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How to Define Your Domestic Helper’s Salary and Benefits

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Employers of foreign domestic helpers in Hong Kong are required to comply with a set of rules and requirements when it comes to hiring and employing a domestic helper and hereby incurs certain non-avoidable costs. The salary package of a Hong Kong-based domestic helper includes various mandatory employee benefits.

The latter along with extra non-mandatory bonuses and other additional expenses should be factored in by future employers of domestic helpers if they are to get an idea of what their helper’s salary package might look like and a more accurate sense of how much hiring a domestic worker can cost.

Domestic helper’s salary

As the main monetary item of a domestic helper’s salary package, the wage is the latter’s major component and one of the key elements employers need to figure out before hiring a domestic employee.

Domestic helpers in Hong Kong are entitled to receiving a minimum salary also known as Minimum Allowable Wage (MAW) which is set by the Government and revised on a regular basis. Employers should be aware that MAW is a minimum requirement and is hardly enough for domestic helpers to cover their living expenses in Hong Kong and send enough money back home. Most helpers are sacrificing a lot to work in Hong Kong and support those family members who remained in their home country by saving and remitting as much money as they can.

The salary offered by Hong Kong-based employers varies across employers depending on certain factors such as – but not limited to – the employer’s resources, the helper’s expected scope of work but also her experiences. The worker’s profile plays a determinant role when it comes to defining the salary of your helper-to-be – the rarest the profile you are looking for, the more you should expect to pay more than the minimum salary e.g. a helper with exceptional language skills, with a driver’s licence or first aid and/or CPR-trained, etc.

Salary deductions on a helper’s wage are possible in certain cases only:

  • Your domestic helper is responsible for property damage due to negligence on her part. In such case, the deduction is, however, limited to HK$300. Obviously, this is not relevant when an appliance breaks down while being used properly by your helper. Surely, employers are allowed to make deductions from their employee’s salary but that doesn’t mean that they always should – especially if the damage is accidental.
  • You are entitled to operate deductions from your helper’s salary should you notice that you actually overpaid her or should you be recovering a loan taken out on behalf of your helper – in the latter case, you will require your helper’s written request.
  • If your domestic helper is missing work, you are allowed to deduct a sum proportionate to the period of absence. Salary deductions are not possible in the event where your helper is missing work because she is on sick leave.

Other monetary factors to consider

While it is true that salary is the major monetary item, it is often – wrongly – the only component of the salary package taken into account by employers. It is hardly the only one, as there are several indirect monetary factors that should be factored in before hiring a domestic helper in Hong Kong.  Indeed, foreign domestic helpers working in Hong Kong are legally entitled to:

  • Paid annual leave: The number of days is strictly regulated and set at 7 days per year for the 1st and 2nd year of service, and 1 additional day per year from the 3rd year of service onwards, and capped at a maximum of 14 days.
  • One rest day per week: Some employers choose to allow their helper more than the legal requirement – often between 1.5 and 2 days per week, usually on weekends – to get to spend more quality time with their children.
  • Sick leave: Domestic helpers are allowed 2 paid sick leave days every month for the first year and then 4 paid sick leave days every month after the first year. When they have accumulated enough paid sick leave days they are entitled to receiving a sickness allowance set at 4/5 of their average daily wage. Helpers are strictly prohibited from working during a sick leave. As such, employers need to come up with a contingency plan – based on their needs, employers might have to hire a babysitter, a local helper or a nurse until their helper is back on her feet – in consequence, they might potentially incur additional expenses.
  • 12 Statutory Holidays per year – and get paid after a 3-month working period with their employer.

Additional punctual expenses – which might come up unexpectedly – must also be factored in to truly reflect a domestic helper’s salary package:

Employers of foreign domestic helpers in Hong Kong are legally required to cover their worker’s medical expenses. A helper is entitled to receiving free medical treatment when she gets sick or suffers a personal injury while employed by her employer, regardless of whether it can be attributed to her employment. Employers are therefore advised to get a full medical and hospitalization coverage. HelperChoice has chosen to partner with a leading insurance company to offer a comprehensive coverage plan.

Employers must shoulder the expenses of a return ticket for their helper – from their country of origin at the beginning of the employment period and back to their home country when the employment period ends.

Depending on your helper’s profile and your expectations, you might need to have her trained to acquire or fine-tune certain of her skills e.g. cooking, baking, languages, etc. Additional training might be especially relevant to first-timers i.e. helpers who have never worked in Hong Kong before, since the pre-training they usually receive in their home country is not often sufficient or adequate.

At the end of their contract, domestic helpers are entitled to receiving an end-of-contract allowance – a severance or long-term payment – depending on how long they have been employed by their employer and whether they meet a certain number of criteria.

Finally, certain additional recurring expenses, when they apply, must also be considered by employers. Indeed, employers of foreign domestic helpers in Hong Kong must provide their helper with free food or a food allowance instead. No matter which option you set your mind on, make sure that you factor in food-related expenses incurred when employing a domestic helper.

Fringe benefits

The type of accommodation provided is another decisive criterion domestic helper applicants are sensitive to, which can impact their decision to accept or decline a position with a potential employer. Foreign domestic helpers are required to live-in with their employers in Hong Kong – live-out is illegal – and must be provided with suitable accommodation that guarantees their privacy. Helpers must either have access to a private room or can share a room with their employer’s children as long as they are young. Domestic workers must neither share a room with a teenager nor with an adult of the opposite sex.

Bonuses and rewards

Even though performance-related incentives such as bonuses and rewards are not mandatory, they are quite common among Hong Kong-based employers. Bonuses and rewards come in various forms e.g. cash bonuses, paid time-off, pay rises and gifts and are important as they contribute to keeping motivation at a high level and incentivize employees to perform better. While it is up to you to decide whether you should reward your domestic helper for her work performance, keep in mind that it is always nice to get her something on certain occasions like Christmas, Easter, Chinese New Year, or on her birthday.

Extras

Employers of foreign domestic helpers can incur extra additional costs. Employers might want to provide their helpers with a phone allowance. While this is not mandatory, it might come in handy if you expect your domestic worker to be able to reach you at any time, especially in case of emergency or for kids-related matters. Similarly, a transport allowance might be necessary should your domestic helper be responsible for picking up your children after school or running errands, etc.

Offering your domestic helper a decent salary is important and the best way to acknowledge how valuable her work is to you and your family. It also plays a key role in retaining her and ensuring that she remains satisfied, which in return will guarantee a healthy and long-lasting relationship.

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