Living in Harmony with Domestic Helpers in Hong Kong
Hong Kong hosts about 300,000 live-in maids presently. Some helpers have known to experience abuse at the hands of employers. Domestic helpers coming from other countries try to utilize their skills to the maximum, trying to please employers, but a perfect harmony is missing in many households, where the helpers are not treated with respect.
Each of the foreign domestic helpers has their own visas—dependent on employers—that require each of the women to live where they are assigned to work on a daily basis. Half of all foreign domestic helpers in Hong Kong hail from the Philippines, while the rest come from Indonesia.
There are several dodgy agencies, which have piled on tales of horrific abuse. Minimal regulation over employment contracts means that helpers have just the Sunday off, although not all employers abide. The harsh “two-week rule” force helpers whenever a contract is broken, to leave the city within two weeks, especially if they cannot find a new employer within the period.
Sometimes the abuse is terrifying that even leaves domestic helpers no choice to escape. Such employers also ruin the market owing to distrust and discord among helpers about the treatment they are meted out. Hence it is essential for employers to lend their hand in making lives better for helpers. Without them, it would be tough for the corporates to survive, as there is already a huge gap in the demand and supply of helpers in the domestic circuit.
What should employers do to live in harmony with domestic helpers?
The harsh reality deters some helpers to be a foreign domestic helper in Hong Kong but they do not have many options. Most women take up the job because of the money, which is difficult to earn in their native country.
For the residents in Hong Kong, hiring a live-in domestic helper is quite cost- effective. Domestic helpers are quite a godsend to most Hong Kong families, since the cost of living and the standard of living is quite high, meaning both parents have full-time jobs. Helpers help lessen the workload for employed parents. It is often seen that even with respect to good employers, miscommunication with often leads to unwanted misunderstandings. It is very important for both employers and helpers to avoid unnecessary conflicts, and live in harmony with your domestic helper!
Here are some tips to live in harmony with the domestic helper:
- Discuss job responsibilities clearly right at the outset
Before your domestic helper commences on working for your needs, it is important that employers discuss the details of the employment contract clearly with domestic helpers. Often the lack of clarity in assigning and notifying one’s duties can lead to misunderstandings and even create discord in the household. If one needs to save on the hassles, one should make sure that before the helper starts any new job, they are clear on exact job responsibilities and the details are mentioned in the contract. Clarity of work helps in sustaining professional relationships.
- Respect the domestic helper’s privacy
Although your domestic helper lives with you and your family members in your own house, it is their right to enjoy some privacy off and on. Especially when they are off duty, during weekdays or holidays, they should have their own personal time. One should also refrain from asking them to complete tasks during weekends, especially if they have completed their work tasks perfectly during the rest of the week. It is essential that helpers be accorded privacy so that they can recharge their energies, focus on their needs and work happily on all tasks assigned to them without fuss.
- Communicate in language comfortable to them
Since English and Cantonese may not be the domestic helper’s mother tongue, it is important that you find the middle ground to communicate in their preferred language. There will be no miscommunication when two people try to converse in a language understandable to the other. If their English level is good enough, simply communicate in English so that the conversation is clear and precise enough.
- Do not gossip in front of or even with your domestic helper
Often employers make the mistake of talking freely with helpers on any topic under the sun. By breeding familiarity, it is difficult for you to direct them when they do their work wrongly. Gossip also breeds distrust, thus destroying the harmony in the relationship. Even if they do not understand your language, they can make out if there is sarcasm or backbiting going on, in the household. If you want to talk about your domestic helper with other members of the family, speak with them when they are not at home.
- Communicate with humility and respect
Even if you do establish a close and good relationship with your domestic helper, you need to understand the relationship is a professional one. Instead of getting emotional, all the time during discussions, make sure the communication is clear and conveyed peacefully so that it addresses issues you might have with your domestic helper.
A positive relationship between the employer and helper is essential to breed harmony in the household. Even while parting, there should be no bad blood between the helper and the employer, so that the helpers get a good reference for working elsewhere, and the employer can bank on the same helper if such a situation arises in the future.