The High Court has quashed a legal challenge against the mandatory live-in requirement for foreign domestic helpers.
The court rejected the argument that the arrangement increases the risk of violations of maids' fundamental rights.
It added that there is nothing discriminatory about the arrangement because the requirement is in-line with the purpose of hiring foreign domestic workers, which is to provide live-in domestic service.
Judge Anderson Chow said if any domestic helpers feel that the live-in requirement breaches their rights, they can choose not to come to Hong Kong to work, while those already in employment in the territory are free to terminate their contracts.
Nancy Lubiano, a domestic helper from the Philippines, had earlier argued that the SAR government was acting outside the law in requiring all foreign domestic helpers to reside and sleep in their place of work and employment.
She said the rule was unconstitutional as it heightened the risk of breaching the fundamental rights of helpers.
Her lawyer had also argued that the Director of Immigration does not have the power to restrict where foreign domestic helpers can live, and has accomplished this by using what he called a legal ‘back door’.
Human rights organisations had also called for a relaxation of the rule as they said it paves the way for abuse and exploitation.
A spokeswoman for the Mission for Migrant Workers, Edwina Antonio, said the ruling was “a total disregard of the indignity and hardship” faced by many foreign domestic helpers.
She also rejected the judge's comment that maids could just leave the city if they don't like the live-in rule.
“Of course, the foreign domestic helpers have options, but it’s not about that. It’s about the policy that makes foreign domestic helpers vulnerable to abuse and exploitation," she said.