Maternity Protection

Exclusive breastfeeding for six months is very important for the health of mothers and infants. Numerous studies showed that returning to work was a crucial reason for mothers to stop breastfeeding. According to the legislation in Hong Kong, all mothers are entitled to 10 weeks of paid maternity leave. In a study published in 2006, the breastfeeding rate of the sample mothers dropped during the 2nd to 3rdmonth. This reflected that the end of maternity leave posed a great impact on the decision of the mode of infant feeding in Hong Kong (Leung et al, 2006). It is important that governments establish maternity protection so that the rights of working mothers, including the right to breastfeed, can be protected and upheld. National laws, collective bargaining agreements and company policies must support breastfeeding in the workplace as well. Guaranteed paid maternity leave and breastfeeding breaks, access to infants during working hours, flexible working hours, job-sharing, safe working conditions and a comfortable, private place to breastfeed and express milk – these are all means of supporting and protecting breastfeeding.

International Labour Organization (ILO)’s recommendations, and policies in other countries

The ILO Maternity Protection Convention 2000 (No. 183) entitles women to 14 weeks paid maternity leave and lactating mothers to one or two paid breastfeeding breaks per working day. ILO also recommends extending the paid leave to 18 weeks. Different countries adopted different policies. Some examples are listed below:


Paid Parental leave

(for mother, unless specified)

Pay rate

Unpaid Parental leave (for mother, unless specified)

Hong Kong 10 weeks (2-4 weeks prenatal) 80%  
China 90 days 100%  
Japan 14 weeks 60%  
RepublicofKorea 60 days 100%  
Australia 18 weeks at federal government level Federal minimum wage (Around $596/week) 1 year
Canada 50 weeks (15 weeks maternity + 35 weeks parental leave shared with father) 55% up to $447/week 2 weeks
Norway 56 weeks or 46 weeks (Mother must take at least 3 weeks immediately before and 6 weeks immediately after birth; father must take 10 weeks; the rest can be shared) 56 weeks at 80% or 46 weeks at 100% Father can take full year unpaid leave.
Recommendations by European Union At least 4 months    
Recommendations by ILO (2000) At least 18 weeks (extended for multiple births) 100%  

From the above comparison, we can see that Hong Kong’s policy is far from reaching the recommendations by International Labour Organization, as well as the standard in many different countries. Short maternity leave greatly influences the parents’ decision in the mode of infant feeding. We urge our government to see the need for longer maternity leave, and take solid action to improve the current policy.

Source of Information:

  1. Maternity Protection Recommendation 2000 ,International Labour Organization (Retrieved on 9 Feb, 2011)
  2. European Union’s agreement on Parental leave
  3. Maternity Protection, Employment Ordinance (Cap. 57), HKSAR
  4. IBFAN -Statement on Maternity Protection at Work