6th March 2019 – (Hong Kong) Recent news articles have reported that a 38 year old domestic helper named Baby Jane Allas was dismissed after she was diagnosed with Stage 3 cervical cancer. Despite the fact that she was on paid medical leave, her employer terminated her contract.
The law in Hong Kong to prevent employers from firing their domestic helpers due to serious illness may not be tight enough because once a helper has been dismissed, she would have lost her right to live in Hong Kong and receive government medical care just like what is happening to Allas. Compassion is hardly seen in cases as such because most employers hire domestic maids to manage house chores or to take care of their children. The expensive rent and limited dwelling space make it impossible for employers to accommodate a helper who may be bedridden because of a serious disease.
Once contract is terminated, a domestic helper will need to leave Hong Kong in 2 weeks regardless of whether she is terminally ill or in the midst of receiving treatment.
So, what are the avenues available in Hong Kong for both domestic helpers and employers in the event that they have been dismissed because of illness?
1.When a domestic helper is sick, she can opt for a no pay leave if she wishes to continue her employment contract with her employer. According to the Employment Ordinance sickness allowance is calculated as 4/5 of the wages.
2.An employer can request the domestic helper to sign a letter stating that she does not accept medical treatment provided by the employer or the insurance company and she would choose to return to her own country for further treatment. If both parties agree to terminate the contract, it will be a mutual agreement. Employer will still have to pay the domestic helper outstanding wages, annual leave (pro-rata), air ticket (single journey) and travel allowances to facilitate her return to home.
3.Domestic helpers are generally not allowed to refuse medical treatment provided by a registered medical practitioner as arranged by the employer. Alternatively, she may allow to return home for treatment at her own costs.
4.Domestic helpers who do not follow the contractual terms will be forced to go on unpaid leave.
5.It is unlawful for employer to dismiss a domestic helper who is on paid sick leave and domestic helper who is dismissed for this reason may complain to the Labour office just like Allas. The domestic helper must make sure that the reason for dismissal is not solely on illness because employer must specify alternative reasons for dismissal.