15th April 2024 – (Hong Kong) Foreign domestic helpers (FDHs) are an integral part of many households, performing crucial roles that support the city’s dynamic workforce. However, the phenomenon of job-hopping among FDHs has presented significant challenges for both employers and the helpers themselves. The Hong Kong government has been actively seeking ways to manage this issue effectively, aiming to strike a delicate balance between preventing job-hopping and ensuring that the rights and demands of helpers are adequately heard and addressed.

The Hong Kong government has recognised the disruptive impact that job-hopping can have on families relying on domestic help. Efforts to curb this practice have centred on tightening the regulatory framework governing the employment of FDHs. This includes stringent scrutiny of employment histories and tighter controls on the transfer of employment contracts.

One key measure has been the revision of the Code of Practice for Employment Agencies. This revision mandates that agencies must provide comprehensive briefings to FDHs about the legal and contractual obligations involved in changing employers. These briefings are intended to ensure that helpers are fully aware of the potential consequences of premature contract termination.

Moreover, the government has proposed that employment agencies should not incentivise or facilitate job-hopping. This includes a prohibition against agencies offering monetary rewards or other incentives for FDHs to leave their employment prematurely. To enforce this, the government has strengthened the oversight of employment agencies, with regular audits and the imposition of penalties for non-compliance.

While regulatory measures are essential for maintaining stability in domestic employment, they must not infringe on the rights of FDHs. Many domestic helpers change employers not out of caprice but due to serious issues such as mistreatment, excessively long working hours, or disagreements over pay and working conditions. Therefore, the government has also focused on mechanisms that allow FDHs to voice their concerns and seek redress.

One significant step has been the establishment of a more robust complaint and arbitration mechanism. This system enables FDHs to report abuses or contract violations confidentially, ensuring that their grievances are heard without fear of retaliation. Additionally, the government has been working to educate FDHs about their rights and the legal resources available to them, conducting workshops and distributing informational materials in multiple languages.

To further support FDHs and make Hong Kong a more attractive destination for them, the government is exploring enhancements to their overall welfare. This includes improving their living conditions, providing access to healthcare, and offering legal assistance when needed. These welfare enhancements are crucial for ensuring that FDHs feel valued and supported, thereby reducing the likelihood of job-hopping.

Recognising that many challenges associated with FDH employment are transnational in nature, Hong Kong authorities have also strengthened collaborations with the governments of source countries. These collaborations aim to ensure that recruitment practices are ethical and transparent right from the start. By working together with consulates and overseas employment authorities, Hong Kong aims to prevent unscrupulous recruitment practices that can lead to misunderstandings and dissatisfaction among FDHs once they arrive in the city.

As Hong Kong continues to refine its approach to managing FDH employment, the focus remains on creating a fair and sustainable system that protects both employers and helpers. This involves not only stringent regulatory measures to prevent job-hopping but also comprehensive support systems that address the legitimate needs and concerns of FDHs.

In conclusion, the challenge for Hong Kong is to create an environment where foreign domestic helpers can work with dignity and security, while also providing Hong Kong families with the stable and reliable support they need. Achieving this balance is crucial for maintaining the social and economic fabric of this vibrant city, ensuring that it remains a place where both residents and their helpers can thrive.