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Government proposes new path for maternity leave bill

In a rather surprising move, Hong Kong’s labor administer has asked the Legislative Council of Hong Kong to bypass its standard procedures and pass a bill that would add four weeks to maternity leave, making it 14 weeks instead of 10 weeks and avoiding a backlog of bills due to political maneuvering. In this Pacific Prime Hong Kong article, we’ll discuss the government’s request for extending the maternity leave.

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What is the current status of Hong Kong’s new maternity leave proposal?

The new maternity leave bill had its second reading in the Legislative Council of Hong Kong on Wednesday, after which it would typically be sent to the House Committee for agenda-setting where a new committee is usually created to carefully examine the bill. By extending the statutory maternity leave from 10 weeks to 14 weeks, Hong Kong will finally have the same standard as those laid down by the International Labour Organisation (ILO).

But, amid disagreements between the two camps, the House Committee has not elected a chairperson in four months, thereby preventing it from performing its usual duties.

The Federation of Trade Unions (FTU) has asked President of the Legislative Council, Andrew Leung, to skip this step entirely, and to send the bill straight to the full council for voting. However, Leung rejected the request on Thursday, mentioning a lack of precedent. “To not send a bill to the House Committee, a very high bar must be met,” said Leung.

Law Chi-kwong, Secretary of Labour and Welfare, said, “The government earnestly hopes that the amendment can be passed by the end of this legislative session.” He stated that the bill should be handled by the panel due to its urgency, after which it would then present additional suggestions to the council.

Despite the support of most lawmakers, individual legislators in the corporate sector expressed reservations regarding the amendment.

As for Law’s proposal regarding the panel, Leung ruled to allow lawmakers to decide the outcome. According to the SCMP, Leung said the suggestions still made it possible for lawmakers to suggest revisions, as opposed to those by Ho, which would skip protocol and advance the bill into a third debate.

The meeting was adjourned at 14:56 pm on Wednesday after Ray Chan Chi-chuen, People Power lawmaker, requested a quorum call. According to Legislative Council records, 27 pro-government lawmakers were at the meeting instead of the required 35.

Martin Liao Cheung-kong, a Legislative Council member, said he had to support Law’s motion, stating there was “no option” since the House Committee was not operating as usual.

The Legislative Council will proceed with its full council meeting on January 15th, 2020.

Hong Kong’s maternity leave still has a ways to go

Independently, city leader Carrie Lam asked lawmakers to “show mercy” and approve the amendments prior to summer recess.

On Wednesday at midnight, before the meeting, Lam posted on Facebook, “Whether more than 20,000 working mothers every year can enjoy four more weeks of maternity leave seems to depend on whether [pro-democracy camp] lawmakers will ‘show mercy’ and stop obstructing the council from electing a House Committee chairman.”

Aside from longer maternity leave, maternity benefits in Hong Kong for employees in Hong Kong still has room for improvement. Being a mother in Hong Kong involves difficulties to begin with, which is why Lam’s suggested new initiatives to support breastfeeding.

In 2018, a flashmob was staged by a group of mothers, who decided to speak out against the challenges of breastfeeding in Hong Kong. A survey from 2016 showed that more than 95% of Hong Kongers noticed a lack of facilities for breastfeeding in public areas, which pushed mothers to breastfeed in public toilets.

Whether political rivals will set aside their political differences to see to the welfare of pregnant women has yet to be seen, though an outcome should be determined in the near future.

Maternity insurance in Hong Kong

Even if you have expat health insurance in Hong Kong, it is important for expectant mothers to ensure they have maternity coverage as well, which usually isn’t included in standard health insurance plans. Pacific Prime Hong Kong can help you find the best maternity insurance in Hong Kong by comparing private health insurance companies to help you find the right plan for your needs and budget. Contact our team of experts to receive impartial advice, price quotations and plan comparisons for free.

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Content Creator at Pacific Prime Hong Kong
​​Jantra Jacobs is a content writer at Pacific Prime. On a typical workday, she writes and edits articles, guides, and anything else word-related. She loves creating content that is both easy to understand and enjoyable to read.

In her free time, she’s likely to be writing poetry and prose, geeking out on her latest interests, reading, or practicing yoga.