Domestic helpers have become such a vital part of our lives. They provide us with valuable extra-hands at home by helping out with the household chores, looking after the kids and elderly parents. Finding out that our domestic helper is sick might be really tricky, since it means even more things to handle on our own, while we were not especially ready for it.
What should I do if my domestic helper is sick?
No matter how unexpected it is or how complicated the situation might be for you, it is crucial – and your responsibility as an employer – to assist your domestic worker to get good medical care.
Can I ask my domestic helper to perform a few tasks even though she is sick?
It might be tempting to ask your domestic worker to help out with a few chores – after all, she is right there, in the house. Your domestic helper should not work whenever she is on sick leave – not even ‘help out a little’ – as prescribed by a registered practitioner. In addition, domestic helpers in Hong Kong are entitled to paid sick leave when certain criteria are met.
What alternatives do I have?
It is natural to worry about how you are going to land on your feet in such situations and feel helpless. Depending on the main responsibilities assigned to your domestic helper, your contingency plan will be different.
If your domestic helper’s main responsibility is taking care of the various household chores around the house, two main solutions are available to you: either ask everyone in your household to roll up their sleeves and pitch in the meantime or hire a temporary part-time local cleaner to help out with the chores. Asking a friend or a colleague if their domestic helper can fill in your domestic helper’s role is not a good idea as foreign domestic workers are only allowed to work for their employers – this could get you in serious trouble.
Things get a little trickier if you rely on your domestic helper to care for your children or an elderly parent. If you have family nearby who can look after them, you might be able to work something out with them. If that’s not possible, you still have the option to hire a babysitter or a nanny to care for your children for a few days until your domestic worker gets better.
When it comes to an elderly parent, an option could be hiring a nurse to take care of them. If for some reason that is not possible – or if you don’t feel comfortable leaving your children (or parents) with someone you don’t know – your last resort might just be taking a couple of days off. Your partner and you could even consider taking turns having days off until your domestic helper gets better.
Who should pay for my domestic helper’s medical expenses?
Employers of foreign domestic workers in Hong Kong are required to cover their domestic helper’s medical expenses and provide them with medical treatment independently of whether their sickness is attributable to their work.
Employers are legally required to take on insurance for their domestic worker – Hong Kong-based employers should at least get the Employee Compensation Insurance which only compensates work injuries, while Singapore-based employers are required to buy medical insurance and personal accident insurance for their domestic helpers as part of their medical obligations.
Keep in mind that those legal requirements are minimum requirements only and that the helper insurance policy you have opted for might not cover certain things i.e. surgery, inpatient treatment, outpatient treatment, etc… Make sure that you clearly understand what your insurance covers (and does not) and do not hesitate to contact your insurance company should you need more clarity – and thus avoid surprises at a later point.