Decent employers are at risk from fickle foreign domestic helpers

PUBLISHED : Friday, 07 March, 2014, 2:58am
UPDATED : Friday, 07 March, 2014, 2:58am

I refer to the article by Rob Connelly ("End discriminatory policies for migrant domestic workers", February 25).

As legal adviser to the HK Helpers Campaign, Mr Connelly is evidently in favour of domestic workers.

There are many decent employers around, as there are errant foreign domestic helpers in Hong Kong.

Seemingly, the problem rests with overseas and local agencies, which get the helpers into debt even before they commence work. It is also the agencies that collude with the helpers to "job hop", a practice indeed lucrative to both parties.

When it comes to "luck", it is equally fortuitous that an employer should get a decent helper.

If Mr Connelly also talked with members of the Employers of Domestic Helpers Association, I expect he would discover there is a proportion of good employers who have felt aggrieved as a result of the actions of foreign helpers.

I applaud the government's stand to (at least) maintain the 14-day grace period [to find a new employer], and the live-in rule, as a deterrent to the increasing number of foreign helpers "moonlighting", for example at Wan Chai clubs. The employer undertakes full responsibility for the helper - not the campaigners.

As the government has already relented to foreign domestic helper campaigners to ease helper regulations, employers consequently do get stung, and there is little they can do.

My former helper took a month-long vacation with the benefit of a return air ticket prior to the end of the contract term, upon the understanding that these were the contractual entitlements of the existing agreement and a renewed contract for 2015-2017.

After the holiday, which coincided with the five-year long-service payment benchmark, the helper suddenly resigned without any valid reason, plunging my household into chaos and disruption. Notwithstanding the long-service payment, I was out of pocket for the (paid) month's worth of leave, the return air ticket for her holiday and the final air ticket. Who shall compensate me?

The Labour Department's response to this was that it could send the helper "an invitation letter to attend a conciliation meeting". Excuse me? The helper is home and dry enjoying the gains got from me and there is nothing I can do.

Had the helper been the aggrieved party, I would have had the full arm of the relevant ordinance hurled at me.

It is about time the stalwart campaigners had a reality check.

Rowena Hawkins, Sai Kung