Hiring a Domestic Helper
Hiring a Domestic Helper (‘helper’ rather than ‘maid’) will be of invaluable help in the smooth running of your family in Hong Kong. Before hiring a Domestic Helper you need to be aware of the income and accommodation requirements (see below).
Many Foreign Domestic Helpers (‘FDH’) will have worked in Hong Kong before, so they will have a wealth of local experience to offer a recently arrived family. Hiring a domestic helper in Hong Kong will allow the family to spend their free time enjoying ‘quality time’. From what you have read in the Work and Spouses pages you will realize that ‘quality time’ has a premium in Hong Kong and you don’t want to spend it in Park’n’Shop or Wellcome Supermarkets. As socializing through work or members clubs is either ‘expected’ or part of the ‘settling in’ process, the availability of in-house childcare is invaluable.
You’ll realize how many domestic helpers there are in Hong Kong when you walk through Central on a Sunday and see hundreds of maids sitting around enjoying their day off.
Hiring a Domestic Helper in Hong Kong
The best way of hiring a domestic helper is to find her through a referral or online. We run a Facebook Group for Helpers Wanted and Helpers seeking work. We also recommend FairAgency.org, which undertakes not to charge Domestic Helpers illegal placement fees (sometimes disguised as ‘training fees’). Hiring directly or via this agency prevents your Domestic Helper starting her employment with you with crippling debts typically amounting to 5 months of her salary! Domestic Helpers paying large fees are often channeled to loan sharks, which may have a knock on effect to her employers if she defaults.
If you hire a domestic helper already resident in Hong Kong, she will have to return to her country of origin for a couple of weeks prior to taking up her contract with you, to meet Hong Kong Immigration regulations.
If you hire a domestic helper direct from the helper’s country of origin, you won’t get the chance of conducting a face-to-face interview or speaking to a past Hong Kong employer. You won’t be able to gauge her interaction with your family or her understanding of Western hygiene, etiquette or cooking. Be aware that when hiring through an overseas agency, your helper is very likely to be burdened with huge debts – see above. If you make a poor hiring decision and quickly fire your new helper, the financial consequences for her can almost be life-changing. She will either have to work away from her family effectively for nothing for a year to pay your placement fee and one for the next family placement fees (when working overseas was supposed to be a sacrifice to help the family financially). Proceed with care, for your sake and for hers. See a related article from the BBC.
If hiring a domestic helper sounds daunting, go on a Domestic Helper Management course at the YWCA first. They also offer courses for helpers in Western cooking, childcare etc.
Hiring a Foreign Domestic Helper (FDH)
The Hong Kong Government have posted a sample Hong Kong Domestic Helper contract, a guidance handbook and a detailed guide on-line. You will need to get a hard copy pack containing duplicate contracts and multiple enclosures in order to submit an application to employ and sponsor a domestic helper. The main points to note are:
- You must be financially capable of hiring a domestic helper. In general, for every helper employed you must have an income of HK$15,000 pm or assets of more that HK$350,000.
- The helper must be provided with suitable accommodation with reasonable privacy. See the apartments page.
- When hiring a domestic helper, she must be employed under the standard non-transferable contract, for a single employer to perform live-in domestic duties only. The contract excludes any type of driving. Either party may terminate under certain circumstances.
- The contract is for a 6-day week over two years at a minimum allowable wage (MAW) of HK$3,920 plus a minimum food allowance of HK$875 pm (or food can be provided).
- Statutory holidays are paid after 3 months of employment (read more). Paid annual holiday is mandatory after one year of service. Holiday entitlement starts at 7 days per year worked and increases by length of service to a maximum of 2 weeks a year.
- At the end of the contract period the helper has to return to her country of origin at your expense (i.e. you pay the airfare and $100 pd subsistence).
- Remember that your helper has rights relating to sickness, maternity (10 weeks paid leave after 40 weeks of service), severance, long service and general employment. Sickness entitlement can be accrued at the rate of 2 days per month in the first year, rising to 4 days pm thereafter up to a maximum of 120 days. Sick pay is payable after 4 or more consecutive days of illness at 80% of full salary.
- Contracts can be extended by mutual consent. Should you do so, helpers are eligible for severance pay after 2 years and a long service payment after 5 years. The only circumstances when these are not due is if the helper leaves your employment by reason of resignation (not because of health or retirement) or serious misconduct.
- If you can’t speak to a previous employer/referee, proceed with care.
- If in doubt on any legal or employment issue, check with the Labour Department.
- As you are responsible for your helpers healthcare it is worthwhile asking her to undergo a pre-hire medical screening.
- HSBC offers insurance for your Hong Kong domestic helper over and above the employers basic legal requirements.
- Remember your helper is your employee not your friend. Be businesslike, set boundaries and be firm when required. Don’t lend money or get involved in their personal issues. Your home isn’t for their friends, particularly when you are away. Don’t leave cash or valuables lying around your home. Be clear in your expectations around issues such as her staying with friends overnight, receiving calls during working hours etc.