With no signs of abating in Hong Kong for the coronavirus cases, there have been mounting concerns over whether imported cases will lead to another massive outbreak. As the city is preparing to brace for the impact of the ‘second wave’ Covid-19 virus, through enforcing tougher measures, foreign domestic workers are suffering as much as, if not more than, local citizens.
In this Kwiksure article, we will dig deeper into how the coronavirus restrictions are impacting foreign domestic helpers in Hong Kong.
What are the things you should notify your employment agency about?
Most domestic helpers in Hong Kong are hired through employment agencies. These agencies are required to inform the relevant Consulate (i.e. the Philippine and Indonesian Consulates) when there are immediate changes that affect a worker’s employment situation or ability to work, such as when the worker is:
a missing person,
involved in any legal cases, or
has had their contract terminated.
Under these circumstances, after the worker has notified the agency, the agency will inform the Consulate, which will then involve the relevant government bodies and provide assistance to the worker and the employer where necessary.
For the employer, notifying the employment agency can protect yourself from potential claim issues or inclusion into the Consulates’ Employer Watch-lists. It is best to keep relevant documentation in these situations such as medical reports, receipts, police reports, termination forms, as well as evidence of correspondence to show attempts of contact such as SMS message records when necessary.
For the worker, informing the employment agency gives you access to the support you are entitled to since the Consulate is responsible for taking care of their nationals and some of their services that may be very useful to you.
Suspension of some services at the Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO) in Hong Kong
Due to the outbreak of the virus, the Philippine Consulate General has announced the temporary suspension of notarization of employment contracts, assistance for BM Online processing of OEC, and holding of conciliation. As a result, the following services may be affected.
Although contracts will not be notarized at POLO, they can still be submitted to the Hong Kong Immigration Department without the notarization. Click here to read the full foreign worker visa renewal procedure.
First-time domestic helper hiring
This service is not available at the moment since the Hong Kong Immigration Department requires the employment contract to be notarized by POLO.
Changing employers for terminated/broken contracts
If the helper is in Hong Kong, the process continues as normal with POLO notarization. This may be different if the domestic helper is currently overseas, this is being verified.
Quarantine restrictions in the Philippines
The Philippine Government has implemented a community-quarantine of the entire Luzon region, where travel is restricted and day-to-day operations are suspended or operating at minimal levels. Domestic workers who are still in the Philippines should take note of domestic travel issues, especially in Luzon, Iloilo, Bacolod, Davao, which are all under quarantine restrictions.
Traveling from the Philippines to Hong Kong & the Declaration form
Domestic workers are legally required to sign a declaration form in order to enter Hong Kong. This form says that the helper understands the situation and the risks involved with the coronavirus in Hong Kong, and wishes to travel to Hong Kong voluntarily.
After arriving in Hong Kong, the domestic helper will still have to undergo a mandatory 14-day quarantine period with an electric wristband connected to a smartphone app. And if the helper is not able to provide a residential address, they will be quarantined at a government quarantine center.
Workers stranded due to the coronavirus restrictions
If your flight is cancelled and are hence stuck in the Philippines or Hong Kong, you should try to reach out to your airline for support.
For domestic workers in Hong Kong who are finishing or had their contract terminated before July 2020 (dozens of domestic workers in Hong Kong have been sacked amid the crisis, according to SCMP), you should apply to the Immigration Department for an extension of stay. Click here for details of this latest flexibility arrangement by the Hong Kong government.
Contact Kwiksure for more information
As always, it is crucial for both the employers and domestic workers to know their rights and obligations, especially amid the coronavirus crisis. For more feature articles on the virus, check out “Wuhan Coronavirus: Five ways to keep your car safe from germs and viruses” and “Will travel insurance cover canceled flights due to the Wuhan coronavirus outbreak?”.