LCQ17: Statutory maternity leave

     Following is a question by the Hon Alice Mak and a written reply by the Secretary for Labour and Welfare, Mr Matthew Cheung Kin-chung, in the Legislative Council today (May 18):


     Under the Employment Ordinance (Cap. 57), a female employee who has been employed under a continuous contract for not less than 40 weeks immediately before taking maternity leave is entitled to 10 weeks of paid maternity leave, and the daily rate of maternity leave pay for that period is a sum equivalent to four-fifths of the average daily wages earned by the employee in the 12-month period preceding the first day of the maternity leave. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(1) of the fertility rate of Hong Kong female residents and the number of them giving birth, in each of the past three years, with a breakdown of the latter by age, employment status (i.e. full-time/part-time/not in employment/others) and occupation of the women giving birth as well as the type of their employers (i.e. public/private);

(2) whether it knows the details of the current stipulations in neighbouring jurisdictions in respect of the number of days of statutory maternity leave and maternity leave pay; and

(3) given that civil servants are currently entitled to 10 weeks of full-pay maternity leave, for how long such provision has been implemented, and the number of civil servants who took maternity leave in each of the past three years and the payroll expenses incurred during the relevant periods; whether it will make reference to such provision and enact legislation to stipulate that all employers in the territory must provide their female employees with full-pay maternity leave; if it will, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?

Reply :


     My reply to the three parts of the question raised by the Hon Alice Mak is as follows:

(1) Information supplied by the Census and Statistics Department on the fertility rate of Hong Kong and the number of women giving birth in Hong Kong by age and by occupation in the past three years is at Annex 1. The Census and Statistics Department does not keep information on the number of Hong Kong female residents giving birth by employment status and by the type of their employers. For the breakdowns on the number of women giving birth in Hong Kong by age and by occupation, information is only available up to 2014 as the data of 2015 are still being compiled; and for the fertility rate, the 2015 figures are only provisional figures.

(2) Information on the number of days of statutory maternity leave and maternity leave pay in neighbouring places, based on information collected from the internet by the Labour Department, is at Annex 2.

(3) The Government has been providing 10 weeks' full-pay maternity leave to civil servants since 1981. In the past three financial years, an average of around 1 200 maternity leave applications from civil servants were approved each year. Under the existing arrangements, all bureaux/departments have to absorb the staffing implications arising from maternity leave through redeployment of existing resources, and therefore no additional salary expenditure has been incurred in general.

     The Government as an employer provides full-pay maternity leave to its pregnant employees after careful consideration of its affordability and other relevant factors. On the other hand, the maternity leave pay provisions under the Employment Ordinance (EO) prescribe the basic employment benefits that all employers, irrespective of their sizes, are required to provide to their employees. As small and medium enterprises, including also many micro enterprises, constitute over 98 per cent of business establishments in Hong Kong, and their affordability varies, it is not appropriate to make a direct comparison with the Government or certain enterprises which, having regard to their affordability and operational situations, find it affordable to grant full-pay maternity leave for their pregnant employees.

     The existing provisions on maternity leave under the EO have accorded appropriate protection to pregnant employees and have struck a reasonable balance between the interests of employers and employees. In assessing whether to further improve maternity benefits for pregnant employees, we have to take into consideration Hong Kong's socio-economic situation and whether there is broad consensus in the community.

Ends/Wednesday, May 18, 2016
Issued at HKT 12:45