Minimum Wage or More? Paying the Right Salary to Your Domestic Helper
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A lot of preconceptions are usually heard when it comes to domestic workers salaries in Hong Kong: “You should never pay your helper too much”, “Your helper starting wage is so high, you will definitely spoil the market for other employers!” and so on.
These sayings might frustrate you, as most of the employers you want to be fair to your new domestic helper, but also not being taken advantage of.
The reality of the minimum wage for domestic helpers in Hong Kong
In Hong Kong, unlike in many other places, domestic helpers from different countries have the same starting wage – a special minimum wage set by the Hong Kong government, namely the Minimum Allowable Wage (MAW). Such domestic helper minimum wage is different from the one for employees of other industries.
The MAW is usually reviewed by the Hong Kong government every year and the new wage applies to all new contracts signed on or after the effective date, so don’t forget to check the latest regulation about domestic helper minimum wage before signing a new contract. As of September 2019, the MAW is set to HK$4,630 per month and is applied to all foreign domestic helper contracts signed on or after September 28. Overlooking this legal requirement can lead to three years imprisonment and a fine of HK$350,000. Not a nice surprise to wake up to.
How to decide a proper salary for the domestic helper
Let’s be honest: hiring a domestic helper for the first time can be a challenging task. First, you need to identify and prioritise your needs. Then, find candidates through a good online hiring platform or ethical employment agency. Followed by many hours of interviews with domestic helpers and possible disappointment until you finally find the right fit (never settle for anything less). And when you think it’s all over, the paperwork process and haggle for salary starts.
Most people in Hong Kong are employees, with little experience in Management or Human Resources. It is therefore not surprising that many people find the process of screening and interviewing a domestic helper frustrating. How do you negotiate the salary with the domestic helper? How to handle an unjustifiably high salary request? How to make sure you are not taken advantage of?
Adjust your salary offer according to the domestic helper’s skills and work experience
Sometimes a domestic helper with a finished contract and/or certain skills such as caregiving will ask for a salary higher than the minimum wage. Experience is valued in Hong Kong’s workplace and helpers are often proud of their skills and want to be appreciated for it. HelperChoice’s annual domestic helper salary survey reveals the average wage employers in different areas offer to their helpers.
It is fair that you increase the salary you offer based on the helper’s work experience and skills. However, do not forget to consider other monetary factors included in the costs of hiring a domestic helper such as food, medical treatment, health insurance and holidays. Besides offering a high salary to helpers with a good skill set at the beginning of a contract, you can also suggest a performance bonus or regular salary review.