The Legal Consequences of Having a Live-Out Domestic Helper in Hong Kong
Domestic helpers are not allowed to stay out
In 2003 the Hong Kong government passed a new law that prohibits all foreign domestic helpers from living out. The government has stated that the purpose of this law is to protect the foreign domestic helpers, to ensure that they will have proper accommodation given the high property value in Hong Kong.
After 1 April 2003, all Standard Employment Contracts for domestic helpers prohibit employers and domestic helpers from entering into a live-out employment arrangement because the live-in requirement is part of the conditions of stay for domestic helpers.
There is one exception: if the same employer and domestic helper couple have received permission from the Immigration Department before 1 April 2003 to live out they can continue to do so. But only if they declare this and request special permission at the time of visa renewal.
The legal consequence of violating the live-in rule
Often overlooked or underestimated, lying about the accommodation arrangement would amount to a false representation to the Immigration Department and is an offence under the Hong Kong Immigration Ordinance. It could even lead to a (maximum) fine of HK$150,000 and imprisonment of 14 years.
What will happen to you if the domestic helper is found to stay out?
The rising popularity of secretive live-out arrangement between employers and their domestic helpers has been of great concern for the government and has prompted an increased crackdown on live-out domestic helpers.
Sometimes the authorities conduct surprise inspections to uncover live-out arrangements. If this happens you will be charged with having made a false representation to the Immigration Department. Both employer and the domestic helper will have to go to court and face criminal charges based on aiding and abetting a breach of conditions of stay. And it happens more often than you think, on average courts see about 2 to 3 of these cases per week.
Depending on the severity of the case, a first-time offender may only face a suspended, but don’t count on this. A fine, imprisonment, exclusion from Hong Kong and future applications to employ a domestic helper are all possible outcomes.
Critiques of current live-in rule
Many have criticized this live-in rule for causing greater inconvenience for both the employers and domestic helpers. Working and living in the same place puts pressure on the employer-domestic helper relationship especially because Hong Kong houses are small and there is little to no private space for both parties.
And if both sides, the employer and the domestic helper, prefer a live-out arrangement, should they be refrained from doing so? Moreover, this law has created a “cat-mouse” situation, since many employers and domestic helpers would furtively enter into a live-out arrangement.
At HelperChoice, we understand that this live-in situation can be quite stressful and unusual, this is the reason why we created a few guides to help you manage this relationship more easily.
Make up your mind
Although it would be difficult for the government to monitor the living arrangement of domestic helpers, the police force continues to be on the look-out and the government may occasionally arrange for a crackdown. You will have to decide for yourself whether to hire a live-in foreign domestic helper or a local resident who can work as a legal live-out domestic help.
Moreover, given the gravity of the offense for a live-out arrangement, it is highly advisable for both the employers and domestic helpers to not consider a live-out arrangement. We strongly advise you to follow the regulations and discuss privacy concerns with your domestic helper.