HK employer struggles with dilemma of terminating sick foreign domestic helper with cancer

Picture for illustration purpose only.

6th June 2023 – (Hong Kong) When a foreign domestic helper becomes seriously ill, employers are often faced with the dilemma of how to handle the situation. Recently, a Hong Kong mother posted on social media seeking advice on how to deal with her foreign domestic helper who had only been working for her family for less than a month when she was suspected of having cancer. The employer was worried about terminating the helper in case she incurred legal consequences, but was also reluctant to keep her on due to the fear of not being able to handle the situation properly.

The Hong Kong mother posted on social media and explained that the helper had previously worked for her relatives for several years and had performed well. However, due to their relatives’ emigration, the family needed a foreign domestic helper, so they hired her. The helper passed the medical check-up before starting work, but after only a week in the household, she complained of neck swelling, and later received bad news from her doctor.

The employer booked a government clinic for the helper to see a doctor, but the doctor gave her a referral letter, suspecting that she might have lymphoma. The employer felt that she had not spent enough time with the helper to know whether she had intentionally concealed her illness or was unaware of it. She sought advice from friends, employment agencies, and the Labour Department, but received conflicting responses. The Labour Department replied that it was legal to terminate the helper without medical proof, while the employment agency advised caution, as the helper had a referral letter, and they could be sued if they were fired without proper justification. Her friends suggested that she should terminate the helper immediately, unless there was a medical diagnosis, as she could not be fired with one.

The employer, who is the mother’s husband, was afraid of being sued and was hesitant about what to do. Meanwhile, the government clinic called to inform the employer that the helper needed to have her blood tested again. The employer expressed her concerns, saying:

“I really don’t want to be the one to take care of her. I can’t just abandon my children and take care of someone who is not related to me and has only been with us for a month.”

The helper was originally hired to take care of the children, but now she has brought another problem to their family. If the helper is diagnosed with cancer, it will not only be a financial problem but also a huge psychological burden for the family. The employer asked the online community, “What can I do to protect my family?”

Netizens gave their opinions and suggestions. One suggested, “I would pay her the extra month’s salary and persuade her to resign and return to her hometown, which is the best option. I’m afraid if the situation worsens, she won’t be able to go back.” Another cautioned against taking the helper to a private doctor, as it would be expensive. Some netizens shared their own experiences of dealing with a sick foreign domestic helper.