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Maternity leave in Hong Kong: government considering subsidies to help businesses offset cost of giving new mothers 14 weeks off

Leader of pro-business Liberal Party Felix Chung urges government to consider effects of US-China trade war on Hong Kong business environment before pushing ahead

PUBLISHED : Monday, 20 August, 2018, 11:00pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 21 August, 2018, 9:20am

Hong Kong bosses could be offered a subsidy to partly offset the costs of a government push to extend statutory maternity leave to 14 weeks, the labour minister has revealed.

A government study, expected to be completed by the end of the year, is looking to increase the current entitlement of 10 weeks’ leave on 80 per cent pay, to bring Hong Kong in line with the standards of the International Labour Organisation.

Secretary for Labour and Welfare Law Chi-kwong said on Monday the government was also studying whether it could pay part of the cost for the extra days.

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“For most places in the world, parental leave is financed by social insurance, normally paid by both employers and employees,” Law said, after attending a plenary session of the Asian Family Summit, held at the University of Hong Kong. “We are looking at that option.”

Law said the government appreciated that one of the biggest challenges was the extra wages employers would have to pay.

Leader of the pro-business Liberal Party, Felix Chung Kwok-pan, also a legislator, expressed reservations.

Employers won’t thank the government for the subsidy. We did not ask for it
Felix Chung

“Employers won’t thank the government for the subsidy. We did not ask for it. The extension of maternity leave was only put forward by labour groups. And even if employers are fully subsidised for the cost, we still lose manpower for an extra four weeks. Small and medium-sized enterprises will be the hardest hit,” he said.

Chung urged the government to also consider the effects of the US-China trade war on the Hong Kong business environment before pushing ahead with the change.

Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor announced in her policy address last October she would “commence a study and work on the enhancement of maternity leave” with the aim to balance “the needs of working women [with] the affordability of enterprises”.

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At that time, Law estimated it could take as long as three years to make the change, which would involve changing laws and administrative arrangements.

New mothers in Japan enjoy 14 weeks of maternity leave, while those in Singapore have 16 weeks.

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To qualify for paid leave in Hong Kong, a woman must have been employed on a continuous contract for at least 40 weeks. If it is less, she will not get paid for her maternity leave.

A pregnant employee may decide to begin her maternity leave two to four weeks before the expected delivery of the child.