 

1. You are entitled to the statutory 10-week maternity leave

Pregnant women working in Hong Kong are entitled to a continuous period of 10 weeks’ maternity leave (to be increased to 14 weeks under the Government’s proposal). Employment Ordinance, Cap. 57 ensures that you have the right to maternity leave if you are employed under a continuous contract (defined as a minimum of 18 hours per week for 4 weeks or more) immediately before the commencement of your maternity leave.
 

The Ultimate Guide to Maternity Leave in Hong Kong

 
 

2. Your employer cannot terminate you

If you are a pregnant employee working under a continuous contract, your employer is prohibited from terminating your employment once you have notified them of your pregnancy.
 
Even if your employer is not aware of your pregnancy when you are terminated, you can still inform them of your pregnancy right after being let go. Under these circumstances, your employer must withdraw your termination or the notice of termination.
 
It’s a criminal offense for employers to fire a pregnant employee (other than for exceptional reasons such as serious misconduct) and they may be liable to pay a fine of up to $100,000. If you find yourself in this position, you may also bring a claim against the employer for unlawful termination and, if found to be correct, may obtain compensation of up to $150,000.
 
 

3. Your employer cannot discriminate against you before and after pregnancy

Under the Sex Discrimination Ordinance, Cap. 480, your employer cannot discriminate against you on the grounds of your pregnancy by treating you less favorably than someone who is not pregnant.
 
Additionally, your employer cannot discriminate against you or treat you less favorably when you return to work after giving birth on the grounds of sex, pregnancy and/or family status. Both direct and indirect discrimination are prohibited. Examples of discrimination include termination, denial of opportunities, and placing you at a disadvantage.
 
 

4. You are entitled to a safe working environment

Many women will be aware that certain harmful agents should be avoided during pregnancy and breastfeeding, particularly in the first trimester. This goes for your workplace as well. If you are worried that you may be exposed to harmful agents during your pregnancy, seek advice from a doctor. If the doctor confirms that the exposure does pose a risk, you can ask to be transferred to another position for the period advised by your doctor. Likewise, if you are uncomfortable handling any physical tasks, you should seek advice from your doctor.
 
If your doctor deems you unfit to undertake certain tasks, they can produce a medical certificate and your employer will have to stop allocating you tasks that put you and your baby at risk.
 
Read more on Hong Kong parental leave:

Here is Everything You Need to Know About Paternity Leave in Hong Kong

 
Learn more from Hong Kong’s Labour Department.
 
This article was independently written by Healthy Matters and not sponsored. It was reviewed by Mr. Eddie Look, Partner at Tanner De Witt Solicitors, a leading law firm in Hong Kong with practice areas including employment law.
It is informative only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice and should never be relied upon for specific advice.