Full time domestic help is a luxury few can afford in the West. One of the great advantages of living in Hong Kong is that you can hire live-in domestic help relatively cheaply, providing you with a great deal more time to pursue activities that interest you.
Domestic helper duties normally include housework, cooking, caring for the children and pets, and keeping the household in smooth running order.
The minimum wage for a full-time domestic is HK$3,270 (US$409) a month. This minimum wage was reduced by HK$400 (US$50) on April 1st 2003 as part of a government initiative to help boost the economy and encourage the employment of local people instead. Most western employers tend to pay over the minimum wage, particularly if the maid is more experienced.
As of October 2003, a new tax may also be levied on every contract for foreign domestic helpers. The tax levied is likely to be about HK$400 (US$50) per month for the duration of the contract. This money will be required either upon the signing of the contact or in quarterly installments.
Besides basic salary, an employer is responsible for:
Though Chinese 'amahs' were once abundant, it is very difficult to find a Chinese maid these days. Only holders of Hong Kong permanent residency ID cards are allowed to work part-time. The rate for part-time work is HK$50-HK$60 (US$7-8) per hour.
- The air fare from her country of origin.
- All costs related to the domestic's visa application.
- Accommodation of a reasonable standard.
- One day off a week, as well as the public holidays.
- Seven days paid leave after one year of service.
- A food allowance of HK$500 (US$63) per month.
- The domestic's medical and dental expenses.
- Sick leave pay, and the maid's repatriation to her home country if she is certified unfit to work.
- Any expenses incurred due to accident or death whilst in your employ.
- 'Long service pay': paid upon contract termination, if the domestic has worked for you for 5 years or more.
The prospect of having a stranger move into your household can be a little daunting, but the help the domestic will be to you and your family will far outweigh the inconvenience.
The maid's quarters are normally connected with the kitchen and this area, in effect, becomes her domain. A maid knows her place and will very much keep herself in the background. She typically prefers that a strict employer/employee relationship be maintained, as life is simpler this way. Maids do become part of the family and are loved as such, especially by the children.
Hiring a Domestic
The most successful method for finding a good maid is invariably by word of mouth. Put the word out amongst acquaintances and friends that you are looking for a domestic. Personal references are important. Supermarket and club notice boards are also a good way of finding a maid. Note that the Immigration Department does not grant visas to domestics who do not have satisfactory release papers from their previous employers, or to those who have broken their contract less than one year into it. and colleagues - personal references are important. Supermarket and club notice boards are also a good way of finding a maid. Note that the Immigration Department does not grant visas to domestics who do not have satisfactory release papers from their previous employers, or to those who have broken their contracts less than one year into it.
It is normally the case that, prior to starting a new contract, the domestic must first return to her country of origin and wait for her work permit to be re-issued. This can take up to six weeks. There are agencies specializing in the employment of domestic helpers. These agencies will check that the domestic is legal, that she has the proper release papers and her references are valid. A trial period is often part of the deal. Agencies usually charge the equivalent of a domestic's one month salary or HK$3,270 (US$409). As stated above, from October onwards there may also be a government tax of HK$400 (US$50) per month (HK$9,600 (US$1,200) over two years) charged for each contract. This will need to be paid up front or in quarterly instalments (HK$2,400 (US$300) per installment).
For details and information on the employment of foreign domestic helpers, visit the Labour Relations Promotion Unit website.
Interviewing a Domestic Helper
Before you start interviewing prospective maids, ask around and speak to other expat spouses who are experienced with the process of finding and hiring a domestic. Otherwise, jot down how you think your household should be managed, what duties you would like her to take up and what she will be responsible for.
When in the process, establish:
Notice how she responds to your questioning; body language and eye contact can tell you a lot about people. Trust your own gut feeling and intuition. If you think the prospective is someone you could hire, introduce them to her and notice how she interacts with them and how they respond. If there is rapport, the decision will be easier.
- That she has a valid work visa, an HK ID card, and satisfactory release papers.
- She can provide references.
- Why she is leaving her current employment.
- Whether she has experience with children and pets.
- Whether she can cook and what type of food.
- Whether she has any health problems.
- Whether she is willing to work overtime.
- What she is expecting to be paid.
If the maid does not know how to cook, the YWCA and Town Gas offer courses in cooking. You may request that a uniform be worn. These may be purchased in Worldwide House on Des Voeux Road in Central.
Your prospective employee should undergo a health examination before you sign a contract.
Once you have made the decision to hire a domestic, you and your maid are required to complete a standard Immigration Department form, which is available free of charge from the Immigration Department. After completing this form, you must submit it for approval with certain documents, such as:
The prospective domestic will normally pick up and submit all necessary documents herself. The Immigration Department may well call you up to verify the information. It is illegal for full-time maids to live outside your household.
- 4 copies of the completed employment contract.
- The domestic's HK ID card.
- The domestic's Passport.
- The original and a photocopy of the previous employment contract with satisfactory release papers.
- Proof of employer's residency, with a photocopy of the employer's passport.
- A letter from the employer's company ensuring that the employer does not earn less than HK$150,000 (US$18,750) a year, or a recent income tax return.
Employment contracts are usually set for two years, but may be broken by either side with one month's notice. Terminating the contract requires a formal notice of termination that clearly states the names of both parties involved, the address of the employer, the date of termination, and the contract number. One month's salary should be paid and the employer should provide a return ticket back to the country of origin, regardless of who ends contract.
Domestic Helpers and Children
The Matilda Hospital offers child care courses for domestic helpers, and is designed to give peace of mind to parents when leaving their children in the helper's care. The course is suitable for domestic helpers who are involved in the care of children between 0-3 years of age. A full, infant and child CPR course is inclusive. The course is held on Saturdays. Visit the Matilda Hospital website more information or call on 2849 1500 / 2849 1515.
Last Updated: 2 April, 2004