'Domestic helpers left vulnerable by unclear policy' - RTHK
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'Domestic helpers left vulnerable by unclear policy'

2020-03-22 HKT 17:26
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  • 'Domestic helpers left vulnerable by unclear policy'
Richard Pyne reports
A foreign domestic helpers’ union on Sunday urged the government to lay out clear protections for migrant workers against the coronavirus pandemic.

The Hong Kong Federation of Asian Domestic Workers Union complained that workers have seemingly been ignored, and pressing questions remain unanswered – such as what protections are in place for employees of people placed under a mandatory 14-day quarantine after returning to Hong Kong from overseas.

“The problem is how we can protect ourselves as migrant domestic helpers inside the house?” asked union secretary Shiella Estrada.

She pointed out that domestic helpers often have to take care of children and babies, and live in close proximity to their employers.

Estrada said it’s in the mutual interest of both sides to have clear hygiene guidelines, and protections for staff.

“The government [should] have equal protection for the employer and the employee, because we are living together, we need to be protecting each other”, she said.

Estrada added that the controversial mandatory live-in policy – which requires all domestic helpers to live at the home of their employer – makes it legally questionable whether domestic helpers can stay elsewhere during the quarantine period – even if their employers approve.

“We have been calling the government to abolish this because this makes us more vulnerable not only for like this kind of situation, but also on sex harassment and other physical injuries”, Estrada said.

The union also highlighted possible issues with new hires who are required to undergo quarantine after coming to Hong Kong.

The Labour Department has only said employers and employment agencies can arrange for them to undergo quarantine outside the home, without specifying who will be responsible for their living costs and food during that period.

The union says if migrant domestic workers are needed so badly, then their contribution needs to be recognised and their health protected, and at the moment there are too many grey areas.