Differences Between Domestic Helpers with Finished, Broken or Terminated Contracts

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A lot of employers only consider hiring helpers with a finished contract with the belief that domestic helpers who broke their contract or are terminated are of worse quality. Is that true? Domestic helpers usually refer to themselves with one of the three contract statuses: “finished contract”, “break contract” and “terminated”. Apart from being a possible way to judge the quality of the helper, to the Immigration Department, these three statuses also have significance.

What are the differences between “finished contract”, “break contract” and “terminated”?

The simple differences are that “finished contract” means that the domestic helper completes the full two-year contract, “break contract” means that the domestic helper quits the job, and “terminated” means that the employer fires the domestic helper. To the Immigration Department, the distinction between these three types also has huge significance. A “finished contract” domestic helper can apply for an extension of stay visa and delay her annual leave at the end of the contract, and “finished contract” Filipino worker can also deal with the hiring process herself without using an agency. “Break contract” or “terminated” domestic helpers can have a record in the Immigration Department, and their visa in Hong Kong might be rejected if they have broken their contracts or have been terminated for multiple times.

“Break contract” domestic helpers

These are the domestic helpers who cannot tolerate their previous contract and decide to quit. There could be a few types of domestic helpers in this category:

  1. Those who are exploited by their employers. For examples, they are not given enough food, they are forced to sleep in poor conditions such as in the toilet, they were injured while working but their employers refuse to take them to the hospital etc. You might think that they can complain to the Labour Department if they are treated unfairly, but it is not that easy for them to win the case even if they go to court. Usually, there is little evidence to support their claims, so they would rather quit than to continue to suffer.
  2. Those who had to go home because of an emergency. Some domestic helpers’ families have accidents in the helper’s home country, so the domestic helper has no choice but to break her contract in order to go home.
  3. Those who are very demanding when it comes to working or living environment. Some domestic helpers do not like that they have to take care of three children, so they quit thinking that they could find a better employer somewhere else.
  4. Those who might have colluded with the employment agency to take advantage of the employer. Some employment agencies encourage their domestic helpers to break the contract or misbehave to get terminated in order to get the employers to pay agencies again to find a new domestic helper.

For domestic helpers of the first two cases, it should not be much of a problem for them to be hired again as they are due to reasons helpers could not control. However, if you believe the domestic helper belongs to the last two categories, you should be careful and avoid hiring her. Do not just assume or trust entirely what the domestic helper or the agency tells you. You should always contact the domestic helper’s previous employer to ask why the domestic helper decided to break the contract and inquire about her work performance.

Terminated domestic helpers

There are also different categories of terminated domestic helpers:

  1. Poor working performance. It can be issues as big as stealing or abusing children, or as small as being viewed by employers as too lazy or eats too much. Therefore, you should always call the helper’s previous employer to find out why the helper is terminated. If you think that the reason why her previous employer terminated her does not apply to you, you can consider hiring her.
  2. Relocation of Employer's family. If the family decides to move and not take the helper, the family is forced to terminate her. It happens quite frequently with expat families relocating mostly in the months of June or July.
  3. Change in the family’s financial situation. Some families can experience a sudden change in their financial situations, such as the breadwinner of the family loses his/her job or has to be hospitalized for a long time. In this case, they may not be able to afford to support the helper anymore. In that case, they are forced to terminate the helper too.
  4. The employer passes away, or when the person that the domestic helper was hired to care for passes away. It mostly happens in families where helpers take care of the elderly. In this case, the helper is not needed anymore, and she can be terminated “for reasons”.

    The Immigration Department takes the last three cases into consideration and treats them differently from normal termination. They will usually treat them as a finished contract, provided the employer explicitly wrote on the termination letter the reason why the domestic helper was terminated. If a domestic helper that you interview tells you she was terminated for reasons, always make sure to ask for the termination letter so that you can confirm the previous employer notified Immigration Department properly about the situation.

If you need a domestic helper in a hurry or if you do not want to use an agency, you have no choice but to hire a "finished contract" domestic helper or one that is terminated due to relocation or financial reasons.

While inquiring about the reason for the end of the previous contract, remember to respect the domestic helper’s privacy. No matter which domestic helper you decide to hire, you will need to examine the domestic helper’s work safety at home.

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