Guide to Domestic Helper Contract Termination

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It is sometimes necessary to terminate your domestic helper’s contract, unfortunately. Be sure to follow the necessary steps if this is the case.

Consider if you really want to terminate your domestic helper’s contract

Dismissing your domestic helper will have an impact on her career prospects and on the family she is supporting back home. If you are relocating or suddenly no longer have the financial means, or if you are moving into a smaller apartment, you may have no other options. But if you are terminating her contract for other reasons, the decision should not be taken lightly and you should consider these questions:

  • Have you spoken with your domestic helper about the issues before? If you have not, she may not be aware that you are unhappy with her.
  • Could we do anything to change the situation? If she is not very good at cooking but great at her other duties, she may improve by attending some cooking workshops.
  • How much longer is her contract valid for? If it is just another 2 or 3 months and the situation is not unbearable, you may consider to keep her until she finishes her contract. This also gives both you and her you enough time to find a suitable replacement.
  • Are you angry? When you are upset, you can make decisions that you may later regret. Discuss the situation with your partner and see if they think the same. You may even want to talk to your children because they may be very attached to the domestic helper.

The valid reasons to terminate your domestic helper

  • You are relocating to another country;
  • Your domestic helper is not up to your expectations or is not a good fit for your family;
  • You are having a hard time getting along with her;
  • Your family is experiencing financial difficulties;
  • There is a serious lack of trust between the two of you;
  • You have reasons to fear for the safety of your family and/or suspicions of neglect or abuse of your children;
  • A case of serious misconduct of your helper;
  • Your domestic helper has gone missing. In such a case, if you notice that her belongings are gone too, it certainly indicates that her departure was planned. No matter what you think the reason behind your helper’s disappearance or departure is, it is recommended to notify the authorities by filing a police report as soon as possible;
  • Your domestic helper is suffering from a long-term illness and has been certified unfit for work.

As an employee, your domestic helper has certain rights that should be respected. The following reasons for termination are invalid and as such, it is strictly illegal to terminate your foreign domestic helper in the following cases:

  • She is on paid sick leave;
  • She is pregnant;
  • She belongs or has joined a trade union;
  • She is injured.

An employer has the right to terminate a foreign domestic helper when on leave as long as she is not on a medical leave.

A means of last resort

Premature termination should not be taken lightly as there can be serious ramifications for both parties. Terminated domestic helpers are required to return to their home country within 14 days after termination and obliged to start the immigration process again from scratch if they ever are to work in Hong Kong again, thus entailing huge costs that they are hardly able to shoulder.  Moreover, the employer has the responsibility to make sure that the helper is returning to her home country instead of going to a place close to Hong Kong like Macau.

As for employers who have prematurely terminated a non-negligible number of domestic helpers over a relatively short period of time – some 5 workers over a 2-year period – they run the risk of being blacklisted (by the Consulates and to a lesser extent by the Hong Kong Immigration Department) if they are believed to abuse their right to premature termination. On top of that, employers looking to recruit a new helper will incur including – but not limited to – visa processing and training-related fees, flight, and insurance expenses.

Before opting for premature termination, take a step back and give it some thought – it should be your last resort. Try to solve issues as they arise. Communication and open dialogue right from the onset are your best allies.

Process of contract termination

Should you decide to prematurely terminate your domestic helper’s employment contract, you are legally required to follow a series of rigorous steps.

Step 1: Informing your domestic helper

The first thing to do once you have weighed the pros and cons and made up your mind is notifying your domestic helper in writing. This notification letter known as termination letter should be produced in 3 original copies – 1 copy for yourself, 1 for your domestic helper and 1 for the Immigration Department.

The earlier you can notify your domestic helper, the better. By law, an employer is required to give their domestic helper a month’s notice. The latter is critical to domestic helpers if they are to maximize their chances of finding new employment in Hong Kong, as prematurely terminated workers have to leave Hong Kong within 14 days after their contracts have been terminated.

If you decide to terminate your domestic helper on the spot i.e. without giving her a month’s notice, you are legally required to pay her a month’s salary in lieu. In the latter case, she will have to leave the country within 14 days.

Step 2: informing the Immigration Department

You are legally required to notify the Immigration Department in writing and within 7 days following the termination by enclosing an original copy of the written termination letter stating the exact date and reasons for termination.

Various means are at your disposal to notify the Immigration Department:

  • You can either inform the Immigration Department via their online platform or
  • Download, fill in and submit the ID407E form by post, by fax or in person.

By post

Foreign Domestic Helpers Section,
Immigration Department,
3/F, Immigration Tower,
7 Gloucester Road, Wan Chai, Hong Kong.

By fax

(852) 2157 9181

In person

Receipt and Dispatch Unit,
Immigration Department,
2/F, Immigration Tower,
7 Gloucester Road, Wan Chai, Hong Kong.

Step 3: Settling your dues

Before parting ways, it is essential to ensure that everything is settled and that any outstanding amounts your domestic helper is legally entitled to have been properly settled.

Your domestic helper is entitled to receive:

  • Any outstanding salaries i.e. her salary for the current month as well as any salaries that you might still owe her;
  • Payment in lieu of any untaken annual leave and any pro-rata annual leave pay for the current leave year on the basis of a 2-week paid annual leave for a 2-year contract;
  • Payment in lieu of any untaken holidays
  • A month salary if you have terminated your helper without giving her a month’s notice
  • Food allowance. If you are not providing your domestic helper with food free of charge, you are legally required to give her a food allowance.
  • A ticket back home. By law, employers of foreign domestic helpers in Hong Kong are required to repatriate them back home. No matter if you have previously shouldered the expenses related to one of your helper’s trips back home, repatriation is a legal requirement. When purchasing your helper’s flight ticket back home, make sure to ask her beforehand when would suit her best. Keep in mind that your domestic helper has 14 days to leave Hong Kong but might want to stay up until the 14th day to attend interviews with potential employers.
  • A travel allowance set at 100 HKD per day of travel. Usually, one day is enough.
  • Severance costs are applicable when your helper has been employed continuously for not less than 24 months and dismissed by reason of redundancy (more details below).
  • Long service payment is applicable when your helper has been employed continuously for not less than 5 years and either:

Severance costs and long service payment are calculated as follow: (monthly wages x 2/3) x reckonable years of services. The service of an incomplete year is calculated on a pro-rata basis.

To avoid any disputes that may arise at a later point, it is recommended to draft a document detailing all the above-mentioned items and ask your domestic helper to sign it after review and thus acknowledge that everything has been settled.

Help your domestic helper find a new employer

Scouting for a new position can be difficult and usually is a lengthy process. As an employer who has prematurely terminated their domestic helper, you can help her maximize her chances of finding a new employer in Hong Kong.

Give your domestic helper a reference letter

Your domestic helper is more likely to find a new employer without having to pay crazy fees while she is still in Hong Kong. If you and your domestic helper part on happy terms, you can write her a reference letter stating at least the dates of employment. If your domestic helper has been great, you can write her a more personal letter. Many future employers like to hear what you thought were her strong points and if she also has any major weak points. If you don’t mind being contacted, you can also leave your contact information. Alternatively, you can leave a reference directly on the helper’s HelperChoice file if she has one.

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