The Philippine Consulate said yesterday that domestic helpers under 25 who had renewed their contracts or changed employers while in Hong Kong will not be affected by new age restrictions. The Philippine government has raised the minimum age of helpers seeking work abroad from 21 to 25. The move has sparked fears among young workers already in Hong Kong who are concerned they may not be allowed to return to the city when they renew their two-year contracts or change employers. Philippine labour attache Bernardino Julve said he received clarification yesterday from the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) that domestic helpers under 25 who are renewing contracts or have found employers while in Hong Kong would not be covered by the new law. 'Those who are already here may process their contracts here. They will be considered in the category of returning workers,' he said. But Mr Julve said those who returned to the Philippines without a new contract after their employment was terminated would be barred from returning to Hong Kong if they were under 25. 'They will have to go through the POEA and so the new law will apply to them. But if they have processed their contracts with the Philippine Consulate before going home, they should be all right,' he said. Foreign domestic helpers must leave Hong Kong within two weeks of having contracts terminated. The rule, in place since 1986, has been widely criticised for leaving workers at the mercy of employers. Edwina Santoyo, of the Bethune House refuge shelter, believed the age policy would not improve workers' plight because of the two-week rule. 'The policies of the Hong Kong government, such as the two-week rule, place the helpers in a vulnerable situation,' she said.