For most domestic helpers, leaving their home country and their family behind to care for another family is a tough decision.
Luckily, Hong Kong is one of the friendliest and most convenient places to work in. Aside from the fact that it is very close to the Philippines and that airfares are quite cheap, Hong Kong provides a lot of benefits, comforts and necessities that are easy to access.
As of last year, there are about 190 000 Filipino domestic helpers in the country, a big part of the 360,000 domestic workforce hailing from other Asian countries. This means that you can easily find a community in your area. Being in the presence of other “kababayans” will help ease the loneliness and the homesickness. Because you can be in contact with other Filipinos around you, you also get the help you need in case of emergencies.
Since the Filipino community is large and that domestic helpers represent a large part of the foreign workers in Hong Kong, you won’t feel lost if you plan to come here to work. However, there are few things you might want to take into consideration to make this move smooth.
As soon as you arrive in Hong Kong, you need to clear immigration by submitting a landing slip that specifies clearly how long you are allowed to stay there. If this is your first engagement with your employer, the visa validity is usually for two years, unless an extension has been requested and approved.
Unlike other countries, your employer does not have to meet you at the airport. Once you have the valid foreign domestic helper visa, you are approved to enter and stay for the length of your visa validity. It is best, however, to give a copy of your landing slip to your employer as well so that he/she will have a clear understanding of dates that need to be considered for renewal or termination of contract.
While it is important that you discuss with your employer about your rights, in case you have doubts about what you are getting, note that domestic helpers have the same rights and benefits as regular employees such as:
Paid leave: From seven to 14 days based on number of years of service.
Insurance and medical coverage: Your employer is entitled to provide free medical treatment during the period of employment.
However, there are some specifics for maids in Hong Kong:
Salary: The employer should pay no less than HK$4,520 per month, which is the Minimum Allowed Wage in Hong Kong.
Accommodation: Live-out foreign domestic helpers are not allowed in Hong Kong and your employer shall provide an accommodation with reasonable privacy.
Food: You’re entitled to get free food from your employer (or a food allowance in lieu of HK$1,075 per month).
Transportation: Your employer must pay the flight (round-trip) if he hires you while you’re in the Philippines, or at least, the return ticket once your contract expires.
Rest Day: Foreign domestic helpers generally have a single rest-day per week, generally during the weekend, but this can vary based on your discussions with your employer.
When it comes to the duties you need to perform, it will all be clearly laid out in your employment contract. Do note, however, that your type of visa has restriction on what you are allowed to do or not to do.
Driving, for example, requires a special kind of permit that your employer needs to apply for.
It is also absolutely necessary that you work in the residence that your employer has declared with the immigration. If it is not because of a move or something else, clarify with your employer as this has to be submitted to the immigration for proper recording.
Your contract allows you to work for your employer only.
Renewal and termination
At the end of the initial contract term, usually two years as mentioned earlier, your employer will have to apply for a renewal of the contract. This can be done at least eight weeks before the expiration of the current one. However, it is necessary for you to leave the country while the new contract and visa is in process. Most of the foreign domestic helper go to Macao as it’s easier and faster to get back to Hong Kong once the new Visa is approved.
When a contract is terminated, whether it is at the end of the term or prior to expiration, it is a must for your employer to report the termination with the exact date of when your last working day should be. You will then have to leave the country immediately. Many Filipinos get in trouble of overstaying after the contract termination. Do not ever do this so as not to get blacklisted. Don’t forget that you will also be required to write an acknowledgement of the termination as that will be submitted to the immigration department as well.
Note that there are also private companies and domestic helper agencies in Hong Kong that can help you to find a new employers and to help you during administrative processes.
Because the Filipino domestic helper community is very big in Hong Kong, there are different types of Filipino NGOs you can reach out to (you can find a list of NGOs here).
Where to go for help:
United Filipinos in Hong Kong
2/F, New Hall, Saint John’s Cathedral,
4 Garden Road, Central, Hong Kong SAR
Philippine Consulate General in Hong Kong
14/F, United Centre, 95 Queensway,
Admiralty, Hong Kong
Help for Domestic Helpers
Ground Floor, St John’s Cathedral
4-8 Garden Road
Central, Hong Kong
Bethune House Migrant Women’s Refuge
Saint John’s Cathedral,
No. 4 Garden Road,
Central, Hong Kong SAR
There are also recreational NGOs in Hong Kong where you can take part in social activities and skills training. The best way to go about it is to find your own little group of friends or Filipino community in your area and see what they do in terms of socialising and learning.
Don’t be scared to explore what’s around you, Hong Kong is full or surprises and offers various opportunities for leisure, whether it is about food, hiking, water sports or culture. Surely it will not be so hard, considering there are other Filipinos always ready to lend a helping hand nearby.