Hong Kong domestic workers are bound to employment contracts that stipulate how much they should be paid, who are their employers or where are they supposed to work.
But sometimes abuses kick in once a helper tries to do a gesture out of goodwill by going out of the supposed restrictions of her employment.
For example, if an employer tells a helper to assist her elderly mother who lives on a nearby flat as she is alone. Out of compassion, the helper complies with the request.
But one reqeust sometimes leads to another. Next, the employer asks the helper to clean up the senior’s flat on scheduled basis. While this can be considered a noble act of going beyond what’s expected from a worker, it’s actually a violation of the law: working at an address other than what’s written in the contract is illegal.
This is one possible situation where an employer attempts to order his or her helper to work on an address other than what appears on the helper’s employment contract.
Employer: “Elvie, my mother’s helper went on vacation to the Philippines so I need you to go over there this afternoon and clean her house and prepare dinner for her.
Domestic Worker Elvie: “Ma’am, I cannot follow your request. I am sorry but I cannot clean and cook for your mother because it is a violation of my contract to work on a place not defined under my employment contract.”
Employer (starting to feel agitated): “This is just temporary while the helper is away. Now follow my orders and go to my mother’s house!”
Domestic Worker (remaining calm and maintain eye contact): “Ma’am, I am sorry but I cannot follow your instruction. I know the Immigration Department is very strict about this policy and if I disobey the law, we could get arrested, fined and could go to prison.”
Employer (now angry and furious): “You will suffer the consequence if you will not follow me. I will fire you! You cannot pay your outstanding debt and go home empty handed! You really want me to fire you?”
Domestic Worker (focused on the issue): “If you feel the need to fire me then that is your decision. I hope you realize that I am just trying to follow the law just as I follow rules that you establish in your own home but I cannot obey your unlawful order.”
If a domestic worker is fired for refusing to work in an address other than the premises stated in her contract, the employer will be ordered to pay all the benefits and entitlements that are owed to the helper such as wages in arrears, wages in lieu of notice, air ticket and travel allowance.
The domestic helper can then ask the Immigration Department for special consideration to allow her to apply for change of employment without leaving Hong Kong, stating that the grounds for termination of contract was that she disobeyed the employer’s order to work illegally.
With content from http://helpfordomesticworkers.org