What you need to know.

The contract states that the foreign domestic worker will work and live in the employer’s residence and will only perform domestic duties for the employer.  It is illegal for the domestic worker to work for any other person.  This means that it is unlawful for you to live and/or work outside the address of the employer, including the home of the employer’s friends or relatives. It is also unlawful for you to work in any business establishment or to perform tasks not related to household duties such as running errands for the employer’s business or cleaning the employer’s office.

Domestic duties to be performed by the domestic worker exclude the driving of a motor vehicle of any description for whatever purposes, whether or not the vehicle belongs to the employer, except with the expressed permission of the Immigration Department. If you were employed to perform driving duties, you will need to obtain an addendum to your contract from the Immigration Department that specifically states that you are permitted to perform driving duties.

Any breaches of the above will render the domestic worker liable to criminal prosecution.

The Immigration Department takes illegal work very seriously even if the domestic worker was only following instructions from the employer. HELP has encountered cases where the domestic worker complains in writing to the Immigration Department that her employer was forcing her to work in other residences apart from the employer’s home. The worker states in the letter that she knew it was illegal for her to do so but that she had no choice but to obey the employer’s order or risk losing her job. In such cases the Immigration Department would normally send a standard reply that it is a breach of a domestic worker’s conditions of stay to take up unapproved employment and should she continue to do so, this would be taken into consideration when she applies for change of employment in the future. The Immigration Department may then begin an investigation of the worker for breach of condition of stay or wait until the worker applies for change of employment.

Even if you only work in the home of the employer, you should not be required to perform non-domestic duties – some employers use their home to prepare or process goods for sale. This is not part of your duties and you are entitled to refuse to do it. You are also not obliged to perform services such as giving body massage to the employer.

If your employer requires you to work for another person or to take up non-domestic duties, you should refuse and explain to the employer that you cannot obey such orders because it would be illegal to do so.  However, if the employer insists, then you may report the matter to the Immigration Department. However, be sure that you have not been performing the illegal work if you make such a report or you yourself could be subject to investigation

Commencement of the contract

There is sometimes confusion among domestic workers and employers as to when a contract commences.  Some think that the contract commences on the date when it was signed by both parties which is normally the date that appears in the first paragraph of the contract. This is a misconception.  Such misconception, in turn, results in misunderstanding as to the date when the contract expires, which is two years from the date the contract commenced.

According to Clause 2 of the standard Employment Contract for foreign domestic workers, the employment shall be regarded as starting from:

a)      The date when the worker arrives in Hong Kong ;

b)      The day immediately following the expiry of a previous contract with the same employer (in case of contract renewal);

c)       The date on which the Director of the Immigration grants the worker permission to remain in Hong Kong (in case of change of employment in Hong Kong).

A domestic worker is not permitted to work for the employer before her work visa is issued by the Immigration Department.

Once the contract has commenced (in one of the above senses), and if she is willing and able to begin working, the domestic worker’s entitlement to wages starts to accrue even if she was not asked by the employer to start working. Therefore the first wage period starts from the date the contract commences.

Additional Resources for Domestic Workers

Understanding Your Rights