Like any other country, the employment rights of the foreign domestic helpers in Hong Kong are protected by the law. This article is to discuss all you need to know about the helpers Food Allowance in Hong Kong along with other important things.
Standard Employment Contract – Short Reminder
As per the law, a Hong Kong resident willing to hire a foreign domestic helper should pay a salary that is no less than the Minimum Allowable Wage currently set at HK$ 4,410 per month. Based on helper’s experiences and skills, the salary is between HK$4,410 and HK$15,000.
The Standard Employment Contract directs the employer to provide the helper with the following essentials during their employability:
- Suitable accommodation for the helper to stay
- Free food or food allowance, currently set at HK$1,053 per month
- Free travel to the helper’s home country to Hong Kong and return to the home country on termination or expiry of the contract
- Reasonable privacy to the helper
Food allowance conditions – Free Food versus Food allowance
All the domestic helpers on employment in Hong Kong are entitled to either free food or a food allowance from the employer. The food allowance amount is set at HK$ 1053 per month, applicable to all the contracts signed on or after October 1st, 2017.
Whether to give free food or food allowance is a personal choice of the employer; however, most employers choose to provide free food as the option is more convenient for them and also the employer believe that it helps them to save some amount instead of giving food allowance.
Below are some of the important points regarding both of the options so that the employers and helpers can take an informed decision on what to choose?
• The biggest benefit for an employer to offer a food allowance is the fact that it avoids any sort of conflicts over the amount of food your helper is eating or over the choice & quality of the food offered. Many times, the employer’s choice of food doesn’t coincide with that of the helper’s food habits and food allowance is a great way to prevent such conflict situations.
• Setting a fixed date and conditions of receiving food allowance brings a discipline in the employer-employee relationship. An employer can let the helper know the exact day of the month they plan on giving the food allowance for the following month so as to protect everyone’s interests.
• It is imperative that the employers discuss and explain all the food allowance conditions before the commencement of the contract of their domestic workers. It helps in bringing clarity and avoiding problems later in the course of the employment.
• A wise thing to do for the employers is to develop a system of keeping workers signed monthly receipts of their salary and food allowance to protect their interests in case of any conflicts later on.
• Although the food allowance has been set by the government based on the general labor market and living situation, it is completely up to the employer if they wish to increase the allowance later in case they feel that the set food allowance is not enough for the helper to eat healthily.
If in case the employer decides to follow the ‘free food’ condition to the helper, below are some of the important points to consider:
• Setting out the expectations in terms of who will prepare and serve the portion of food for the helper, is there a separate pantry or cabinet with the helper’s foods that are different from the family food etc
• Clarify the conditions for providing food to your helper on any day they are not in your home (day off)? Are they allowed to get pre-cooked food in such cases or they will be given cash to buy their own food?
• It is important on the part of the employer to plan in advance about the all the other conditions such as what are helper supposed to do in case their food choices are different from the employer etc. The goal should be to come up with solid systems that work for both employer and helper in a cordial way.
Labor rights of the domestic helpers working in Hong Kong
Below are some of the labor rights that the foreign domestic helpers enjoy and should know about-
• The domestic helpers working in Hong Kong are entitled to at least 1 rest day in every period of 7 days, paid annual leave, and other statutory holidays.
• The employers cannot compel the helpers to work during their rest day and holidays.
• The domestic helpers are entitled to their wages to be paid in full according to the amount specified in the contract and not later than 7 days after the end of the wage period specified in the contract
• The helpers are entitled to either free food or food allowance (set at HK $ 1053 per month, applicable to all the contracts signed on or after October 1st, 2017) from their employer.
• The helpers are entitled to work and reside in the employer’s residence as specified in the contract during the whole employment period. The employer is supposed to provide free accommodation with reasonable privacy to the domestic helper.
• The domestic helper is entitled to free medical treatment during the employment in Hong Kong, regardless of whether the sickness is arising from/during your performance of their duties.
To maintain the well-being of the domestic helper, it is the responsibility of the employer to follow all the conditions set under the law for the helper’s employability. The employer-helper relationship should be based on mutual trust and respect to benefit both the parties equally.