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Moving to Hong Kong allows expats the luxury of accessing low-cost, full-time domestic help. Expats often decide to hire a domestic worker to help with household chores such as cleaning, doing the laundry, cooking for the family, taking care of the kids and running errands. In some families, domestic helpers also help with activities such as gardening, cleaning the car and taking care of the pets. However, hiring a helper also comes with rules and labour laws that must be followed.
There are around 400,000 foreign domestic helpers in Hong Kong. About half are Indonesian with the other half mostly being from the Philippines. A very small minority hails from Thailand.
Expats who decide to hire a full-time foreign domestic helper should be aware that the individual will be officially recognised as an overseas domestic worker and not a Hong Kong permanent resident. Their work visa is totally dependent on their current employment contract which means that, when hiring a helper, the employer has to sponsor their helper’s work visa.
Visa fees and costs incurred in meeting visa requirements are paid or reimbursed by the employer. This includes the cost of applications, medical examinations and insurance as well as other miscellaneous administrative fees. The employer also needs to pay for or reimburse the helper's transport from their home country to Hong Kong,
Labour laws in Hong Kong
There are several regulations that expats considering hiring a domestic helper in Hong Kong should be aware of.
The Minimum Allowable Wage (MAW) for domestic helpers is set by the government. Employers who pay less than the MAW may be subject to fines or imprisonment
Foreign domestic helpers can only be employed on a full-time basis and are required to live at their employer’s place of residence. They must be provided with suitable accommodation with a reasonable level of privacy
Employers are required to provide three meals a day to their helper, though a food allowance can be offered as an alternative. The minimum food allowance is also set by the government
Helpers have to be given at least one day off a week and are also entitled to all statutory holidays
Initially, helpers are entitled to a minimum of seven days of annual leave per 12-month period. For each consecutive year of service to a particular employer, additional days are added up to a maximum of 14 annual leave days a year
Employers also have to provide their helper with a ticket from their country of origin to Hong Kong as well as a return flight on expiry or termination of the employment contract
The employment contract must be signed for no less than two years
The employer is responsible for their helper’s health expenses. It is therefore recommended to subscribe to health insurance (several providers have special packages for domestic helpers)
Foreign domestic helpers in Hong Kong
As long as they are treated well by their employers, many foreign domestic helpers are happy to be living in Hong Kong; they are decently paid in a stable work environment, and the size of the Filipino, Indonesian and Thai communities in Hong Kong usually helps with homesickness.
There are a few organisations in Hong Kong that provide classes specifically for domestic helpers. Employers sometimes decide to send their helper for training classes when they want them to improve their cooking, or if they want them to receive proper training in childcare or first aid.
The relationship between employer and helper
It is very important that employers take time to liaise with their domestic helper to ensure that the helper has a clear idea of what their duties are and when they are to be performed. Employers should encourage the helper to speak up about any problems they may encounter; this way they can be resolved quickly and efficiently.
Are you an expat living in Hong Kong?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Hong Kong. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
Laurence has been passionate about Asia since she was little. After some time spent in a university in Beijing, she decided to move to Hong Kong in 2008 with her fiance. More than five years later, she is now married and has two kids, but still enjoys her expatriate life in Hong Kong. She also co-founded HelperChoice, a socially responsible website that allows job-seeking domestic helpers and employers to connect, and get to know each other before entering into an employment contract.
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