Many expats are pleasantly surprised by the opportunity to hire domestic help when they relocate to the city but soon feel overwhelmed. It’s a complex task. We turned to the team at HelperChoice.com, a social impact start-up eradicating illegal agency placement fees by connecting employers and domestic helpers directly to tell us more about hiring a helper in Hong Kong.
Life in Hong Kong is fast-paced and busy, leaving little time for household tasks, and while some expats prefer to hire a part-time helper who comes once or twice per week, for others (especially those families with two working parents and young children) a full-time domestic helper can be a blessing. Most of the foreign domestic workers in Hong Kong are from the Philippines or Indonesia and are assiduous, earnest women who are working abroad to provide for their families back home.
1. Local Versus Foreign Helpers
Local helpers can be hired for either part-time or full-time duties, but their English is often limited. Foreign helpers can legally only be employed on tw0-year, full-time, live-in contracts.
2. The Costs
Part-time local helpers are available from around HK$85 an hour (try the Smart Living government programme). For full-time, live-in maids you need to budget at least the minimum wage of HK$4,630 per month (as of September 2020), but many expats pay more. Employers must also provide free food or a food allowance of not less than HK$1,121 per month. You must also offer suitable accommodation, insurance and free medical care, as well as pay all hiring-related costs and airfares for the biannual home leave. You may also need to budget for agency and processing fees.
3. Finding A Helper
The traditional way is through employment agencies, but in recent years many of these have been heavily criticised for unethical practices and overcharging of helpers. A better solution is to find a helper yourself through ethical online platforms or by personal recommendation. Be aware that the hiring procedures of a helper and the agency prices depend on her country of origin and current visa status. An employment agency must be used for paperwork, except for finished contract Filipino helpers.
4. Helper Hiring Lingo
There are various costs and timeframes involved when hiring a helper, depending on her employment history and nationality. Understanding the below terms will help.
- “Finished contract”: Helper has completed her two-year contract and can start as soon as she receives her new visa.
- “Terminated for relocation/financial reasons or death of employer”: Employer has dismissed the helper before the end of the two-year contract for the listed reasons. If these reasons are declared to immigration, it will be handled as a finished contract.
- “Terminated for other reasons or ‘break contract’”: Employer has dismissed the helper or the helper has quit before the end of the two-year contract. The helper must leave HK before starting a new contract. It will take up to 12 weeks to process this helper’s visa.
- “First timer or overseas hire”: Helper is not currently in Hong Kong and has either never worked abroad or HK. Up to 12 weeks will be needed to process this helper’s visa.
Hear it from the residents
If you have a domestic helper, what advice do you have on hiring, or the interview process?
Like any job interview, you need to be clear about your wants, needs and expectations, and check for alignment of values. Get some advice one-on-one from someone who’s been through the process.
Questions you could ask include: “What did you enjoy most about your previous job, and what did you like the least?” “Do you cook, and if so what’s your favourite dish to make?” “Do you prefer clear instructions on what needs doing (say, on a daily or weekly basis) or do you prefer to work independently?”
We have a helper who comes twice a week for cleaning and laundry; she doesn’t live in with us. It’s very easy to find a helper – I recommend posting on one of the many facebook groups.
I got recommendations from friends and family.
Domestic Helpers And The Pandemic
COVID-19 continues to affect the helper hiring process in 2021, not to mention the logistics of travel (for example, between Hong Kong and Manila). It’s an ever-changing situation, so be sure to check with agencies and online for updates.
This article first appeared in the City Guide 2021/22 issue of Expat Living magazine. Subscribe now so you never miss an issue.