Date Posted: 02/04/2019
FDWs and Employers alike become concerned when ‘job hopping’ for improper gains are suspected.
A South China Morning Post headline of February 20, 2014, stated: ‘Job-hopping helpers exploit rules for cash’. The article explained that foreign domestic workers in Hong Kong were being suspected of going job-to-job (without completing contracts) to collect severance pay and flight funds from each employer.
During this time, applicants were carefully screened for job changes made over the previous 12 months. Of the total 40,000 applicants, 1372 were suspected of participating in this 'visa application scheme'. In the suspected group, 172 of applications were rejected; 158 were voluntarily withdrawn (0.8% of the total).
In October 2013, employer associations accused FDWs of ‘having colluded with employment agencies to make gains by ending contacts prematurely or behaving badly to get themselves fired to obtain severance pay’.
As general suspicions grew, it became common for an employer to worry that her own FDW might be planning to leave early for short-term gains. But the percentage of visa applications actually affected by these suspicions was small.
What do you think? Are FDWs exploiting rules in the way that was suspected? Or are the rules being used for proper purposes, supporting ethical and productive situations in the industry?
What are the findings? Do Helpers want to ‘cash in’ or ‘move up’?
HelperFirst explores these questions through reader comments to the SCMP article. [Minimal edits have been made to improve readability without changing meanings.]
First, reader ‘Unoy’ responds:
‘Helpers are job hopping for severance pay? What severance pay? Any domestic helper who terminates her contract early is not entitled to any severance pay. That is the law, so no employer is going to pay a helper severance pay [under such circumstances]. In fact, unless a helper gives a month's notice, she is liable to pay a month's salary to the employer. Job-hopping for money? I don't think so. Helpers leave bad employers’.
Unoy adds: ‘This article suggests that helpers leave one employer to get the money for a flight home. The cost of a flight to Manila on Cebu Pacific [estimated in 2014]...costs less than HKD1000. What rational person would terminate her job for HKD1000'?
And Unoy concludes: "Hong Kong is a free market economy. In a free market, workers are encouraged to seek the best employer, best pay rates and best working conditions. Why shouldn't domestic helpers be able to 'job hop'? Everyone else in Hong Kong is allowed to".
As the reader comments show, there can be positive purposes in switching jobs. FDWs can use their strengths and resources to choose better working situations - as desired, and even as needed.
Alternatively, compelling FDWs to complete contracts (to avoid suspicion of job-hopping and potential visa loss) can overturn these positives. This can be a significant consideration in the face of growing awareness of helper-abuse.
Closing Thoughts from HelperFirst.
Although a small percentage of FDWs might be considered trying to exploit employment guidelines for improper gain...100% of Helpers and Employers in Hong Kong can count on the same guidelines to help protect their opportunities, rights, and safety.
For handy reference, HelperFirst includes the following related excerpts from the Hong Kong Labour Department’s FAQs page and standard employment contract.
How can an employer and an FDH terminate their employment contract before it expires?
According to the standard employment contract, an employer and his/her FDH alike may terminate the contract prior to its expiry by giving not less than one month's notice in writing or by paying one month's wages in lieu of notice to the other party.
An employer who fails to pay the statutory benefits and other payments due to the FDH in accordance with the Employment Ordinance (EO) and the standard employment contract commits an offence.
What items of payment is an employer liable to pay to an FDH upon termination of the employment contract?
FDHs enjoy the same protection under EO as do local employees. They are further entitled to the rights and benefits specified in their standard employment contract.
An employer who intends to terminate the employment contract of an FDH is required to give the FDH one month's prior notice in writing or one month's wages in lieu of notice as well as other termination payments, which include -
Under what circumstances should an employer pay severance payment or long service payment to his/her FDH if he/she terminates the FDH's contract?
An employer should pay severance payment to his/her FDH if the FDH has been employed continuously for not less than 24 months and is dismissed (or his/her contract is not renewed) by reason of redundancy.
An employer should pay long service payment to his/her FDH if the FDH has been employed continuously for not less than 5 years and is dismissed (or his/her contract is not renewed) by reason other than serious misconduct of the FDH or redundancy.
However, an employer is not required to pay both long service payment and severance payment to the FDH.
Additional Information & Links.
If you seek further information on ‘issues of employment contract or the Employment Ordinance (EO)’, Hong Kong’s Labour Department provides the following referrals.
Sources of HKLD references:
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