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New to Hong Kong
Domestic helpers

The helper (or “amah”) is a commonplace feature of life in Hong Kong.  And it’s not just in expatriate homes; the vast majority of the many hundreds of thousands of Filipino, Indonesian, Thai, Indian and Sri Lankans FDHs (Foreign Domestic Helpers) are employed by local families.

It should be noted that in order for immigrant workers to gain an FDH visa they must previously have undertaken some form of higher education, so often their English language skills are very good and many have degrees.

Having a live in helper (and many families employ two or more) can be a tremendous benefit in aiding with childcare, looking after the household, cooking and helping to cater for dinner and drinks parties.  Generally they are unobtrusive and a great asset that you will quickly become addicted to, and the process of employing the right candidate is reasonably straightforward – alternatively you can of course engage the services of an agency to look after everything for you.

If you are new to this there is an easy to understand guide from the Labour Department which gives you the basic do’s and don’ts. Under Hong Kong law as the employer you are required to fulfil a number of obligations that serve to protect the rights of the helper. You must;

  • Provide free accommodation.
  • Pay a food allowance if no food is provided.
  • Provide your helper with free passage to and from his/her place of origin upon commencement of and on termination or expiry of the contract (including air ticket, food and travelling allowance).
  • Provide free medical treatment, including medical consultation, maintenance in hospital and emergency dental treatment during the employment period (except for the period during which your helper leaves Hong Kong of his/her own volition and for his/her personal purposes). It’s a good idea to take out suitable medical and employers liability insurance for your helper to cover all eventualities.
  • Provide your helper with free passage to return to his/her place of origin for home leave upon renewal of the contract.
  • Pay your helper no less than the Government’s Minimum Allowable Wage (MAW) that currently stands at $3,580 per month. However you should be aware that the majority of expatriate employers pay 20% to 30% more than the MAW.
  • Give your helper at least one rest day in seven – this is generally Sunday and that’s why the streets of Central are covered with tens of thousands of singing, dancing, card playing Filipinas eating alfresco in the shadows of the corporate jungle.

Finding the right helper is of course crucial, and generally this is achieved by engaging an agency or by asking around within your social network. Good helpers are highly treasured and often passed on through a group of friends as families depart and arrive in Hong Kong.

Most importantly of all make sure you check references and satisfy yourself fully that this is someone that you are 100% happy to leave in charge of your home and more critically your children.

The following agency can assist you with the process should you be unsure of anything.

ACJ International  
Unit B1, 13/F Loyong Court Commercial Bldg., 212-220 Lockhart Road., Wanchai, Hong Kong
T: 2377 2890/2916

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