The process of hiring a foreign domestic helper can be time-consuming and daunting. In order to help you navigate this process more easily, we have prepared some resources with all you need to know about domestic helpers in Hong Kong.
An overview of foreign domestic helpers
There are over 380,000 foreign domestic helpers in Hong Kong. Domestic helpers have been a great support for dual income families – they take care of your household, your children and/or your elderly family members. The extra help at home frees full-time workers from worrying about their household during work. Parents can also spend more quality time with their children after work.
Since the costs of hiring a foreign domestic worker are usually lower than other caring and housekeeping services, more and more families opt for this affordable option.
Regulations for hiring a domestic helper
Before you start your quest to find the right domestic helper, you may want to understand the situation a bit better.
The Hong Kong government has designed a Standard Employment Contract for employing a foreign domestic worker. Employers and domestic helpers must sign and follow this employment contract. The original copies can be obtained at the 2/F of the Immigration Tower in Wan Chai.
The duration of an employment contract for hiring a domestic helper is 2 years. Note that a probation period is not included in the employment contract.
You must fulfil the Hong Kong Immigration Department requirements in order to hire a domestic helper: the employer must be a HKID holder, must have a household income of no less than HK$15,000 per month or assets of a comparable amount to support the employment of a domestic helper for the whole contractual period.
Domestic helper eligibility
The foreign domestic helper visa scheme in Hong Kong does not apply to Chinese Residents of the Mainland, Macao and Taiwan as well as nationals of Afghanistan, Cuba, Laos, Korea (Democratic People’s Republic of), Nepal and Vietnam. The Hong Kong Immigration does not set a minimum age or gender limitation for foreign domestic helpers. However, their home countries have their own requirements for nationals who want to work abroad as a domestic helper. For example, a Filipino citizen must be at least 23 years old when applying to work as an overseas worker.
The usual minimum wage rate in Hong Kong does not apply to foreign domestic helper – there is a separate minimum wage set for them. Employers in Hong Kong are required to provide their domestic helpers with either free food or a food allowance. The rate of foreign domestic helper minimum wage and food allowance is usually reviewed by the Labour Department every September. We suggest employers help the domestic helper set up a bank account and pay the monthly salary by bank transfer so that both parties can refer to the bank records in case there are any salary disputes in the future.
The Hong Kong government does not set standard working hours for domestic workers, therefore, there is no official overtime pay scheme. If you require her to work overnight occasionally, we suggest you arrange a rest period during the day to ensure she has enough energy to work.
You may have heard that some families have a live-out domestic helper. However, domestic helpers are required by law to live with their employers. Both the employer and the domestic helper may face legal consequences if they violate this live-in rule, which could lead to a maximum fine of $150,000 and imprisonment of 14 years.
Main restrictions on domestic helper job duties
The Standard Employment Contract has defined that domestic helpers shall only work at the address specified on the contract, that means, they are not allowed to take any part-time jobs or work somewhere else such as at the employer’s office or a relative’s place. If you are looking for someone for part-time domestic help, you shall hire a local resident.
In addition, there is a special arrangement on the exteriors of windows as some domestic helpers do not realise the danger of performing this duty at a high rise building.
Finding a domestic helper
Different ways to find a domestic helper
Direct hire means that you take care of the matching process without engaging with an employment agency, and use an employment agency for the domestic helper visa process if necessary. Direct hire allows you to take full control over the hiring process and helps you reduce the recruitment costs. Employers usually source candidates from online forums or job marketplace like HelperChoice. You can also rely on word of mouth.
Every employment agency has their own candidates for employers to choose and they handle everything from screening candidates for you to processing the paperwork for domestic helper visa. However, an employment agency usually only introduces you to a small pool of candidates that might not really fit your requirements. Furthermore, the skills of candidates could be different from what your agent told you.
In addition to this, not all agencies offer the same services, their prices may differ and at times they may even charge the domestic helper with high placement fees, or force the domestic helper to take a loan to repay the recruitment fees, knowing that employment agencies in Hong Kong are only allowed to charge domestic helpers maximum 10% of their first-month salary.
Screening domestic helper candidates
No matter if you opt for direct hire or agency hire, it is important to identify and prioritise your needs before your search. Prepare the questions you will ask when interviewing a domestic helper.
Decide your needs
Consider your living style, your family size and needs, as well as your culture. Some people believe that Filipino domestic helpers are better in English and childcare while Indonesian domestic helpers are better at taking care of elderlies and they are more capable of speaking Cantonese. Should you choose a domestic helper depending on her nationality? Our advice: choose a worker whose skills and experience fit your needs the most.
Arrange the interviews
The interview is an important step in the process as you can ask specific questions that will give you an indication as to how well your candidate fits your requirement. Looking for domestic helper interview questions? Check out our hacks for interviewing a domestic helper which covers the location, the schedule, and samples of interview questions.
Check reference of domestic helper candidates
One of the effective ways of checking a domestic helper’s work performance is to ask her for reference letters provided by her previous employers. A reference letter usually includes her personality and strengths, which can give you an idea of what to expect from the candidate. However, a domestic helper reference letter should work a plus. In the end, it is you who decide on what you feel comfortable with.
Applying for a domestic helper work visa
After you decide which domestic helper you had a click with and is excited about joining your family, you will need to start the paperwork for domestic helper visa processing.
The different contract statuses and impacts
It is important to know your domestic helper’s contract situation as the process is different for a finished (i.e. completed or about to complete a 2-year employment contract) or break/terminated contract (the domestic helper resigns or is laid off). In addition, you, as the employer, are required to pay for the costs of the visa processing.
The domestic helper visa processing flow
The domestic helper visa application in Hong Kong involves 2 main steps: getting the employment contract notarised by the consulate of the domestic helper’s home country, then submitting the contracts along with other required documents to the Hong Kong Immigration for visa application.
The Hong Kong Immigration does not require domestic helpers to use an employment agency to submit the application. However, the Philippine Consulate only accept contracts submitted by an accredited agency for notarisation unless the applicant is a finished contract domestic helper (or terminated due to relocation/finance reasons). It is the same for the Indonesia Consulate – they only notarise domestic helper employment contracts submitted by an employment agency expect for domestic helper contract renewal.
Costs of visa documentation
Under the Standard Employment Contract, employers of domestic helpers are responsible for the costs related to visa documentation. For example, the costs to get a work visa for a domestic helper from the Philippines include but not limited to medical check-up, mandatory OFW insurance and POEA fee charged by the Philippine government in the country, the contract notarisation fee charged by the Consulate, and the visa fee charged by the Hong Kong immigration.
Usually the domestic helper will have to pay for some of the fees upfront, in this case, you are required to reimburse the helper such fees after she arrives at Hong Kong. Remember to ask your domestic helper to sign a receipt for the reimbursement and keep it for records.
Get a helper insurance
Employers of domestic helpers in Hong Kong must provide their domestic helper with free medical treatment during the employment period. Therefore, we strongly suggest you get a helper insurance policy which fits the Employees’ Compensation Ordinance requirements and is with comprehensive coverage.
After your domestic helper starts working
Leaves and holidays your domestic helper is entitled to
Your domestic helper is entitled to a 24-hour consecutive rest day every week. Note that the domestic helpers have to obey the live-in rule even when they are taking rest days or holidays in Hong Kong. Thus, your domestic helper should not stay out overnight on her rest days.
All domestic helpers in Hong Kong are entitled to statutory holidays regardless of their service period, and the employer cannot pay the domestic helper in lieu of statutory holidays. But a domestic helper can get paid on a statutory holiday only when she has worked for at least 3 months before the holiday.
Vacation leave and annual leave
According to the Standard Employment Contract, a domestic helper must take a vacation leave for at least 7 days at their home country after finishing one contract. Note that this domestic helper vacation leave is in addition to the annual leave.
Taking your domestic helper on holiday
You are going on holiday and want to take your domestic helper with you to give you a hand with the children. This is more common than you think, but it can be quite challenging depending on where you are taking your domestic helper on vacation, especially to the US, the UK or Europe. To avoid visa issues ruining your holiday, we have created an overview of domestic helper holiday visa regulations for the most popular travel destinations.
End of a domestic helper employment contract
Terminate the domestic helper
In Hong Kong, if you decide to terminate your domestic helper’s contract i.e. dismiss the domestic helper, you will have to give her a one-month notice, settle the outstanding payments, write her a termination letter and notify the Hong Kong Immigration about this termination. The domestic helper must leave Hong Kong within 14 days after termination of the contract and the employer is responsible for the cost of the helper’s flight ticket back to her place of origin.
Renew the domestic helper contract and work visa
Renew a domestic helper’s contract is relatively easy. You can get the new employment notarised at the Philippine Consulate or the Indonesian Consulate without using an employment agency. Then the domestic helper will have to submit the required documents in person to the Immigration Department. Therefore, we suggest you make an online booking at the Immigration’s website in advance to avoid queuing.