Employers and foreign domestic helpers face hefty fees

PUBLISHED : Monday, 10 February, 2014, 2:46am
UPDATED : Monday, 10 February, 2014, 2:46am

I refer to Candy Tam's letter ("Realistic fees could combat exploitation of domestic helper", January 29).

Not all employers are exploitative and expect "a free lunch", to use your correspondent's expression. Employers are fully aware and willing to pay recruitment fees for justifiable services rendered.

For new recruits of foreign domestic helpers, the employer pays around HK$5,000 and, in addition, has to pay for medical tests in Hong Kong and insurance once the helper arrives.

My Indonesian helper has to pay off her HK$21,000 fee by having HK$3,000 paid monthly to a Hong Kong-registered finance company, facilitated by a smart card issued to her, and payment can be effected at 7-Eleven. In addition, the helper pays 10 per cent of her first month's salary to the Hong Kong recruitment agency on successful placement. This leaves her with very little in her first seven months. HK$26,000 is not a free lunch, Ms Tam. The helper is the real victim here.

A real shocker is the contract renewal upon expiry of the two-year employment contract. The Hong Kong Immigration Department will only extend her permission to stay here upon an approved employment contract.

The Indonesian consulate will only allow application for the contract, even a renewal, through an approved Hong Kong recruitment agency.

Well, HK$4,000 is the "renewal fee" to submit the application to the consulate and the Hong Kong Immigration Department. A hefty fee for essentially some legwork and paperwork. As a law-abiding, respectful and responsible employer, I paid the renewal fee.

When this fee was raised with the recruitment agency, I was told it is common practice for the helper to pay half. Of course, some unscrupulous employers deduct the full payment from the helper, a month's salary just vanishes. Again, not a free lunch, Ms Tam.

Joseph Law Kwan-din, chairman of the Hong Kong Employers of Overseas Domestic Helpers Association, often proudly proclaims that Hong Kong offers the best terms of employment for foreign domestic helpers anywhere in Asia.

There is no reason to take pride in this city being above the countries in the market of importing foreign labour.

The laws may exist but the monitoring is shamefully lacking. The helpers are certainly not informed of their rights upon commencement of employment, let alone being protected.

For the hefty fees paid by employers and employees, we are all being exploited. Where is the free lunch?

Ng Gu Neung, Ma Tau Wai