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. The current maternity leave in Hong Kong 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 future change aligns Hong Kong with the International Labour Organisation (ILO)’s recommendation as well as other jurisdictions like Japan or China (see exclusive table below).
At the moment, pregnant women in Hong Kong are only entitled to a continuous period of 10 weeks’ maternity leave. This is 4 weeks less than the 14 weeks recommended by the International Labour Organisation (ILO). Here is your Healthy Matters guide to everything you should know about maternal leave in Hong Kong, from eligibility to mat leave pay calculation.
What does the law say in Hong Kong on maternity leave?
Under Employment Ordinance, Cap. 57, a pregnant woman employed under a continuous contract immediately before the commencement of her maternity leave and having given notice of pregnancy and her intention to take maternity leave to the employer is entitled to a continuous period of 10 weeks’ maternity leave.
Am I eligible for maternity leave pay?
In order to be eligible for maternity leave pay in Hong Kong, you must have worked under a continuous contract for 40 weeks, working a minimum of 18 hours per week (listen up, part time workers!) before your scheduled maternity leave starts.
I have worked for my current employer for fewer than 40 weeks, am I eligible for maternity leave?
If your period of continuous employment is short of 40 weeks, you are only entitled to an unpaid 10-week maternity leave in Hong Kong.
How do I give notice to my employer that I am pregnant and want to take maternity leave?
You need to provide notice of your pregnancy and intention to take maternity leave to your employer once pregnancy has been confirmed with a medical certificate – if required by your employer, the certificate should specify the expected due date. This certificate may be issued by a registered doctor, Chinese medicine practitioner, or midwife.
When do people usually inform their employers? Is there any mandatory timing?
The law does not specify a minimum period within which an employee must give notice of her pregnancy. However, the communication of notice of pregnancy to an employer will operate to protect an employee’s employment from being terminated by her employer (by notice or payment in lieu) from the date of the notice until the employee returns to the workplace at the end of the maternity leave period. Therefore, it is always recommended that such notice be given sooner rather than later.
Am I entitled to any additional maternity leave?
In case of birth and/or pregnancy-related illness and disability, you may be entitled to a maximum of 4 weeks of additional maternity leave. This is in addition to your sick leave entitlement.
Some large employers may provide an increased paid maternity leave in Hong Kong of 14 or 18 weeks with most generous leave at 20 weeks.
If your baby is born later than their due date, the period between the expected due date and the actual birth date will be provided as leave IN ADDITION to the 10 weeks of maternity leave. This sounds like a holiday, but as any woman who has been 40+ weeks pregnant, this period is no walk in the park!
It should be noted, however, that any extended maternity leave due to late delivery and/or illness or disability will be unpaid. In the event that you are unable to work due to an illness or disability, you may take choose to take statutory sick leave instead.
How is my maternity leave pay calculated? When will I be paid?
The daily rate of maternity leave pay is calculated at 80% of your average daily wages earned in the 12-month period leading up to the first day of your maternity leave. If you were employed for a period between 40 weeks and 12 months, the calculation is based on such shorter period. You will receive your maternity leave pay on your normal pay day.
When does my maternity leave start?
Pregnant women in Hong Kong begin maternity leave 2-4 weeks prior to their expected due date. If you don’t agree on a date with your employer, by default the 10-week leave starts 4 weeks before the expected due date, giving you six remaining weeks of maternity leave after the baby is born. If your baby is born early, your maternity leave begins immediately.
Will I need to take leave for appointments related to my pregnancy?
If you are absent from work to for doctor’s appointments related to your pregnancy, post-confinement medical treatment or miscarriage, those days will be counted as sick days or partial sick days.
Similar to maternity leave pay, sickness pay is calculated at 80% of your average daily wage leading up to the sickness day. You will be entitled to sickness pay for days off taken for pregnancy check-ups, post confinement medical treatment or miscarriage provided that you produce a medical certificate and you have accumulated sufficient number of paid sickness days. The medical certificate should specify the number of days on which, and the nature of the sickness or injury makes you unfit for work.
How is Hong Kong’s maternal leave compared to other countries?
We’re below the ILO’s recommendation of a 14-week maternity leave minimum, but how do we stack up to other country’s policies? As you can see in our table of comparison countries, with the exception of Korea, most comparable countries in the region and the world have met the ILO’s recommendation. In 2012, China increased maternity leave to 14 weeks with 100% of wages covered. While some larger employers are choosing to offer extended maternity leave, the government of Hong Kong is not keeping pace with the global standard.
Time in weeks
Percentage of wage covered
Republic of Korea
(for 1st and 2nd child)
Comparable OECD countries
18 weeks paid at federal minimum wage
(provinces may vary)
55% for 15 weeks up to a ceiling
100% up to a ceiling
6 weeks paid at 90%;
lower of 90% / flat rate for weeks 7–39;
weeks 40–52 unpaid
(states may vary)
What are the main advantages of maternity leave?
Maternity leave safeguards the economic security and health of mothers and newborns. In the weeks following birth, women need time to recover from labor, adjust to a new family structure, and nurse their child. According to the ILO, longer maternity leaves result in lower rates of premature births, pregnancy and postpartum depression, and maternal, infant and child mortality. Longer maternity leave is also associated with longer breastfeeding periods from new mothers.
Looking for health insurance? Want to better understand your current plan or healthcare options in Hong Kong? Contact our partner AD MediLink now at [email protected] or +852 2296 9773 for expert and unbiased advice. Their advisors areuniquely trained on the Hong Kong healthcare system to answer all your questions; on both the public and private sectors.
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.