Our mission is to empower foreign domestic workers in Hong Kong, who are often subject to exploitation. HELP provides free advice and assistance on employment, immigration and human rights issues to domestic workers, irrespective of race, nationality, religion, sexual orientation or gender. We believe that every domestic worker should have access to justice and receive equal and fair treatment before the law.
HELP for Domestic Workers, originally called Helpers for Domestic Helpers, is an outreach programme at St John's Cathedral that was formed in Hong Kong in 1989 by a group of lawyers who worshipped at the cathedral, where Filipino domestic workers are a substantial part of the congregation. The founders recognised a widespread need for free legal counselling and practical assistance for domestic workers, who could seldom afford the professional services of a private lawyer.
The work began informally, with Sunday clinics, where domestic workers could receive free advice on how to resolve their problems. The operation soon became full time, operated by a small core of dedicated staff as the demand for HELP's services increased beyond the capacity of just a few volunteers.
In 1989, Helpers for Domestic Helpers came into being when James Collins, a barrister from Wales and a worshipping member of St John’s Cathedral, offered a sympathetic ear to the problems of domestic workers in Hong Kong. He and other lawyers started to provide free advice to the domestic workers on Sundays. Soon, they were overwhelmed as the demand for their assistance grew, and the Cathedral provided a telephone and an office for them to work from. The domestic workers were aided with employment, immigration and human rights issues. James felt it was important that these workers had access to the law and knew their rights regarding the law. Today, Helpers for Domestic Helpers (now HELP for Domestic Workers) has four full-time staff and a team of volunteers to assist in providing advice and support to domestic workers in need.
James was committed to assisting domestic workers even after he retired in 2015. At his retirement dinner, he highlighted the fact that 25 years after he founded the organisation that the need of their services was even greater than when he started.
James was compassionate and caring and an accomplished barrister. In 2000, James represented a domestic worker in a landmark case, Bachiva v Poon, which helped establish the principle that gives employees, including domestic workers in Hong Kong who have been subjected to abuse the right to claim general damages. The result of the case provides for a fairer level of compensation than statutory damages, to which employees had been previously limited. James passed away in 2016 and his legacy lives on at HELP for Domestic Workers.
Over the years, we have assisted thousands of domestic workers in distress – serving on average over 1,500 clients each year and more than 25,000 since 1989 – and have helped recover millions of Hong Kong dollars in compensation through the courts or by direct intervention.
What We Do
- Explain to domestic workers their legal rights
- Guide domestic workers in pursuing claims in the Labour Tribunal and other Courts
- Create and distribute resources that inform of and empower domestic workers to know their legal rights
- Give advice in cases where a domestic helper is accused of a criminal offence, which, typically, will be one arising from or otherwise connected with their immigration status or employment
- Assist domestic workers to draft witness statements and Court documents for use in Court proceedings
- Prepare clients for conciliation meetings and Court hearings
- Liaise with various government agencies including the Hong Kong Police, Immigration and Labour Departments about clients’ cases
- Write letters to employers and recruitment agencies on behalf of clients and help to negotiate settlement agreements when possible, to avoid protracted litigations
- Assist in the recovery of personal belongings and other documents unlawfully taken from them
- Assist clients in recovery of excessive and unlawful commission (placement fees) paid to employment agencies
We employ four full-time staff and a group of 100+ dedicated volunteers that constantly endeavor to find ways to ensure that domestic workers not only understand their legal rights, but also know the best way of protecting and pursuing these rights.
Learn more about the HELP staff, our loyal volunteers and the board.
HELP benefited from over 9,000 pro-bono hours from volunteers during 2016, including lawyers and other professionals.
We couldn't do what we do without the help of generous individuals and groups from the Hong Kong community. Meet a few of our volunteers and learn how you can get involved with HELP.
Original HDH logo
HDH logo, 2015
HELP logo, 2017
Though we got our start as Helpers for Domestic Helpers (HDH), it was time for change in order to stay current with the times. Our organisation’s mission is to aid and support domestic workers, who are often subject to exploitation because their work is not seen as anything more than help.
Changing our name is about human dignity.
With a new name comes a new look. Learn more about the rationale and design behind our brand.