The Employment of Foreign Domestic Helpers

The current minimum allowable wage, which became effective on 1 Oct 2021, is HK$4,630 per month. This minimum wage requirement applies to all standard employment contracts entered into on or after 1 Oct 2021.In addition, under the Standard Employment Contract for hiring FDHs, employers are required to provide FDHs with food free of charge. Employers may, however, choose to pay a food allowance in lieu. The food allowance will be increased not less than HK$1,173 per month. The new level of food allowance will apply to all FDH contracts signed on or after 1 Oct 2021.

It is recommended that you pay your helper his/her wages via cheque or by autopay. However, you must get your helper’s consent before paying with the above methods. If their consent is not obtained, you should pay their wage in cash.

It is mandated that you maintain a record of wage payments to your helper, such as by keeping the relevant bank statements. You should also prepare receipts for wage payments and any food allowance given, then ask your helper to confirm that he/she has received the amount by signing the receipts.

You should make sure the amount paid to you is correct, then sign on the receipt provided by your employer to acknowledge receipt of the payment.

General liabilities and rights of employers and helpers upon contract termination

Employers and their helpers can unilaterally terminate the contract before it completes by giving the other party either a notice in writing at least 1 month beforehand, or 1 month’s wages in lieu of notice. This is in accordance with the standard employment contract.

Under the Employment Ordinance and the standard employment contract, employers are obliged to pay their helper certain payments upon termination or completion of the contract. Failure by employers to do so constitutes an offence.

 Foreign domestic helper and local employers are equally protected under the Employment Ordinance, and can enjoy the rights listed in the standard employment contract for foreign domestic helper.

If employers wish to terminate the contract with their helper, they must give their helper either a notice in writing at least 1 month beforehand, or 1 month’s wages in lieu of notice. In addition, they must pay certain termination payments, which often include:

  • Any outstanding wages;
  • Wages in lieu of any untaken annual leave, and any pro rata annual leave pay for the current leave year;
  • Wages in lieu of any untaken paid leave;
  • Long service payments or severance payments (if applicable); and
  • Any other sum owed to the helper under the standard employment contract, such as travelling expenses for returning home, food and transportation allowances.

If the helper has continuously worked under the same employer for not less than 24 months, and for redundancy reasons, is being dismissed or is not getting a contract renewal, then the employer is obliged to pay his/her helper a severance payment.

If the helper has continuously worked under the same employer for not less than 5 years, and is being dismissed or is not getting a contract renewal not because of redundancy reasons or his/her serious misconduct, but for other reasons, then the employer is obliged to pay his/her helper a long service payment.

Note that employers need not pay both a long service payment and a severance payment to his/her helper simultaneously.

The formula for calculating severance payments or long service payments is as follows:

(Monthly wage x 2/3) x reckonable years of service*

*service of an incomplete year should be calculated on a pro rata basis

When a helper has worked under the same employer for 12 months, he/she is entitled to a paid annual leave. The number of days for their paid annual leave increases incrementally from 7 days to at most 14 days depending on their years of service.

Upon termination or completion of the employment contract, the employer must give his/her helper payment in lieu of any untaken annual leave for every 12 months of completed service. In addition, within a leave year (i.e. a period of 12 months after the helper commenced employment), if the helper has been employed for 3 months but less than 12 months, the helper is entitled to annual leave pay on a pro rata basis.

Helper’s Rest Days, Statutory Holidays and Leaves

You are required to give your helper at least 1 rest day for every period of 7 days. A rest day is a continuous period of 24 hours or more. Rest days should be appointed by you, either regularly or irregularly. If rest days are given on an irregular basis, you are required to let your helper know the dates of his/her appointed rest days before the beginning of each month.

No. Unless there are unforeseen emergency circumstances, employers cannot require helpers to work on their rest days. Forcing your helper to work on his/her rest day violates the Employment Ordinance and you may be prosecuted. If convicted, you may be liable to a fine of up to HK$50,000.

However, you may appoint another rest day for your helper in substitution if your helper agrees to this arrangement. The substituted rest day shall be appointed within the same month before the original rest day, or within 30 days after it.

All foreign domestic helper, regardless of how long they have worked, can enjoy the following statutory holidays:

The first day of January

Lunar New Year’s Day

The second day of Lunar New Year

The third day of Lunar New Year

Ching Ming Festival

Labour Day (1 May)

The Birthday of the Buddha

Tuen Ng Festival

Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Establishment Day (1 July)

The day following the Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival

Chung Yeung Festival

National Day (1 October)

Chinese Winter Solstice Festival or Christmas Day (at the option of the employer)

If the helper has been under continuous employment for 3 months or more, he/she is entitled to holiday pay.

Yes, but you must:

  • let your helper know at least 48 hours in advance, and
  • appoint another holiday for your helper within 60 days before or after the original holiday.

No. A statutory holiday cannot be forfeited in exchange for payment by the employer. If employers breach this provision without reasonable excuse, they could be prosecuted and be liable to a fine of up to HK$50,000 upon conviction.

When a helper has worked under the same employer for 12 months, he/she is entitled to a paid annual leave. The number of days for their paid annual leave increases incrementally from 7 days to at most 14 days depending on their years of service. See below:

Years of Service

Number of days of paid annual leave in a year

1

7

2

7

3

8

4

9

5

10

6

11

7

12

8

13

9 or above

14

 

For instance, after a helper has completed the 4th years’ service during the 2nd 2-year contract with his/her employer, he/she is entitled to 9 days of paid annual leave.

 

No. If there are rest days or statutory holidays falling within the period of an annual leave, they will be treated as annual leave. Employers are required to appoint another rest day of holiday for their helpers.

Payment and Deduction of Wages

Employers are required to pay wages to their helper at least once a month. On the expiry of the last day of the wage period, wages become due. You are obliged to pay your helper his/her wages as soon as practicable. In any circumstances, payment should not be given later than 7 days after the expiry of the wage period. If you would like to change the wage period and wage payment date, you should notify your helper in advance, and pay all outstanding wages.

For instance, where your helper started employment on 1 March and you wish to change the wage period to commence on the 16th of each month, you should first pay off the balance of the 15 days’ wages (i.e. wages from 1st to 15th), then start paying your helper on the new payment date in April.

If a helper damages their employer’s goods, equipment or property as a result of the helper’s negligence or default, the employer may deduct at most HK$300 from the helper’s wage in any one case as compensation. In addition, such deductions should not total to an amount exceeding one quarter of the wages payable to the helper in that wage period.

In the following situations, employers may also make deductions from their helper’s wages:

  • the helper is absent from work (but the deduction should be proportionate to the period of time the helper is absent from work);
  • the employer has made advanced or over-paid wages to their helper (the total sum to be deducted must not exceed one quarter of the wages payable to the helper in that wage period);
  • the employer has lent money to their helper, and is recovering the loan by deduction of wage (deduction must be done with the helper’s written consent); and
  • any deductions which are mandated or authorised under any enactment to be made from the wages of the helper.

Unless approval in writing by the Commissioner for Labour has been obtained, the total sum of all deductions, excluding those for absence from work, made in any one wage period shall not exceed of half of the wages payable in that period.

Medical and Sickness Allowance

Yes. If the helper suffers from sickness or injury, regardless of whether it was caused by the employment or work, the employer must pay for his/her medical fees, including consultation expenses, hospitalisation expenses, or expenses for dental emergencies. In view of this requirement, you may consider purchasing insurance which offers comprehensive coverage for medical and hospitalisation expenses. You could also consider purchasing insurance which covers medical and hospitalisation fees while also complying with the insurance requirements under the Employees’ Compensation Ordinance.

According to the employment contract, helpers should accept the medical treatment of any registered medical practitioner that their employer provides. You are advised to reach an agreement with your helper in advance as to which medical practitioner should be consulted when your helper is sick or injured.

Return Passage, Food and Travelling Allowances

Yes. According to the standard employment contract, when the contract comes to an end, you are obliged to pay for your helper’s travel expenses for the return passage to his/her place of origin. It is advised that you provide your helper with an air ticket which includes basic checked luggage, rather than giving him/her the equivalent amount in cash. This reduces the chances of your helper leaving for neighbouring places which are not his/her place of origin after receiving payment.

In addition, before purchasing the air ticket, you can first confirm with your helper the departure arrangements (such as the departure date and destination), in order to leave sufficient and reasonable time for both parties to handle matters related to contract completion or termination.

This depends on how long your helper takes to return to his/her place of origin from Hong Kong. Under the employment contract, helpers are entitled to a daily food and travelling allowance of HK$100 per day while travelling back to their place of origin. If you do not give your helper an air ticket with the most direct route to his/her place of origin, the number of travelling days may be increased and you may need to pay a higher daily food and travel allowance as a result.

Others

Yes. If the helper suffers from sickness or injury, regardless of whether it was caused by the employment or work, the employer must pay for his/her medical fees, including consultation expenses, hospitalisation expenses, or expenses for dental emergencies. In view of this requirement, you may consider purchasing insurance which offers comprehensive coverage for medical and hospitalisation expenses. You could also consider purchasing insurance which covers medical and hospitalisation fees while also complying with the insurance requirements under the Employees’ Compensation Ordinance covers medical and hospitalisation fees while also complying with the insurance requirements under the Employees’ Compensation Ordinance.

The Labour Relations Division of the Labour Department offers consultation services at their branch offices so that employers and helpers can understand their rights and obligations. Apart from this, the division also provides free conciliation services to help employers and helpers resolve disputes arising from the Employment Ordinance or employment contract.

If conciliation is unsuccessful, the Labour Department will, at the request of the party concerned, refer the claim to the Minor Employment Claims Adjudication Board or Labour Tribunal for adjudication.

Additionally, employers and helpers can visit the Labour Department’s website (http://www.labour.gov.hk) or call the Labour Department Telephone Enquiry Service (2717 1771) to obtain more information regarding the Employment Ordinance.

The latest information from the Labour Department/Immigrations Department prevails.