Domestic Helper Insurance in Hong Kong: Why You Should Get One
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Hiring and sponsoring a foreign domestic helper is relatively straightforward and affordable in Hong Kong, which is why many families have live-in helpers who handle general household chores and care for children and pets. But being an employer means that you are responsible for the well-being and safety of your helper. To safeguard the interests of both parties, the Hong Kong government requires that employers take out Employees’ Compensation Insurance for their domestic helpers.
Domestic helper insurance is mandatory
These domestic helper insurance policies cover the employer’s liability should their helper be injured or fall ill at work. Taking out insurance for employees is a legal requirement under the Employees’ Compensation Ordinance, which grants foreign domestic helpers the same benefits as other workers in Hong Kong. Among these benefits are mandatory coverage of medical expenses, compensation for loss of earning capacity, and compensation for deaths and funerals. Accidents can happen in any line of work, so make sure that your helper is covered. Failure to comply can result in serious penalties – with a maximum fine of HK$100,000 and two years in prison for the employer.
Note that employers are responsible for arranging their helpers’ insurance and paying the total cost thereof (without passing on any costs to their helpers). This requirement is stipulated in the standard employment contract between employers and helpers. Also, should a domestic helper submit a written request to his or her employer for information about their insurance policy and related documents, the employer is obliged to produce such information.
Medical coverage for your domestic helper
Employers are responsible for providing their helpers with free medical treatment (except when a helper has left HK on a non-work trip) throughout their employment contract. This includes consultations, hospital expenses, and emergency dental treatments when required. Since medical costs can be unforeseen and highly expensive in some cases, it is advisable to take out an insurance policy that also includes comprehensive medical and hospital coverage.
Basic helper insurance plans, which only cover what is required by the Employees’ Compensation Ordinance, usually cost as little as $300 per year, depending on the provider and coverage. These plans cover bodily injuries (including death) due to accidents, as well as diseases contracted during the course of employment.
More comprehensive helper insurance scheme, which include full medical coverage and which protect employers from having to pay steep bills, usually cost around $750 a year (your helper’s employment contract will likely span two years). These packages include benefits such as health insurance, personal accident insurance, repatriation expenses, loan protection, and so on. It is a good idea for an employer to arrange for the helper insurance about two weeks before the employment contract is due to start.
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Reporting a work-related injury to the Labour Department
You should notify the Labour Department of any work-related injuries within 14 days of the accident occurring; or, in the case of death, within 7 days.
The procedures you need to follow will depend on the seriousness of the injury. If your helper’s absence from normal work does not exceed 7 days and the injury does not lead to permanent incapacity, your helper will not need to undergo medical clearance. The compensation owed to your helper is determined under the Employees’ Compensation Ordinance.
As an example, if your domestic helper trips and injures their ankle, and is hospitalised for two days before resuming work, they will not need to undergo medical clearance (though the incident must be reported).
However, if the injury is serious and your helper misses more than 7 days of work as a result, the doctor might advise that they go for medical clearance. Medical clearance procedures determine the percentage of earnings ability that injured helpers have lost, with their compensation determined accordingly. For more details, you can refer to the various resources provided by the Labour Department.
Why you should care about your helper’s health and wellbeing
Besides avoiding steep medical bills or fines for noncompliance, the health and wellbeing of your helper should be a major concern for other reasons – including that helpers are in constant contact with your children and family members. Children tend to be more susceptible to illnesses, which means it is important to ensure that your domestic helper is as healthy as possible. For this reason, we recommend that employers enrol their helpers for medical examinations before their employment contracts begin and when renewing contracts. Moreover, as an employer, you should value your domestic helper’s best interests. You will want to see that they are well and also adequately cared for should they require medical attention.
Remember, if your helper pays for any medical consultations, you will need to reimburse them. Note also that your helper’s illness or injury is not a valid reason for you to terminate his or her employment contract unless your domestic helper is certified unfit for work.