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PathFinders provides employers with information about their legal obligation, and recommends options and solutions when their Migrant Domestic Workers are pregnant or on maternity leave. 

Employers of pregnant MDWs can access our practical guidebook, produced jointly with Helpwise, to navigate their next steps.

FAQ

Your rights and obligations as an employer of a pregnant foreign domestic worker

1My Migrant Domestic Worker is pregnant. What should I do?

Understandably, sudden news of your migrant domestic worker being pregnant may bring challenges and mixed feelings - from sharing her joyous anticipation to feeling anxious and worried about how her pregnancy is going to affect the running of your household.

Issues such as whether your domestic worker can cope with the demands of her job while ensuring her safety, and finding alternative care for your young children during the period when she is unable to work, are real and valid concerns.

Understanding your legal rights and obligations as an employer and having an open communication with your domestic worker about the relevant issues are the first steps to tackling the challenges and finding practical solutions.

2Is my Migrant Domestic Worker legally allowed to be pregnant in Hong Kong?

Yes. There is no law prohibiting any female worker in Hong Kong, including migrant domestic workers, from being pregnant.  In fact, it is a right protected by the Hong Kong Bill of Rights. 

3What are my obligations as an employer if my Migrant Domestic Worker is pregnant?

Notification of Pregnancy

You are entitled to ask your domestic worker to provide you with a copy of her medical certificate confirming her pregnancy and the expected date of delivery. 

Safe Working Environment 

If your domestic worker has been advised by a doctor that handling heavy items or performing certain tasks may be harmful to her pregnancy, you may not require her to perform such tasks. You may require her to provide you with a medical certificate confirming such recommendation from the doctor.  

Maternity Leave

Maternity leave in Hong Kong is 14 weeks - up from 10 weeks with effect from 11 December 2020.

If your domestic worker has not notified you of the date she intends to commence her maternity leave,  it would be advisable to discuss and decide this with her; and find out whether she plans to stay in Hong Kong or return to her home country during her leave. 

Maternity Leave Pay

If you have employed your domestic worker for not less than 40 weeks immediately before the start of her maternity leave, you also have an obligation to pay her maternity leave pay. This is calculated as four-fifth or 80% of her normal wages. Maternity leave pay is due on your domestic worker’s normal pay day and must be paid within 7 days. 

If you have employed her for at least 4 weeks but less than 40 weeks, then she is entitled to maternity leave without pay.

Example:

If a Migrant Domestic Worker began employment with an employer on 1st January 2019 and begins taking maternity leave from 1 February 2020, she is entitled to maternity leave  pay. If her monthly salary is $4,520, her total maternity leave pay would be calculated as follows:

Daily rate: $4520/365 x 12 x ⅘ = $118.88

Total maternity leave pay over the 14 week period: $118.88 x 98 days = $11,650.24

4Can I terminate my Migrant Domestic Worker’s contract after she informs me that she is pregnant?

No. Under the Hong Kong Employment Ordinance, unless you have a valid reason, it is unlawful for you to dismiss a pregnant migrant domestic worker from the date her pregnancy was confirmed up to the date of the expiry of her maternity leave.

If you dismiss a pregnant domestic worker without a valid ground, you may be liable to prosecution and, if found guilty, to a fine of up to $100,000. 

Valid grounds for termination include, but are not limited to: (1) wilful disobedience of a reasonable and lawful order, (2) serious misconduct, (3) habitual neglect of duties, (4) fraud or dishonesty.

If you dismiss your domestic worker on the grounds of her pregnancy, this is also a breach of the Sex Discrimination Ordinance. 

5What should I do if my Migrant Domestic Worker informs me that she is pregnant immediately after I have given her a notice of termination?

Under the law, you have to immediately withdraw the termination, unless there is a valid reason for such termination. 

6I only found out about my Migrant Domestic Worker's pregnancy after she has given birth. I am feeling very upset. Why didn't she tell me earlier?

It is understandably very upsetting not to find out about the news earlier. Early notification can indeed benefit both employers and domestic workers in coming up with win-win plans.

It often takes a lot of bravery for a Migrant Domestic Worker to tell her employer that she is pregnant. The fear of being dismissed from her job is a real concern for many domestic workers. 

For some domestic workers whose pregnancies were planned, the pregnancy can be a joyous anticipation. But for many others, love scams and the lack of reproductive health knowledge (ie. family planning and contraceptives) can lead to a domestic worker’s unexpected pregnancy. When that happens, often the domestic worker may feel confusion or anxiety about the future.

Give yourself a bit of time to process the news. When you are ready, have an honest conversation with your domestic worker. Focus on connecting and being solution-focused. It is never too late to come up with a viable plan that works for both parties. This step-by-step guide could help you navigate your next steps.

7I am concerned about how I will be able to manage with a pregnant Migrant Domestic Worker. I need information on what my options are.

We understand that dealing with the various issues associated with having a pregnant Migrant Domestic Worker can be overwhelming.

For further information on how these issues can be addressed, please refer to our guide book which will walk you through a step by step process to find practical solutions.

8Do I have to pay for my Migrant Domestic Worker’s pregnancy-related expenses?

No. Your domestic worker is responsible for all the expenses related to her pregnancy and the delivery of her baby, including medical fees and her baby’s needs.

9Can my Migrant Domestic Worker have her baby in Hong Kong?

Yes. However, she would need to be aware this does not necessarily mean her baby will automatically gain permanent residency status in Hong Kong. If the child is born in Hong Kong and has a parent who is a Hong Kong Permanent Resident, the child may be eligible for right of abode.

10Do I have an obligation to provide accommodation to my Migrant Domestic Worker’s child as well?

You are not obligated to provide accommodation to your domestic worker’s child, but you may allow the child to live with the mother in your home if you wish.  

11Can my Migrant Domestic Worker access antenatal, obstetrics and postnatal care in Hong Kong?

Yes. Your domestic worker can utilise antenatal and obstetric services at local public hospitals and Maternity and Child Health Centres (MCHC), at the same affordable cost as local residents. Postnatal services are also available for her and her baby at the MCHC.

Antenatal and postnatal services are free for holders of a HKID card. Your domestic worker will need to visit the hospital and MCHC located in the same district as her listed address.

Note: Helper insurance policies in Hong Kong exclude pregnancy and childbirth.

12Can my Migrant Domestic Worker take time-off when she goes for her medical check-ups?

Yes. If your domestic worker needs to attend a medical examination in relation to her pregnancy or require medical treatment after she has given birth, any day on which she is absent from work for such examination or treatment will be considered a paid sickness day which means she is entitled to sickness allowance.

13My family would like our Migrant Domestic Worker to raise her baby with us in Hong Kong. What challenges should we be prepared for? Would the child be eligible for education and health care in Hong Kong?

It is not easy for Migrant Domestic Workers to raise their children in Hong Kong, as successful integration of their work and family life can be very challenging. Domestic workers would need to be prepared for the many adjustments to their work routine whilst attending to the needs of their babies. If the domestic workers are new mothers, the adjustment period could be even tougher.

Babies require a lot of care round the clock – and this can be very exhausting for their caregivers. Coupled that with the need to fulfil their job responsibilities, many domestic workers will find this situation extremely stressful and overwhelming. This is especially so when domestic workers receive little or no support from their partners or family members. The support of employers, such as yourself, can certainly help in this journey.

Just as your domestic worker will face a challenging period of adjustment, you and your family would have your own set of challenges too. For a start, your household would need to adapt to a young child sharing your home. This may not be easy, especially in the first few months, as newborn babies tend to cry frequently. You might also need to moderate your expectations of your FDW’s work performance, and allow some flexibility so she can tweak her daily work routine to realistically meet the needs of her baby. In essence, both parties should be well-prepared for the transition. This period of adjustment, if poorly managed, could cause tension and disagreements; not to mention disruption to both families.

It would be ideal for employers and domestic workers to communicate and openly discuss these issues ahead of time, and agree on a plan that works for both. Bear in mind too that children’s needs evolve as they grow, so it’s also important for both parties to have an open mind and have frequent honest conversations to make this situation work.

A simple tip that could help both parties manage better is switching to online grocery shopping and have the items delivered to your doorstep. Another tip is letting your domestic worker have frequent short breaks during the day (say during feeding times) to better manage her energy levels, which in turn will help her manage her job duties better.

Once your domestic worker’s baby is born, she should promptly apply for his birth certificate, passport and dependent visa. The baby’s dependent visa will be attached to his passport. With the dependent visa, your domestic worker’s child will be able to live, study and access public health care in Hong Kong.

 

Maternity leave arrangement

1Is my Migrant Domestic Worker entitled to maternity leave?

All pregnant female employees in Hong Kong, including Migrant Domestic Workers who have been employed under a continuous contract (i.e. not less than 4 weeks) are entitled to 14* weeks of maternity leave which may commence from 2 to 4 weeks before her expected date of delivery.  

* With effect from 11 December 2020, maternity leave is extended from 10 to 14 weeks.

2Can my Migrant Domestic Worker live out during her maternity leave?

Under the standard employment contract for Migrant Domestic Workers, they may only reside in the home of their employer at the address specified in the contract. There is no exception for when a domestic worker is on maternity leave unless she takes her leave outside Hong Kong.

While it may be possible to request permission from the Labour and Immigration Department to allow your domestic worker to stay in an alternative accommodation, this is rarely granted and only in exceptional circumstances. 

3Is my Migrant Domestic Worker entitled to maternity leave pay?

If you have employed your domestic worker for not less than 40 weeks immediately before the start of her maternity leave, you also have an obligation to pay her maternity leave pay. This is calculated as four-fifth or 80% of her normal wages. Maternity leave pay is due on your domestic worker’s normal pay day and must be paid within 7 days. 

If you have employed her for at least 4 weeks but less than 40 weeks, then she is entitled to maternity leave without pay.

Example:

If a Migrant Domestic Worker began employment with an employer on 1st January 2019 and begins taking maternity leave from 1 February 2020, she is entitled to maternity leave  pay. If her monthly salary is $4,520, her total maternity leave pay would be calculated as follows:

Daily rate: $4520/365 x 12 x ⅘ = $118.88

Total maternity leave pay over the 14 week period: $118.88 x 98 days = $11,650.24

4If my Migrant Domestic Worker decides to return to her home country during her maternity leave, what are the things that we need to consider?

Travel Restrictions

You need to be aware that airlines have restrictions on pregnant travellers. Most airlines do not accept passengers who are more than 35 weeks pregnant. You may wish to discuss the possibility of your domestic worker taking an earlier leave, whether paid or unpaid, before her scheduled maternity leave, while she can still travel by air.

Payment of Maternity Leave Salary

You may also wish to discuss with her the options for paying her during maternity leave. If she does not have a Hong Kong bank account, it would be convenient for you both if she sets one up before she leaves Hong Kong. She will also need to ensure she can access the bank account while outside Hong Kong to be able to receive your  payments to her account. Your domestic worker can find out more about how to open a bank account in Hong Kong here.

You and your domestic worker can also consider platforms such as WeChat Pay for convenient salary transfer.

5Am I responsible for paying for my Migrant Domestic Worker’s flight if she decides to return to her home country during her maternity leave?

No, your domestic worker is responsible for her own  travel expenses if she returns to her home country during her maternity leave. If you do offer to pay for her airfare so that she can travel home, clarify to her whether it is a gift or a loan that must be repaid at a later date to avoid any misunderstanding. 

There is no statutory guideline for employers to provide meal allowance to their domestic workers during maternity leave. However, it is always good to discuss this with your domestic worker, so you are both in agreement.

6Useful Links

We recognise that there may be difficulties in hiring a substitute Migrant Domestic Worker (MDW) whilst your MDW is on maternity leave.

As you are not allowed to employ a MDW on a part-time basis, especially one who is on a full-time contract with another employer; you may wish to consider hiring a temporary part-time local domestic worker who does not require a visa, or part-time cleaners and/or babysitters.  You may also wish to consider seeking help and support from friends, relatives and your trusted contacts from religious, interest and support groups during this time. 

More information about hiring local domestic helpers can be found here.

Here are some resources for you to consider:

Local Domestic Help

Home Cleaning

Child Care

Elder Care

The above information, accurate as at November 2020, is provided as resources and not necessarily endorsed by PathFinders.