Your new domestic helper has just started and a statutory holiday is approaching. Some employers think their domestic helper is not entitled to this. But is this really the case?
The law about statutory holidays for domestic helpers
Statutory holidays are mandatory holidays for domestic helpers according to the Hong Kong law – all foreign domestic helpers in Hong Kong are entitled to the 12 statutory holidays annually regardless of their length of service. Even if your domestic helper has worked for you for only one day, she is still entitled to the statutory holiday.
However, the statutory holiday is an unpaid leave if the domestic helper has worked for less than 3 months for you prior to the holiday. After 3 months you must pay her for the holiday. It does create goodwill if you pay your domestic helper within the first three months and she might even work harder.
The list of Hong Kong statutory holidays 2019
- The first day of January (1 January 2019)
- Lunar New Year’s Day (5 February 2019)
- The second day of Lunar New Year (6 February 2019)
- The third day of Lunar New Year (7 February 2019)
- Ching Ming Festival (5 April 2019)
- Labour Day (1 May 2019)
- Tuen Ng Festival or Dragon Boat Festival (7 June 2019)
- Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Establishment Day (1 July 2019)
- The day following the Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival (14 September 2019)
- China National Day (1 October 2019)
- Chung Yeung Festival (7 October 2019)
- Chinese Winter Solstice Festival (22 December 2019) or Christmas Day (25 December 2019), at the option of the employer
Can the domestic helper work on statutory holidays?
You may wonder whether your domestic helper can work or not on the statutory holidays as you might really need her for this special day. Is this really allowed? The answer is yes, you can ask your domestic helper to work on the statutory holiday, but you have to do this at least 48 hours prior. What’s more, you have to give her an alternative holiday within 60 days before or after the statutory holiday in question. So for instance, you cannot ask your domestic helper to work tomorrow as the notice does not meet the 48-hours rule.
Can I just pay the domestic helper in lieu of the holiday?
No. Even if your domestic helper might agree to get paid extra wages, you cannot forfeit a statutory holiday. Both you and the domestic helper may dislike this, but this is the law. It may be inconvenient, but you don’t want to get into trouble.
What if the statutory holidays fall on my domestic helper’s rest day?
In this case, you will have to give your domestic helper the usual rest day and she will also have the next day off. Simply put, you are not allowed to let your domestic helper take her rest day when it is a statutory holiday. Note that this shouldn’t happen on a Sunday because the statutory holidays will then automatically be moved to the following Monday.
What about the general holidays (public holidays)?
You are not required to give your domestic helper general holidays (public holidays). Besides the 12 statutory holidays, Hong Kong has another 5 general holidays on which most employees are free: Good Friday, Easter Saturday, Easter Monday, Buddha’s Birthday and Boxing Day (December 26). You can decide to also give your domestic helper the general holiday off so she can recharge as it may also boost the work morale.
It’s not always easy to employ a domestic helper, but if done right, it will make your life easier in the long run. And let’s face it, isn’t it also nice to spend a Sunday with the children and taking them out for some great food?