Finding a quality helper in Hong Kong is like finding any good employee. It takes a fair amount of effort. From the get go you need to decide if you need a full-time domestic helper or if you might be better served hiring someone to assist you on a part-time basis.
If you are an expat looking for a full-time domestic helper in Hong Kong, you should read through this guide to understand what you can expect in terms of challenges, adjustments, solutions, and costs. While it can take a load off, hiring a helper takes some adjustments before you really get settled on the idea.
Hong Kong expats who hire domestic helpers can find fruitful outcomes in both their work and personal lives. But first, it would help to know a brief background of where most of these women come from and what their exact job descriptions are before they get employed. Hong Kong’s more than 300,000 foreign domestic helpers are usually of Filipino or Indonesian descent, most of whom are working for higher pay which they can send to their families back home. Their common contributions in the home include cleaning, shopping for household needs, childcare which may consist of taking your child to and from school daily or babysitting, preparing meals, and taking care of your laundry among others. The law dictates that domestic helpers are to live with you so make sure you provide proper quarters for them inside your home.
In terms of pay, domestic workers are paid at least the minimum statutory wage of $34.50 an hour, though most can charge you to up to $110. On average, expats pay their domestic helpers at least $5,000 per month if she has more experience or has been employed in the household for years. Should you resort to hiring a part-time helper, the going rate per hour will be from $65 to $120. Some domestic helpers also get bonuses during the holidays in addition to being provided with proper accommodation in the home. You are also obligated to provide your helper with a food allowance of at least $1053 a month, medical insurance, and absorb the costs incurred for their entitlement to a home leave every two years of service.
While there is a big chance for you to treat your domestic helpers as part of your family, remember that they too have families waiting for them in their home countries. Giving them the respect they deserve is essential in building a good working relationship. In turn they also develop respect for you and your family as well. Some unfair employers have been reported to overwork their helpers by subjecting them to gruelling 15-hour workdays or even longer. Make sure you give them their rest and day-off. Some domestic helpers can be very good in helping with your children’s development as they may have younger siblings or children back home. Providing them with proper care will give you many great returns in terms of loyalty, service, and respect.
Speaking of rest days, domestic helpers are given at least one day every week to enjoy a well-deserved day-off. If you happen to need your helper’s services on a particular day that falls on her scheduled day-off, make sure you provide a make-up rest day on another day of the week. Monetizing rest days is frowned upon in Hong Kong to ensure proper work-life balance for domestic helpers. Your domestic helper should also have 12 statutory holidays and annual leave. Helpers are also entitled to some of the general public holidays in Hong Kong.
When looking for a helper, you may want to visit your nearest employment agencies but be careful of those that overcharge their employees or practice unethical methods. Another good way to find a domestic helper is through online sites such as AsiaXPAT. AsiaXPAT has compiled some useful tips for hiring a domestic helper.
If you are hiring a live-in domestic helper for the first time and feel a bit awkward in letting her share your home, it would be best that you bridge the gap by finding out more about your helper’s country of origin and to talk to them about yours to avoid cultural differences. For Filipino domestic helpers, know that most of them are predominantly Catholic and have a good grasp of the English language. On the other hand, many Indonesian domestic helpers can understand Cantonese and practice the Muslim faith. This may require you to give them the liberty of wearing headscarves and allow them to refrain from eating pork. While it may require some adjustments on your part, no cultural difference is too big if you discuss it with your helper.
When hiring a helper, you should also take note of certain costs and proper scheduling as some paperwork concerning her employment history or visa status may take a while. To know more about various helper terms, here are some worth remembering:
Finished contract – this means that your hire has already finished her two-year contract and can start her employment as soon as she renews her visa. When hiring through an agency, costs may range from $1,800 to $3,000 and will take from a month to six weeks. On the other hand, without an agency, costs may be as less as $800 and will take no longer than a month.
Terminated - As an employer, you have the right to terminate your contract with your helper prior to finishing her two-year contract if the reason is considered valid by immigration such as relocation, financial incapacity, or the helper has broken the contract by quitting work. In these instances, the helper will be deported unless she lands another contract with another employer. The estimated fees and timeframe for hiring a terminated helper can come to $3,500 to $9,000 and from two to three months.
First timer or overseas hire – For overseas domestic helpers who will be hired in Hong Kong for the first time, costs may range from $4,000 to $10,000 and can take to up to 4 months.
How to manage a helper. Hone your managing skills by properly orienting your domestic helper with her daily tasks. Practice patience as employers’ needs vary and you can’t expect your helper to know how to run your household instantly. Listen to her concerns if there are any and address any problems via discussions. Some may have a feeling of being homesick so be considerate enough to give your helper time to adjust. Make your house rules clear and schedule tasks clearly. It is important to provide your helper (as you would any employee) regular assessments of her performance so she’ll know which areas she can improve on.
Also, it is important to keep in mind that helpers with more experience, strong skill sets, and greater competency will expect (and are able to command) salaries, that are significantly higher than the minimum stipulated by the Hong Kong government. So if you prefer a highly qualified helper who requires minimal training, be prepared to pay a premium.