Domestic Helper Employment Contract and Main Regulations in Hong Kong
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When an employer hires a foreign domestic helper, they need to sign the formal employment contract which is provided by the Hong Kong government. It is very important that you handle the employment contract very carefully, because it is legally binding and will affect you and your domestic helper for the following two years!
What does the standard employment contract include?
The employment contract clearly stipulates the allowed duties, the living conditions, the minimum wage and other labour-related regulations. The employment contract is relatively straightforward because you can only use the Standard Employment Contract provided by the Hong Kong Immigration. There is no need for an employer to draw up their own contract and terms.
Each contract has four copies and all these need to be filled out. The copies are for: the domestic helper, the employer, the sending Consulate and the Immigration Department. You can get the original copies of the domestic helper standard employment contract can at 2/f of the Immigration Tower at Wan Chai.
Abiding by the employment contract
The domestic helper employment contract is a legally binding document under the Hong Kong labour law and it will be submitted to the Immigration Department. Therefore, it is of utmost importance that you are aware of what you sign. If an employment agency rushes over the employment contract, tell them to slow down and if something is unclear, ask them to explain the contract again. Always keep a copy of the contract in a safe place so that you can refer to it when needed.
The main provisions of the Standard Employment Contract
The contract is set for 2 years (clause 2). It can be terminated by any party with a 1 month notice period (clause 10). It cannot be extended: upon expiry of the contract, the Employer and the Helper who agree on continuation of employment must sign and submit a new contract (clause 13).
Location: the live-in rule
The employment contract requires a foreign domestic helper to live at the employer’s address where she also works (clause 3). The employer must ensure that free “suitable accommodation and reasonable privacy” is provided as the living arrangement (clause 5b), but it is not clearly specified what the government exactly means with “reasonable”, in particular when it comes to the size of the room, as well as its location in the flat.
That said, according to the standard employment contract, domestic helpers should not sleep in the same room as anyone of the opposite sex unless they are children (note: they cannot be teenagers). At HelperChoice, we also advise employers to provide a room which only purpose is to be a room, meaning that the room does not contain a washing machine for example. It is also best to have an air conditioner in that room so that it does not get too hot in the summer.
the Helper shall only perform domestic duties and exclusively for the Employer (clause 4a and 4b). Parties who violate this clause is violating the Immigration Ordinance and may face legal consequences.
Remuneration and expenses
the monthly wages paid by the Employer to the Helper cannot be less than the minimum legal allowable wage (clause 5a). In addition, the Employer shall provide the Helper with food free of charge or a food allowance per month (clause 5b). The Employer shall also be responsible for fees and expenses incurred for the arrival and the departure of the Helper, including the free passage and return from/to his/her place of origin to/from Hong Kong (clauses 7 and 8).
Holidays and leaves
the Helper shall be entitled to at least 1 rest day in every period of 7 days, statutory holidays and paid annual leaves of 7 to 14 days depending on the Helper's length of service for the same Employer (clause 6).
Issues other than those stipulated in the employment contract
Hong Kong does not have any legal working hour legislation and domestic workers on average work long days of 11 to 16 hours. This is not only due to the job nature as taking care of children starts early in the morning and ends late at night in Asia, but also because the foreign domestic helpers live at their employer’s house and are therefore often ‘on-call’. We do not advise employers to make their domestic workers work more than 12 hours! It will exhaust them too much. It is important that they get a good rest at night.
There are a lot more other issues that cannot be addressed by the employment contract or the law. For example, should there be a curfew on the domestic helper’s day off? Is the domestic helper allowed to use her mobile phone during the day? If the domestic helper is pregnant, can she be exempted from certain duties? For all these, it is very important that you and your domestic helper communicate to find a solution.
After an employment contract starts
Changing residence address
If you have moved, you need to update the address on the domestic helper employment contract. You should complete the form “Revised Schedule of Accommodation and Domestic Duties” (ID407G) and submit it to the Immigration Department. If you are moving to a flat in a housing estate run by the Housing Department/Hong Kong Housing Society, you need to produce a letter of consent from the Housing Department/Hong Kong Housing Society granting permission for your domestic helper to reside in the premises and a copy of the tenancy agreement.
Renewing employment contract
Sometimes you need to apply for two visas, one for entry and the other for extension of stay if you wish to renew the employment contract of the same domestic worker. It is because according to the employment contract, your worker is entitled to a home leave after the two-year contract is completed. The entry visa is applicable in all times if you wish to renew your domestic worker’s contract, but only when you cannot immediately give your domestic helper her vacation leave would you need to apply for the extension of stay visa.
Termination of domestic helper employment contract
Both you and your domestic helper can terminate the contract by giving not less than one month’s notice in writing or by paying one month’s wages to the other party. Within seven days of termination, you should notify the Foreign Domestic Helpers Section of the Immigration Department in writing of the termination.
Other than that, you and the helper need to work together to settle all the outstanding wages, holidays, severance payment, long service payment etc.
The severance payment is applicable if your domestic helper is dismissed or if the contract is not being renewed
- by reason of redundancy (such as due to relocation or the fact that the children your worker is taking care of have grown up) and
- if the domestic helper has at least completed a two-year contract with you
Long service payment
The long service payment is applicable when the domestic helper has worked for you for no less than five years and fits into one of these situations:
- dismissed or not renewed by reason other than serious misconduct or redundancy (such as considering the worker not capable enough);
- considered permanently unfit for the job and is certified by a registered medical practitioner;
- aged 65 or above when she resigns;
- dies in service
Note that a domestic helper is not entitled to both long service payment and severance payment at the same time. If the helper is dismissed due to the reason of redundancy, she is entitled to the service payment but not the long service payment.