Published: 29 Aug 2018
Updated: 15 Mar 2024
Category: Hong Kong , HR & Workplace Culture

Understanding Maternity and Paternity Leave Policies in Hong Kong


The Significance of Maternity and Paternity Leave

Hong Kong is Asia’s most powerful economic hub and has a fast-paced, highly demanding work life. According to the Employment Ordinance, all female employees under continuous and full-time contract are entitled to maternity leave. Paternity leave is also an important benefit for working fathers. It is crucial to provide employees with the time and space to engage with parenthood. It benefits a business and increases employee satisfaction in the long run because working parents who receive generous parental benefits correlates with higher engagement as well as rates of retention.


Maternity Leave in Hong Kong

How long is Maternity Leave?

According to The Employment Ordinance, Cap. 57 of the Labor Department in Hong Kong, female employees under a full-time contract are entitled to 14 weeks of maternity leave. However, one’s eligibility for paid maternity leave is set out by several criteria. For instance, the employee must have been employed under a continuous contract for not less than 40 weeks immediately before the commencement of scheduled maternity leave. In addition, maternity benefits, and compensation such as the daily rate of maternity leave pay should be a sum equivalent to four-fifths of the average daily wages earned by an employee in the 12-month period preceding the first day of the maternity leave. Moreover, if the employee has been employed for less than 12 months, the calculation shall be based on the shorter period. 

Maternity Benefits and Compensation

Typically, the 4-week maternity leave pay for the 11th to 14th week of the maternity leave is subject to a cap of HKD80,000. According to the Employment Ordinance, Cap.57, “In calculating the average daily wages, an employer has to exclude (i) the periods for which an employee is not paid her wages or full wages, including rest day, statutory holiday, annual leave, sickness day, maternity leave, sick leave due to work injuries or leave taken with the agreement of the employer, and any normal working day on which the employee is not provided by the employer with work; together with (ii) the sum paid to the employee for such periods. Maternity leave pay should be paid on the normal pay day of the employee. Employers, after payment of all maternity leave pay on the normal pay day, may apply to the Government for reimbursement of the 11th to 14th weeks’ maternity leave pay payable and paid under the Employment Ordinance.” 

In the event of an illness due to pregnancy, the employee is entitled to a four-week extension of leave. The pregnant employee may choose to begin maternity leave between two and four weeks prior to the expected date of delivery, subject to the approval of the employer. Finally, in the absence of an agreement or decision, the leave period will begin four weeks prior to the expected delivery date. For more information, the Employment Ordinance, Cap. 57 of the Labor Department in Hong Kong should be referred to for specific details.

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Rights and Protection for Pregnant Employees

Certain rights and protection are given to those who are pregnant, this includes the protection against pregnancy-based discrimination and harassment at work. Those who are pregnant are entitled to a legal right to work adjustments that will allow one to perform work obligations and responsibilities without jeopardising health. More importantly, harassment based on pregnancy, or a pregnancy-related medical condition is prohibited. Typically, a pregnant employee might be able to get appropriate accommodation that would facilitate the safe delivery of work-related obligations. For instance, an altered break or work schedule, the permission to sit or stand at work and in some cases, the implementation of ergonomic office furniture might be permitted.

Paternity Leave in Hong Kong

According to the Labour Department of Hong Kong, a male employee is entitled to 5 days of paternity leave for each confinement of his spouse / partner subject to the following 3 criteria:

  • “is the father of a new-born child or a father-to-be”;
  • “has been employed under a continuous contract”;
  • “has given the required notification to the employer”.

To take the paternity leave, the applicant has to send in an application three months prior to the delivery date leaving the exact date open for confirmation towards the last few days. The father is not required to be married to the mother for taking the leave and can avail it any time before or after the delivery date. Apart from the father’s personal details, the employer might require the father to provide the mother’s details including her name and actual delivery date.
Hong Kong’s leave rate is calculated at 80% of your average daily wages earned in the 12-month period preceding the day of paternal leave. With just 3 days of paternity leaves, fathers living in Hong Kong are not able to help out their partners in managing the first month of parenthood which is actually quite difficult for women. It is hoped though that with the repeated calls for adjustment to the paternity leave in Hong Kong, there will be more days allocated. In the meanwhile, most organizations do generously give fathers 14-days of paid off so you can ask your organization’s leave policy when you’re expecting to become a dad.


Tips for Employers

The support employees get from employers while on maternity or paternity leave is crucial to establishing a trusting and cohesive relationship. By offering a supportive work environment, it can contribute to greater employee satisfaction, retention rate and a positive workplace culture. Moreover, a supportive maternity or paternity leave policy should incorporate elements including flexibility, inclusivity, additional benefits, and gradual return options just to name a few. Employers can create a nurturing environment that allows employees to thrive by prioritising the well-being and understanding the needs of new parents. In Hong Kong, compliance with legal obligations of maternity leave is important for both employers and employees due to the enforcement of the Employment Ordinance. The legal obligations provide the framework in protecting the interests of both employees and employers, infringement or unethical behavior may lead to disciplinary actions or further legal ramifications. It is worthwhile to note that a sound maternity or paternity policy also has the added benefit of creating a nurturing environment that allows employees to thrive.

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The importance of maternity and paternity leave in Hong Kong has been a topic of discussion in recent years. Maternity policies ensure that expecting and new mothers have the support systems and the time they need to spend time with their family before returning to the workplace. Similarly, paternity leave protects labour rights and promote gender equality to create a friendly, harmonious, and inclusive society. In sum, a well-designed parental leave policy that prioritise flexibility such as the adoption of hybrid working models after maternity leave or policies that enable a gradual return to the office creates a supportive work environment that greatly contributes to employee satisfaction and a positive workplace culture.



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