How to Help Domestic Helpers in Bad Situations

How to Help Domestic Helpers in Bad Situations


14-08-2020 | 5 min read

When a helper in Hong Kong shares personal details of bad situations, we need to be humane and supportive. Try to devote some time and discuss about her situation in detail. It's always important to give her the possibility to explain any concern. If you feel that she genuinely needs help, advise her to get in touch with associations that strive for the cause of domestic helpers or any other authority concerned, depending upon her problem and requirement for assistance.

Justice Centre and Help for domestics workers are providing strong support for any domestic helper in Hong Kong.

How can I help a domestic helper who shares that she is not being paid or is living under bad conditions in her current role?

Before take any legal action against an employer, a domestic helper must discuss with him. Legal action must be only the last solution. As soon as legal action will start, the relationship with the employer will be broken and the consequences will probably be the termination of the contract. In Hong Kong, get on time salary payment and enough privacy are basic rights for a worker, effective communication will help to solve it.

  • Helper must remind that she need to get salary payment in order to transfer the money to her family. As breadwinner of the family, a lot of members relies on her.
  • If the living condition are bad, helper must explain her frustration. Due to culture differences, small living accommodation and miscommunications, employers are sometimes not able to understand her mind.

If the helper cannot resolve the conflict, the next stage will be to make a formal complaint.

Salary payment

According to the law, an employer must compensate his worker within 7 days from the due date of the payment specified in the contract. However, if the helper is not paid for her work within one month from the due date, let her know that she could deem herself to have been dismissed by the employer without notice. In this situation, she must immediately contact the labour department.

Based on employment contract, each employer must provide a free suitable and furnished accommodation with reasonable privacy. If a helper is sadly not getting this basic privacy, she can report this to the Immigration Department in writing.

I met a helper who is pregnant and being fired, what can I do to help?

Most of the time, employers are in panics when a helper is pregnant!  Employers who are facing to this situation know that the domestic helper won't be able to take care of them during the maternity leave (helper is eligible for 10 weeks paid leave). Please explain to her that it is not legal to fire a helper due to pregnancy. Employers must be supportive. Pregnancy discrimination is a serious offence and legal action will protect her.

You can also recommend PathFinders, a charity organization for support. PathFinders works with migrant pregnant women and offers assistance to provide them access to the social and health welfare services for which they are eligible for.

How do I respond if a domestic helper asks to borrow money due to bad situations?

Due to unethical domestic helper agency or family needs, a lot of helpers are under financial pressure and need to get a loan. Have a friendly chat and find out her financial need; does she have a debt and under pressure from loan sharks? Educate your helper about the risk of getting loans.

Lending a small amount is fine, one or two-month salary, perhaps but do not risk yourself by trusting too much. Clearly let her know that she should deal with her finances responsibly. You can also ask her to contact non-profits such as ‘Enrich’ or ‘Uplifter’ for financial guidance and learn how to manager their money.

What advice can I give if a helper is not getting enough food? 

The employer should provide sufficient quantity of food that meets reasonable quality standards. According to the clause 5(b) of the Standard Employment Contract, the employer should provide free food or food allowance (HK$1,236 per month) to the helper.

Most of the time, employers are sharing the food with helpers. If the food is not enough or if she doesn't like the food due to cultural difference, one of the option will be to ask to receive a food allowance. Food allowance will allow to the helper to buy her own food. If the issue persists, legal action are possible and the best ways is to ask her to submit her case to the labour department.

How to support helper who isn’t getting a weekly day off

Most of the helpers are working more than 12 hours per day. Rest day is important to recharge! According to law, domestic helpers should get a 24-hour day off. Except in unforeseen emergency, employer cannot force the helper to work on her rest day. It's always embarrassing for a helper to claim that she need her rest day.

One option is to get the empathy of the employer, she need to explain that she really like her job but that she is exhausted, the rest day will allow her to continue to work for long term. The second option can be to ask to a domestic helper agency to explain the situation to the employer. The last option will be the legal way, you can ask the helper to notify the labour department in writing if she is forced to work on rest days.