When you hire a domestic helper, you also suddenly become an employer. The Hong Kong guidelines about domestic helper statutory holidays can be very confusing and vague. Here is a quick insight into what an employer should do.
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?
Foreign domestic helper-related law
The Hong Kong labor law answers this question. All Hong Kong domestic helpers are entitled to the 12 statutory holidays annually. 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 only if the domestic helper has worked for less than 3 months for you prior to the holiday. After 3 months you must pay her. It does create goodwill if you pay your domestic helper within the first three months and she might even work harder.
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 for 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?
You are not required to give your domestic helper general holidays. Besides the 12 statutory holidays, Hong Kong has another 5 general holidays on which most employees are free. 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?