Switching domestic helper jobs in Hong Kong is a common practice among foreign domestic workers. However, there are often questions about the legality of changing employers. Just to clarify, it is legal (okay) to change domestic helper employer jobs in Hong Kong but you need to follow certain rules and conditions.
According to the Hong Kong Labour Department, domestic workers are entitled to terminate their contracts with their current employers before the end of the agreed term. Likewise, employers may terminate the contract before the end of the term, but they are required to give adequate notice and provide necessary compensation.
For domestic workers who are transferring to a new employer within Hong Kong, it is necessary to apply for a new visa and submit the relevant paperwork to the Immigration Department. Domestic workers are allowed to stay in Hong Kong for two weeks between jobs to complete the transfer process.
It is important to be aware of your rights as a domestic worker and ensure that you follow the proper legal procedures when switching employers. This includes giving proper notice to your current employer and adhering to the relevant visa requirements.
Domestic helper jobs in Hong Kong are an important part of the city’s economy and society. Hong Kong is home to a large number of foreign domestic workers, mainly from the Philippines and Indonesia, who provide services such as cleaning, cooking, and childcare for households across the city.
Many families in Hong Kong rely heavily on domestic helpers to manage their households, and the demand for these services has created a thriving industry.
However, the working conditions for domestic helpers in Hong Kong have been a topic of concern, with issues such as low wages, long working hours, and limited legal protections often raised.
As such, many foreign domestic helpers either return home or switch jobs in the city altogether. But is it a legal option for foreign workers to do so?
Why do Domestic Helpers Switch Employers and Jobs?
Domestic helpers in Hong Kong may switch employers and jobs for a variety of reasons. Here are some of the most common reasons why domestic helpers may choose to change employers:
- Better Pay and Benefits: One of the most common reasons for switching jobs is the desire for better pay and benefits. Many domestic helpers in Hong Kong earn low salaries, and may seek new employment opportunities that offer higher wages or more generous benefits packages.
- Poor Working Conditions: Domestic helpers may also switch jobs if they are unhappy with their working conditions. This could include issues such as long working hours, poor treatment by employers, or a lack of privacy or personal space.
- Expired Contract: When a domestic helper’s contract with their current employer expires, they may choose to seek new employment opportunities. This is particularly common if the employer is not willing to renew the contract, or if the domestic helper is seeking a change of scenery or work environment.
- Personal Reasons: Domestic helpers may also choose to switch jobs for personal reasons, such as wanting to be closer to family members, or needing to care for a sick relative.
- Career Development: Some domestic helpers may also switch jobs in order to advance their careers. This could involve seeking employment with a wealthier or more influential family or seeking opportunities to work in a different type of household (such as working for an expat family).
Switching domestic helper jobs in Hong Kong is legal and permissible under certain conditions. The Immigration Department allows domestic helpers to switch employers during their contract period, provided that they obtain permission from their current employer and obtain a new employment contract with their new employer.
The legal basis for switching domestic helper jobs in Hong Kong is primarily governed by the standard employment contract between the domestic helper and the employer, as well as the Immigration Department’s regulations. The standard employment contract outlines the terms and conditions of employment, including the duration of the contract, wages, rest days, and termination procedures.
However, if a domestic helper switches employers without permission, it could be considered a breach of contract and lead to legal consequences.
Additionally, the proposed revisions to the Code of Practice for Employment Agencies could potentially make it more difficult for foreign domestic helpers to switch jobs if evidence of job-hopping is found, although this proposal has been criticized for being discriminatory and violating the right to work in favorable conditions.
Consequences of Breach of Contract in Hong Kong
- Termination of contract: If a domestic helper breaches the terms of their contract, their employer has the right to terminate the contract. This means that the domestic helper will have to leave their current employer’s residence and find alternative accommodation.
- Loss of income: If the domestic helper’s contract is terminated due to a breach of contract, they will lose their income, which could lead to financial difficulties.
- Difficulty in finding a new job: A domestic helper who has breached their contract may find it challenging to secure employment with a new employer. This is because potential employers may view the breach of contract as a red flag and be hesitant to hire the domestic helper.
- Blacklisting: If a domestic helper has breached their contract, their name may be added to a blacklist maintained by the Hong Kong Immigration Department. This could make it difficult for the domestic helper to secure employment in Hong Kong in the future.
- Deportation: In extreme cases, a domestic helper who breaches their contract may be deported from Hong Kong. This could happen if the breach of contract is severe or if the domestic helper is unable to find alternative employment.
It is essential for foreign domestic helpers to understand the terms and conditions of their employment contract and comply with them to avoid the potential consequences of breach of contract.
If a domestic helper is experiencing difficulties with their current employer, it is advisable to seek assistance from relevant authorities, such as the Hong Kong Labour Department or a non-governmental organization that provides support to foreign domestic helpers.
Who can Switch Employment in Hong Kong?
Foreign domestic helpers (FDH) in Hong Kong may be allowed to switch employment under certain circumstances. Here are some cases where switching employment is legally allowed:
- Completed contract: If the domestic helper has completed the two-year contract with the employer, they are entitled to switch employers without any restriction.
- Mutual agreement: The domestic helper and their employer may agree to terminate the contract early if they both agree on the terms and conditions. However, it is important to note that there may be financial penalties for terminating the contract early.
- Employer’s breach of contract: If the employer breaches the terms and conditions of the contract, the domestic helper may terminate the contract and seek employment elsewhere.
- Domestic helper’s personal circumstances: If the domestic helper’s personal circumstances change and they need to switch employers, they may be able to do so. For example, if they need to care for a sick family member or relocate for personal reasons.
- Job offer: If the domestic helper has a job offer from a new employer and they meet the eligibility requirements, they may switch employment.
It is important to note that switching employment without a valid reason may result in legal consequences, such as being banned from working in Hong Kong for a certain period of time or being deported.
It is recommended that domestic helpers seek advice from the relevant authorities or consult a legal professional before making any decisions to switch employers.
Switching Employment: The Process
Switching employment can be a complex process for foreign domestic helpers in Hong Kong. Here is a guide to help you understand the process of switching employment for FDHs in Hong Kong:
- Obtain permission from current employer: Before a domestic helper can switch employers, they must obtain permission from their current employer. This is to ensure that the current employer is aware of the domestic helper’s intention to switch employers and to allow the current employer to make alternative arrangements if necessary.
- Find a new employer: The domestic helper must find a new employer who is willing to hire them. They can search for job vacancies online or through an employment agency. The new employer will need to provide a job offer letter to the domestic helper, which outlines the terms and conditions of the new employment.
- Notify the Hong Kong Immigration Department: The domestic helper must notify the Hong Kong Immigration Department of their intention to switch employers. They can do this by submitting an application for a change of employer through their employment agency or directly to the Immigration Department.
- Obtain a release letter: Once the domestic helper has obtained permission from their current employer and found a new employer, they must obtain a release letter from their current employer. This letter confirms that the current employer has agreed to release the domestic helper from their contract.
- Sign a new employment contract: The domestic helper must sign a new employment contract with their new employer. This contract should outline the terms and conditions of the new employment, including wages, working hours, and rest days.
- Apply for a new visa: After signing the new employment contract, the domestic helper must apply for a new visa through the Hong Kong Immigration Department. The new visa will be linked to the new employer and will allow the domestic helper to work legally in Hong Kong.
It is essential for foreign domestic helpers to understand the switching employment process and comply with the regulations set by the Hong Kong Immigration Department. Failure to follow the correct procedures could result in legal consequences, such as being blacklisted or facing deportation.
If a domestic helper experiences difficulties during the switching employment process, they can seek assistance from relevant authorities, such as the Hong Kong Labour Department or a non-governmental organization that provides support to foreign domestic helpers.
How are things right now
The proposed revisions to the Code of Practice for Employment Agencies by the Labour Department in Hong Kong are aiming to combat “job-hopping” among foreign domestic workers. If implemented, this proposal will refuse employment visa applications if there is evidence of “job-hopping”. However, preventing foreign domestic workers from switching jobs violates their human right to work in favourable conditions. Here are some key points to consider:
- The proposal limits the fundamental freedom of foreign domestic workers to pursue better opportunities. The government claims to grant employment visas to foreign domestic workers but refers to them as “helpers”, suggesting that they have lesser entitlements than other employees.
- In all other employment sectors, the Hong Kong government promotes a laissez-faire approach based on the premise that free markets ensure the greatest good. Yet, it proposes limiting the freedom of foreign domestic workers to switch jobs.
- The term “job-hopping” is pejorative, and this proposal violates the United Nations-recognized human right to work in favourable conditions. If Hong Kong passport holders were in the same situation, such a suggestion would never fly. Why is it reasonable then to impose it on foreign domestic workers?
- Cases of domestic worker abuse are rarely brought to justice in Hong Kong. By increasing the burden of proof on workers, the proposal risks making abuse more clandestine, making workers worse off, and benefiting only abusive employers.
- The job represents much more than wages for foreign domestic workers. It is about having decent working conditions, healthy relationships with employers, reasonable working hours, access to food, and a private space. Their ideal employer treats them like a member of the family.
- All workers have the right to be treated with decency and respect. For the free market to ensure this, foreign domestic workers must be able to leave jobs they do not like and take on jobs they do. The freedom to switch jobs is a hallmark of a free society, and migrant domestic workers deserve it as much as anyone else.
The proposal to restrict the freedom of foreign domestic workers to switch jobs in Hong Kong goes against the basic principles of human rights and economic freedom. It is essential that the Hong Kong government listens to the concerns raised and withdraws this discriminatory proposal.
Video: Govt Takes Aim at Job-Hopping Helpers | HKIBC News
In this video, we discuss the Hong Kong government’s proposed changes to the Code of Practice for Employment Agencies to combat foreign domestic helpers’ job-hopping. The proposal aims to restrict the freedom of domestic helpers to switch employers and jobs, citing complaints from employers whose helpers left them to earn more money during the pandemic.
We explore the implications of this proposal and why it is discriminatory, violating the right to work in favourable conditions recognized by the United Nations. Join us in discussing the importance of treating all workers with respect and dignity and supporting their freedom to switch jobs as a hallmark of a free society.
In conclusion, switching domestic helper jobs in Hong Kong is legal as long as both the employer and the domestic helper follow the proper procedures outlined by the Hong Kong government. It is important for both parties to understand their rights and responsibilities under the law in order to avoid any legal issues or disputes.
Employers should also be aware that preventing domestic helpers from switching jobs violates their human rights and may result in legal consequences. By following the proper procedures and treating domestic helpers with respect and fairness, both employers and domestic helpers can ensure a positive and lawful working relationship.