While it is understandable that the on-going protests in Hong Kong have inevitably interfered your daily life and you may need your domestic helper to work flexible hours, the protests are not a reason for you to exploit her.
In a press statement released on 28 August, the Filipino Migrant Workers’ Union (FMWU) points out that some employers have been using the city’s spontaneous protest schedule as an excuse to deprive their foreign domestic workers’ statutory rest days:
“FMWU received numerous complaints from Filipino migrant workers’ who were either denied to take their rest days, or their rest days becoming irregular and adjusted arbitrarily depending of the schedules of protest actions. These have seriously violated the rights of migrant workers to one rest day per week. It has also severely affected the migrant workers ability to meet and socialize with their relatives, friends and townmates.”
In view of this, to avoid misunderstanding or conflicts between you and your domestic helper, here are some recommendations on how to communicate with her in the current Hong Kong situation.
1. Stay tuned to major events and let your domestic helper know your plan:
Small-scale, flash mob protest protests are difficult to foresee and avoid. However, large-scale, organised protests and demonstrations are planned ahead. Their date, time, and venue are announced some time before they take place.
Such information can be found on the internet (try searching Hong Kong protest calendar + month), through local news media, and social media.
Most of the bigger protests and demonstrations are happening during weekends, be sure to pay attention to what will happen around Hong Kong and mark them down on your schedule. Let your domestic helper know as soon as possible if you need her for the weekend, and don’t forget to give her the respective compensation arrangement.
2. Know where your domestic helper is heading (if she wants to tell)
While employees should have the freedom not to disclose their whereabouts after work, as an employer you may take the initiative to kindy ask your domestic helper what they will be doing in their rest period.
This is ideal for both of you. You will have a better chance to find her and get her back to work quickly if she encountered troubles due to the protests. Whereas your helper can have your help and return to work.
Nevertheless, your helper doesn’t have the obligation to tell you where she will be going. You should never force her to tell and should respect her choice if she refuses to. You may try explaining the benefits of you having that information.
3. Leave the scene if protests got intense
It is common to bring your domestic helper with you to help care for your kids on a family day. Yet, you should be aware of the protest activities happening in the city, which may threaten the safety of yourself and your helper. Note that you are responsible for the health and wellbeing of your domestic helper. Click here to learn more.
Peaceful protests may develop into an intense one quickly, and they may shift or spread to other places. Even if the place seems tranquil, you should always be cautious of your surroundings. Loud shouting or siren alarming are indications that there might be clashes near you. You may also start to cough and sneeze all of a sudden. This is probably because tear gas has been dispersed in the near distance. You should stay calm and prepare to leave the scene.
It is best to monitor the news every now and then to see how the protests are progressing.
4. Stay alert to traffic updates
Some MTR stations may close due to vandalism. Normal train schedule of certain MTR lines is sometimes disrupted as well due to protest situations. Roads may also be blocked by police and barricades.
You should brief your domestic helper on the current traffic updates before sending her to take your kids to school or run an errand. Your helper may not be as familiar with Hong Kong’s traffic system as you do. The preferred way of transportation may not be available for the moment. You may also educate your helper where she can get traffic news, since it can change very quickly.
5. Avoid heated debate with your helper
It is always tricky to talk politics with your domestic helper, even with employees in general, so you may want to avoid bringing the topic into conversations (check out this article on how to communicate with your helper).
Of course, if you and your domestic helper are comfortable talking with each other about sensitive political issues, why not. But you should always be cautious about whether the conversation will turn to an aggressive argument. Having an argument will definitely harm your relationship with your helper. It is undesirable for both especially when she is living with you.
Moreover, just as religious matters, you cannot fire her or exploit her rights if she has a political view different from yours.
As a rule of thumb, it is best to avoid talking politics with your helper when you are not sure how you and she will react.
6. Know the rights of your domestic helper
Protests should not be the excuse for you to exploit your domestic helper’s rights such as having rest days. You may want to remind yourself about domestic helper insurance, rest days and the proper statutory holidays arrangement. You can also visit the HelperChoice Hong Kong Guide for more information.