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Preparing for pregnancy: maternity leave and insurance in China

Are you thinking about starting a family in China? Making the decision to start planning for a child is huge news! It’s an exciting time and one that can be filled with hopes, dreams, and wondering; what do I need to do to ensure the best for our pregnancy? Besides names and and deciding what color to paint the baby’s room, you should always spare an early thought for maternity leave and insurance, and how to organize it to suit your needs.

This week, Pacific Prime China has a number of important things to consider when you’ve made the decision to have a baby.

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Pregnancy in China: planning and preparation

If you’ve asked yourselves the tough question of “Are we ready to have a baby?” and come up with a gleeful and excited “Yes!”, then one of the next steps you’ll need to take will be to plan and prepare for that coming bundle of joy. Yes, this may sound boring and, yes, it can seem tedious, but any experienced parent will tell you the same; babies and children are hard work.

Planning and understanding what you need to do and what support you’ll need during and after your pregnancy can make the job of parenting a little easier. With that in mind, here’s a few things to help get your pregnancy journey underway.

Maternity leave and employee rights in China

In China, employee rights, entitlements, and maternity leave rules can vary greatly between locations. Local governments determine the length of leave days allocated to both mothers and fathers, while the Social Security Bureau (SSB) administers the maternity allowance payments. Laws can be complex in China too, meaning even employers can find calculating allowances and leave provisions a difficult task.

However, according to the Provisions on Female Labor Protection under Special Circumstances (State Council Decree No. 619), employees in China may be entitled to:

  • 98 days paid maternity leave beginning 15 days prior to childbirth, with extensions of 15 days given under special circumstances (e.g. dystocia).
  • 15 days extra leave for multiple births, granted per extra child.
  • Approximately 30 days extra leave for women over 24, considered “late maternity leave” or “maternity rewards leave” (days can vary by location, and foreigners are not eligible for this leave).
  • 15 days maternity leave in cases of abortion of pregnancy of four months or less, and six weeks granted in cases of miscarriage/abortion after four months.
  • Mothers granted one hour each day to breastfeed during a one year “breastfeeding period”.
  • Fathers granted approximately 14 days paternal leave (days vary by location, Shanghai offers 10 days while Shenzhen grants 15).
  • Pregnant employees are also protected from termination of employment during pregnancy, maternity leave, and the breastfeeding period. Contracts of employees that are due to expire during these periods must be extended (either by a new contract, or a revised termination date).

China’s maternity allowance is calculated differently in each area, but generally consists of the SSB paying either an employee’s monthly salary, or the average salary of all employees in a jurisdiction over the past 12 months. Maternity allowances are only paid to workers, local or foreign, who participate in China’s national insurance scheme. For more information about your entitlement, check with your employer or local authority.

Medical and maternity care in China

In addition to organizing your work and maternity entitlements, you’ll also need to start thinking about your medical needs. Pregnancy is a time of significant change; especially for a woman, her body, and the baby she’ll carry to term. There are all sorts of things happening biologically that you’ll often turn to doctors, midwives, or specialists for answers to, and sometimes pregnancies can come with unexpected medical challenges.

Ensuring you’re clear on what tests and scans you’ll need, where you plan to deliver, and what the financial costs will be will go a long way in making your pregnancy as stress free as possible. Have a think about these things as you plan for your own pregnancy:

  • Pre-pregnancy affairs such as health and fertility testing, vitamin and supplements that support conception, and fertility treatments if required (such as IVF).
  • Specialist and facility decisions such as which doctor, pediatrician, and doula/midwife to use, which hospital to visit for checks, tests, and delivery.
  • Maternity education matters such as antenatal, birthing, and breastfeeding classes.
  • Complication contingency plans for any pregnancy challenges that arise that can jeopardize the mother or baby’s health.

There’s a lot to consider when you’re planning to start a family, but these points are a good start to get you on your way. Once you’ve got even a rough idea of what your pregnancy needs will be medically, you’ll also need to start thinking about how to cover the costs associated with your care.

a chinese baby in a tutu marvels at a cake and the decorations around her, symbolizing the result of a well planned maternity leave and maternity insurance situation

Financial planning and maternity insurance in China

Since we’ve covered maternity entitlements and the various medical needs you might encounter, now’s the time to talk finances. Not only is bringing a child into this world a big time commitment, it’s also going to cost a lot. Maternity-related care is often one of the most expensive services to receive from hospitals, and China is no exception to this.

Before we talk meeting the costs of care, let’s look at some questions you can ask yourself to make sure you’re ready for being a parent:

  • Do you have savings prepared, or can you save enough in the time before your baby arrives to help you meet the costs of caring for a newborn?
  • How will the increased spending associated with raising a child impact your current finances and financial goals?
  • What changes will you need to make in order to keep a balanced budget?
  • Can you afford to upgrade or replace big-ticket items (like a bigger car, renovating a baby room, moving to a bigger home) to accommodate a child?

If you foresee that finances might be a bit tight in your current situation, one reprieve might be to purchase a maternity insurance plan for China. What these products do is help you out with the costs associated with receiving maternity care, which can range in Shanghai from RMB 10,000 for basic prenatal care, through to RMB 98,000 for premium-level C-section delivery care at a private facility.

Maternity insurance can also provide a range of added benefits, from underwriting of a newborn to coverage for vaccinations, leaving parents to focus their efforts on remaining healthy and delivering the baby, stress free, into the world.

What do I need to know about maternity insurance and care options in China?

Local, specialist knowledge is always key to making the right decision for your maternity care in China. While this can be especially true for expats unfamiliar with China’s health system, local citizens can also find themselves lost in amongst the different hospital and treatment options available. When there’s a need for expert advice and simplifying insurance matters, choose Pacific Prime China.

In fact, we’ve made it even easier to understand what your maternity options are when you’re planning for a pregnancy in China. We’ve recently released two valuable insurance guides covering maternity:

Inside these resources are useful insights and helpful discussion related to planning for maternity care in China, as well as price comparisons to help you paint a picture of the costs you may face. These guides have been created using our extensive understanding of China’s health system, the range of maternity insurance products available, and actual cases our consultants have helped real clients with over nearly 20 years.

If you’re interested in learning more, our health guides section also includes resources on the Public vs Private health sectors in China; further empowering you to make the right choice when it comes to which facility to deliver your baby at. For a free quote, check out our online comparison tool, or contact our expert team of advisors today for more information.

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