Changes to Maternity Leave in The Employment (Amendment) Bill 2019
The Employment Bill of 2019, passed by Hong Kong’s Legislative Council, introduced new maternity benefits for female employees, which are aimed at improving their welfare. On December 11, 2020, the Employment (Amendment) Ordinance 2020 took effect, increasing the mandatory maternity leave from 10 to 14 weeks. The Hong Kong Labour Department also announced that employers can now request for reimbursement through an application of the statutory maternity leave pay paid to employees for weeks 11 to 14 (the four extra weeks) at a four-fifths rate of the employee’s daily average salary, with a ceiling of HK$80,000 per employee.
The Hong Kong Legislature enacted the Employment (Amendment) Bill with the following main amendments in order to create more family-friendly policies:
- There is an increment of statutory maternity leave entitlement from the present 10 weeks to 14 weeks: Hong Kong’s statutory maternity leave will be extended to 14 weeks, up from the previous ten weeks. The Hong Kong government has specifically stated that employers will be reimbursed for the additional four weeks of paid maternity leave.
- For the extended term of maternity leave (the additional four weeks), the daily rate of maternity leave pay will be payable to the employee and reimbursed by the government to employers at the rate of four-fifths of the employee’s daily average salary, with a ceiling of HK$80,000 per employee.
- A female employee will be entitled to maternity leave if she has a miscarriage at or after 24 weeks (rather than the prior 28 weeks) subject to other conditions.
- A certificate of attendance shall be considered as proof of right to sickness allowance for that day if a female employee has a pregnancy-related medical visit. Registered medical practitioners, registered Chinese medicine practitioners, registered midwives, and registered nurses may provide a certificate of attendance rather than a medical certificate (which must explain the number of days an employee is unable for work and why).
- The statutory paternity leave has increased from 3 days to 5 days. In accordance with the enhanced maternity leave, the period during which an expectant father may choose to take his paternity leave will start four weeks before the projected due date and will end 14 weeks (up from the previously specified 10 weeks) after the actual due date.
- The Hong Kong Labour Department has also launched an online portal to coincide with the new extension of statutory maternity leave. Employers will be able to submit an electronic application for reimbursement of maternity leave pay using this platform.
Employers should review their employment contracts and policies to verify that any applicable clauses do not conflict with the new law’s requirements. Human Resource departments (“HR“) should be aware of the modifications and the amendment’s applicability. It’s critical that HR and accounting departments keep track of applications for maternity leave pay reimbursement for additional maternity leave under the reimbursement of maternity leave pay scheme.
In conclusion, it is important for employers to revise their parental leave policies and practices to ensure that they are in line with the newly implemented extended periods of statutory leave. Employees in charge of payroll should be trained on how to make additional payments for qualified employees and familiarise themselves with the portal’s process for requesting reimbursement from the Hong Kong government.
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