5 min read
At the moment, pregnant women in Hong Kong are still only entitled to a continuous period of 14 weeks’ maternity leave, as 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 maternity leave pay calculation.
Since December 2020, an amendment ordinance extending Hong Kong’s statutory maternity leave from 10 weeks to 14 weeks and increasing maternity leave pay cap to $80,000 took effect. After the amendment, several improvements to maternity benefits were made as follows:
Additionally, another amendment would entitle an eligible employee to sickness allowance for any day on which the employee has attended a medical examination related to her pregnancy, given that a certificate of attendance issued by professionals can be provided as proof.
This major ordinance 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).
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 14 weeks’ maternity leave.
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.
If your period of continuous employment is short of 40 weeks, you are only entitled to unpaid 14-week maternity leave in Hong Kong.
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.
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.
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 18 weeks with the 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 14 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.
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 a shorter period. You will receive your maternity leave pay on your normal payday.
You may refer to the Reimbursement of Maternity Leave Pay Scheme for more details.
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 14-week leave starts 4 weeks before the expected due date, giving you six remaining weeks of maternity leave after the baby is born. You can negotiate with your employer whether to have 2 weeks prior giving birth, and then 12 weeks after, or 4 prior then 10 after, or even 1 week prior birth then 13 after, so long as it as agreed between you and your employer. If your baby is born early, your maternity leave begins immediately.
If you are absent from work 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 a sufficient number of paid sick 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.
We’re meeting 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 as well. 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 just caught up the pace with the global standard after the amendment bill in 2020.
Time in weeks
% of wage covered
|Hong Kong||14 weeks||80%|
|Republic of Korea||13 weeks||100%|
for 1st and 2nd child
Comparable OECD countries
|Australia||52 weeks |
|18 weeks paid at federal minimum wage|
(provinces may vary)
|17 weeks||55% for 15 weeks up to a ceiling|
|France||16 weeks||100% up to a ceiling|
|United Kingdom||52 weeks||6 weeks paid at 90%;|
lower of 90% / flat rate for weeks 7–39;
weeks 40–52 unpaid
(states may vary)
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 children.
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 linked to facilitating breastfeeding practices.
More readings on Hong Kong parental leave and pregnant women's rights:
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.
This article was independently written by Healthy Matters. It is informative only and not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be relied upon for specific medical advice.
Healthy Matters is Hong Kong’s leading health resource. Our mission is to help you make better health decisions and take control of your health.
Our team of experts is committed to producing reliable health content that is accurate, engaging and relevant, to cover your health & wellness journey from prevention to treatment.
Whether you are looking for trusted information on health conditions, wellbeing or looking for the right doctor or service in Hong Kong, we’re here to help!
Your health matters. Begin your health journey with Healthy Matters today!