Frequently Asked Questions About Hiring Domestic Helpers in Hong Kong
Learn the legalese.
Q: Do I need to have a formal contract with a foreign domestic worker (FDW)?
A: Yes. You must enter into a two-year Standard Employment Contract (Form ID 407) with your worker and submit this contract to the Immigration Department in order for the working visa to be processed. This is a legally binding document that sets out the wages, accommodation and duty requirements between both parties.
Q: Can I extend a contract beyond two years?
A: No. You need to submit a fresh application to the Immigration Department, within eight weeks before the expiry of the current contract. Your FDW must return home, with air fares paid for by you, while a fresh visa is processed.
Q: I want to take on an FDW whose existing employers are leaving. How do I do this?
A: Workers’ visas are tied to a named employer and you cannot just take over someone else’s contract. The employee will need to return to their country of origin while a fresh visa processes. You may be able to postpone this home leave by one year if all parties are in agreement.
Q: What if either party wants to break the employment contract?
A: As with most contracts, either party can break it by giving one month’s notice (or one month’s pay in lieu). You must then inform the Immigration Department in writing within seven days. There are certain circumstances where, as an employer, you can terminate without notice, which includes if your worker breaks the law, commits misconduct, fraud or dishonesty, or habitually neglects her duties. However there must be documented evidence of such behavior, in case of follow up by the Labour Department.
Q: Can my FDW drive us around?
A: As outlined in the employment contract, domestic FDW duties are very specific, and do not include driving. If driving duties are to form part of the job description, a special application must be submitted to the Immigration Department.
SALARY AND EXPENSES
Q: How much should I pay?
A: The minimum monthly wage is $4,110 per month. Many families choose to pay more than this, depending on the type of duties involved (newborns, dog walking, etc.) and the worker’s experience. Your best bet is to ask around and see what the going rate is. You may wish to introduce small raises and bonuses as trust develops. You can pay wages into your FDW’s bank account or give cash—but you should keep monthly receipts.
Q: What medical expenses do I need to cover for my FDW?
A: You must provide free medical treatment to your FDW in case of injury or illness. This includes medical consultations, hospital stays and emergency dental treatment and applies to whether or not an injury occurred during work hours. Your best bet is to obtain a comprehensive insurance policy that will provide this coverage and find a dedicated doctor for them to consult as necessary.
Q: Do I have to pay for sick leave?
A: Yes, the rate is four-fifths of the usual wage. Domestic workers are entitled to two paid sick days a month in the first year; four thereafter, on presentation of a medical certificate.
Q: I’ve heard some FDWs live in shared accommodation that I can pay for. Is this true?
A: There have been cases of domestic workers living together in boarding houses, but this is illegal and has been known to lead to arrest and prosecution of both parties. As stated by law, you have to provide live-in accommodation, free of charge (unless you hired your FDW before April 1, 2003). The legal requirement is “suitable accommodation and reasonable privacy”—so be sure you actually have the physical space before taking another person into your home.
Q: What if our FDW doesn’t want to eat with us?
A: Some people choose to provide free food at home for their domestic workers—either they can share their meals with the family or help themselves when they wish. But you can choose to provide a food allowance instead, so they can buy their own food: the minimum per month is $964.
Q: Most FDWs seem to get Sundays off. Is this mandatory?
A: No, you don’t have to give Sundays off—but you do have to provide at least one “rest day” off per week. If these cannot be the same each week, you should come up with a schedule at the start of each month. If your worker consents to work on their day off, if it should be required, you must provide an alternative day off within 30 days.
Q: Do domestic workers get all public holidays off?
A: Confusingly, there are 17 public holidays in Hong Kong but only 12 that are statutory. The ones that are excluded are: Good Friday, Easter Saturday, Easter Monday, Buddha’s Birthday and Boxing Day. Domestic workers must get the 12 statutory days off but you may decide to give all 17. It’s important to make this clear at the start of any contract so confusion doesn’t occur further down
Q: How much annual leave do I grant?
A: Domestic workers are entitled to paid annual leave after one year’s service. By law, it’s seven days of annual leave a year for the first two years of employment. Each year thereafter, you must grant an additional day per year, up to a maximum of 14 days. You don’t have to pay for their flights home, but you may find that a worker may want to take their leave when they renew their contract with you—when you are required to fund a return flight home.
Q: My FDW is pregnant, what do I do?
A: In keeping with Hong Kong legislation, your worker is entitled to 10 weeks of paid maternity leave if she’s been employed by you for more than 40 weeks before leave begins. She has to provide a medical certificate with date of confinement in order to obtain maternity leave pay: four-fifths of the normal wages. You can be prosecuted for firing a pregnant domestic worker. Note that you may need to have a discussion to amend her household duties.
Q: I have heard I must pay for my FDW to return home once a year. Is this true?
A: Partly. Upon renewal of your worker’s employment contract (every two years) you must provide an open or fixed air fare to your worker’s home country, including expenses of $100 a day for the length of the travel portion of the journey (usually one-two days). Any other air fares would be part of a private arrangement between both parties.
Q: Can my worker travel abroad with us?
A: Yes, provided the worker’s passport allows it and that the necessary visa laws are followed with respect to the visiting country.