You are currently hiring a domestic worker or already hired one, and you are now a bit lost when it comes to domestic helper holidays. You may not know it but there is actually a clear distinction between Statutory Holidays and General Holidays (Public Holidays) in Hong Kong. Here is a guide to help you navigate through your domestic helper’s holidays in 2019.
The difference between statutory holidays and general holidays
Not all domestic workers in Hong Kong observe General Holidays. Statutory Holidays, on the other hand, are mandatory, no matter what. According to the Labour Department, 12 holidays – such as the National Day of the People’s Republic of China, or the Chung Yeung Festival – are classified as domestic helper statutory holidays.
The 12 statutory holidays in 2019 for domestic helpers in Hong Kong
An employee, irrespective of his/her length of service, is entitled to the following statutory holidays:
- 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
A few rules about domestic helper statutory holidays in Hong Kong
It is up to you to decide whether you should give your domestic helper the day off on General Holidays, but it is always nice to give them the day off if you are not working yourself and don’t need them.
However, clear rules exist and apply when it comes to Statutory Holidays in Hong Kong:
- Statutory Holidays are mandatory i.e. you must give your domestic helper the day off.
- They are mandatory irrespective of the length of service i.e. no matter if your domestic helper has been with you for two years or only two days she must get the day off.
- If your domestic helper has been with you for at least 3 months under a continuous contract, she is entitled to paid statutory holidays. If she has been with you for less than 3 months she is entitled to statutory holidays. However, in such case, it is strictly up to you to decide whether you want to pay her or not.
- All statutory holidays must be taken off i.e. you cannot pay your domestic helper to work on a statutory holiday (even if you pay her extra). Note that any payment made in lieu of statutory holidays can result in a fine.
- If for some reasons, you need your domestic helper to work on a statutory holiday, you must give her at least a 48 hours’ prior notice and arrange an alternative holiday within a 2-month period before or after the statutory holiday.
- Should the statutory holiday fall on your domestic helper’s usual rest day, you should grant her a mandatory holiday either on the following day, which is not a statutory holiday, or you can also choose to grant her an alternative holiday, a substituted holiday, or a rest day.
What other holidays is your domestic helper entitled to?
Domestic helpers rest day
In Hong Kong, domestic workers must enjoy at least 1 rest day every week, most domestic helpers take their rest days on Sundays. The rest day must last 24 hours, however, the domestic helper must still respect the live-in rule when they are taking rest days. Also, note that you cannot pay in lieu.
Domestic helpers annual leave
The Labour Department grants foreign domestic helpers in Hong Kong annual leave after they have been working with the same employer for 12 months. Legally, you do not need to pay for the flights if your domestic helper takes the annual leave outside of Hong Kong.
The number of annual leave a domestic helper is entitled to per year increases progressively from 7 to a maximum of 14 days as follows:
- 1-2 years of service: 7 days
- 3 years of service: 8 days
- 4 years of service: 9 days
- 5 years of service: 10 days
- 6 years of service: 11 days
- 7 years of service: 12 days
- 8 years of service: 13 days
- 9 years of service: 14 days
Domestic helpers vacation leave
Upon completion of the current contract and the commencement of the new contract, the domestic helper must return to her home country for a vacation leave (home leave) of at least 7 days. The vacation leave is on top of the domestic helper annual leave.
However, whether this is paid or unpaid vacation leave depends on the terms agreed upon in Clause 13 of the standard employment contract.
For additional information on the statutory holiday topic, please visit the Hong Kong Labour Department’s website.