Hiring the Right Domestic Helper

Detailed guide to hiring a domestic helper in Hong Kong. Salary, conditions, interview and screening advice and government requirements.

22 May 2014 — By Mawgan Batt / Helpers
Domestic Helper holding sleeping child

Guide to Hiring a Domestic Helper in Hong Kong

For many expats in Hong Kong, hiring a domestic helper for the first time is a daunting and unfamiliar task.  It can be a difficult process and obviously it’s crucial to find the right person who will fit in with your family. Many expat families struggle with the concept of live-in help, but in a city like Hong Kong it is normal and for those with young children, it is often the only childcare option.  The added benefits of help in the home and wrap-around childcare make having a domestic helper a very attractive prospect for many families; however it is vital to screen and interview rigorously to ensure that the right person is found.

Questions to consider

1.  Do you have separate accommodation suitable for a helper?

Many apartments have a separate domestic helper room, which is very small by western standards, and it is the employer’s responsibility to ensure that it is clean, safe and has adequate space for a bed, storage as well as suitable ventilation and light.  It is illegal for a domestic helper to work for you but live elsewhere and all furniture and bedding must be provided by the employer

2.  Do you know of anyone that can recommend a helper?

Relying on word of mouth can be helpful.  If a family is moving away from Hong Kong they may try to find a suitable new employer for their domestic helper.  Experienced helpers who come highly recommended are highly sought after, but it is always recommended to meet face-to-face and interview at least once before starting the hiring process. Bear in mind family differences and expectations and that what suits one family may not suit another. Perhaps organise a trial period of a few hours to make sure that you are happy with your new employee and that she meets your standards of work ethic and attitude.

3.  What roles do you want your domestic helper to undertake?

Will she be solely responsible for the running of the house while you are both at work, or will she be supporting the role of the stay at home parent? It is important to consider what specific role you wish your helper to have and be clear from the outset.

4.  Would it be useful to write a guide to the running of your home?

This can cover a range of things from specific things to clean each day, meals and preferred ways of playing with the children.  Writing it down and discussing it on commencement of employment is a great way to start a working relationship with your helper.

5.  When do you want your helper to start?

The normal answer of course is ASAP, however bear in mind that it is only domestic helpers who have finished a contract or who have been released due to employer relocation that can start without being required to return to their home country.  This process usually takes 3 to 4 weeks between the consulate and immigration and it is considered illegal to have your helper start working before her visa is actually processed.

You will be required to use an agency for domestic helpers from the Philippines  if they have broken their contract or if they are coming directly from the Philippines, and an agency is a requirement for all helpers from Indonesia regardless of their employment situation. This process usually takes 8 to 10 weeks.

The details

The current minimum wage for domestic helpers is HK$4,210 per month, plus food, however expect to pay more for an experienced helper.  It is normal for domestic helpers to make her own meals from the family shopping however it is possible to pay an extra food allowance of HK$995 per month and the helper will then be expected to provide all her own food.

It is generally illegal to hire a part time domestic helper although many do pay for someone to help with a bit of cleaning or childcare here and there.  This should not be a permanent arrangement.

An alternative to word of mouth is advertisements from helpers and agencies on a variety of websites.  Using an agency can save time and effort on the paperwork, but is not necessary if you apply directly in person at third floor of Immigration Tower, Wan Chai.

If you intend to hire directly here are the steps to understand the process.

  1. Contracts can only be for a maximum period of two years
  2. Employee’s minimum wage is HK$4,210 set by the Hong Kong government
  3. Food allowance if food is not provided is HK$995
  4. Employer is responsible for the helper’s medical expenses or paying for the return of the helper’s body in case of death
  5. Look at insurance coverage for medical and death in service costs specifically related to domestic helpers
  6. Employer must provide living accommodation
  7. Employer must arrange a return flight and provide travelling allowance (HK$100 per day per contract) for employee to return home during the two year employment
  8. Employee has the right to have all labour holidays and the freedom to believe in any religions
  9. Employer’s requirements to hire a foreign domestic helpers are an annual income of more than HK$186,000, or monthly income of more than HK$15,500 for the last 6 consecutive months or saving account in the last consecutive months has a term deposit balance of more than HK$200,000
  10. Employee’s work duties are restricted in the employer’s home only

For full information about the hiring procedure, click here Guide to hiring a domestic helper


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