What do I need to know about domestic helpers here in Hong Kong?
There are over 340,000 migrant women working in Hong Kong as domestic workers. They have often left family and young children behind to work abroad in order to feed, clothe, educate and house their immediate and extended family. Earning a minimum of just HK$4,310 per month migrant women face enormous pressure to send most (if not all) of their money home. On top of this, most domestic workers come to Hong Kong with huge debts because of illegal employment agency fees (average of HK$10-20,000). Sadly, most are not prepared with skills to balancing a budget, and upon arrival in Hong Kong receive very little support to help them save or plan for their future. This often leads to situations in which women work in Hong Kong for decades in a cycle of debt, with little or nothing to show for their time here.
How much should I pay my helper and what are her basic entitlements?
The minimum allowable wage for domestic workers is HK$4,310 per month.Domestic workers are also entitled to a food allowance amounting to HK$1,037 per month if the employer does not provide food. It is illegal to underpay your domestic worker or to deduct from her salary, even if this is for a mutually agreed loan repayment (see question 4). By law, domestic workers are also entitled to one day off per week, and paid holidays of seven days per year of service. They are protected by the Hong Kong Labour Ordinance like any other worker or labourer here in Hong Kong.
What can I do to prevent my domestic worker from getting into debt?
Prevention is much easier than cure. Encourage your domestic worker to learn how to stay in control of her finances by sponsoring her to attend our Financial and Empowerment Education Programme. You can also help her keep track of her income by giving monthly pay slips and paying her salary into a bank account rather than in cash. If needed, assist your domestic worker to open a bank account. Transfer her salary on the last day of the month and don’t delay payments. It is important to understand that some level of debt is to be expected, particularly if your domestic worker is new to Hong Kong and will likely still be repaying her employment agency fees.
預防勝於治療。你可以透過資助你的外傭參加我們的Financial and Empowerment Education Programme（理財及賦權教育課程），鼓勵她學習如何控制個人財務。你亦可以透過向外傭提供糧單及將工資存入其銀行戶口（代替以現金方式直接支付），協助她紀錄及管理收入。如有需要，請協助你的外傭開立銀行戶口；並準時在每月的最後一日將薪金存入她的戶口中。值得一提，外傭擁有某程度的債項是無可避免的，尤其若她是剛剛來到香港，她有機會需要償還其外傭服務中介公司的款項。若情況許可，建議僱用一個已在香港的外傭，並避免選用外傭服務中介公司；另一選擇是透過一間有信譽、具操守、不向外傭收取款項的中介公司聘請傭工，例如公平僱傭中心 /Maid for You/Helper Choice。
What can I do if my domestic worker is in debt?
If you suspect your domestic worker is facing financial hardship, sit down with her to discuss the situation and possible solutions in a calm and non-intimidating manner. If your domestic worker has taken out a loan, you may be willing to consider taking over the loan so that the helper pays you back. This can save her, and you, from getting harassed by loan agencies and from paying exorbitant interest rates. If you are willing to lend your domestic worker money, it is important that you set up a written agreement covering the amount, how she will repay this and for how long. It is illegal to take money from your domestic worker’s salary for loan repayment or otherwise, and this must be covered in a separate transaction. As part of the repayment agreement, you can recommend that your domestic worker attends a Financial Education workshop at Enrich. Our Money Wise Migrants course is an introductory personal finance workshop, tailor-made for migrant domestic workers. This workshop helps participants strengthen their money management skills, learn how to get out of debt, how to track expenses, and develop a budget. If you feel your domestic worker needs more support, Enrich offers a confidential one-to-one Financial Counselling service where we will help calculate how much is owed and develop a realistic repayment plan.
若你懷疑你的外傭面對財務困難，你可以冷靜及平和地跟她安坐詳談她的情況及提供解決方法。如果你的外傭負有債務，你可考慮接管其貸款，讓她直接向你償還債務。這可以為你及你的外傭避免遭受收數公司的追款恐嚇，以及避免需要支付高昂的貸款利息。如果你願意借貸予你的外傭，你必須跟她訂立一份書面協議，詳細列明貸款金額、還款方式及還款期。在外傭的薪金扣減金錢以作還款或其他用途均屬違法的行為，你跟外傭的還款事宜須在另一交易處理。另外，你亦可在還款協議中，建議你的外傭參加由Enrich舉辦的理財教育工作坊。我們的Money Wise Migrants（精明理財）課程是一個為外傭度身訂做的個人理財工作坊，旨在協助參加者提升她們的金錢管理能力，學習如何清還債項，紀錄開支和建立財務預算。如果你認為你的外傭需要進一步的協助，Enrich亦提供內容保密的一對一財務諮詢服務，助其計算她的負債和建立一個可行的還款計畫。
I am being harassed by debt collection companies for a debt my helper took out, what can I do?
If a debt collection agency is harassing you or your domestic worker, encourage her to address the issue in a constructive way as soon as possible. You may consider refinancing part of her debt, especially to avoid her paying high interest. If you are willing to lend your domestic worker money to pay off the loan, see advice on Question 4. If you feel your domestic worker needs more support, Enrich offers a confidential one-to-one Financial Counselling service were we will help calculate how much is owed and develop a realistic repayment plan. The Investor Education Centre provides this guidance to anyone being harassed by debt-collection companies: “Debt collection companies must not attempt to recover debts from anyone other than the debtor or guarantor; nor can they apply tactics intended to humiliate or harass the debtor, family members or any other person to recover debts. DCAs [debt-collection agents] are also forbidden from resorting to violence or any form of physical intimidation If you’re contacted by a DCA, ask them to confirm the amount of the debt and whom you owe it to. If the details don’t sound right, tell the collector that you need to verify the information and then contact your lender. If you find the tactics used by the DCA not in line with requirements as specified in the Code of Banking Practice for example, you can make a complaint to the authorised institution. If you are not satisfied with the manner in which the authorised institution handles your complaint, you may seek help from the Complaints Processing Centre from the Hong Kong Monetary Authority. If you have a complaint about a Licensed Money Lender, you may contact the Licensed Money Lenders Association.”
I am very much concerned about my helper’s financial well-being, but how can I encourage her to manage her money properly?
There are several ways in which you can encourage your domestic worker to manage her own money. Firstly, sponsor your helper to attend our Financial and Empowerment Education. The series of practical workshops will help your domestic worker budget, save and plan for her future. There are also simple things you can do at home. For example, ask you domestic worker to manage your grocery money. Managing your grocery money is a way of allowing her to learn about money management without encroaching on her private life. You can also encourage your helper to think long-term, not just about the next phone call to her family or next Sunday, but several years in advance. Ask what her goals are for the future, and how she plans to achieve them. Ensure your domestic worker has a bank account. Some banks in Hong Kong are not very welcoming to domestic workers so you may need to accompany her to the bank to open an account. Always pay her salary by bank transfer if possible. You can also encourage your domestic worker to open a second bank account and have an automatic transfer from her main bank account (where her salary is transferred to) to this second one for savings.
你有幾個方法可以鼓勵你的外傭妥善管理她的財務。首先，你可以資助你的外傭參加我們的Financial and Empowerment Education Programme（理財及賦權教育課程）。這一連串實用的工作坊能有效地協助你的外傭做好財務預算，為未來好好儲蓄及規劃。另外，你亦能在家中提供簡單協助。例如讓你的外傭管理你買餸的金錢，她可以透過這練習學懂金錢管理，同時又不會影響她的個人財務。你亦可以引導你的外傭作出較長遠的計畫－不單是她跟家人的下一個電話通話或下一個星期日的事宜，而是為數年後作出考慮和思量。你可以問問她未來的目標，以及有什麼計畫去達成這些目標。另外，請確保你的外傭擁有一個銀行戶口。香港未必所有銀行都會友善對待外傭，因此建議你可以陪同她一起到銀行開立銀行戶口。我們亦建議僱主透過銀行轉賬將薪金存入外傭的戶口。你亦可以建議你的外傭開立另一個銀行戶口，並建立自動轉賬，將金錢由支薪戶口轉賬至另一戶口作儲蓄之用。
My helper has asked for a loan/salary advance. How should I respond?
It is ultimately up to you to decide if you are willing to loan your domestic worker money. If you are willing to lend your domestic worker money, it is important that you set up a written agreement covering the amount, how she will repay this and for how long. It is illegal to take money from your domestic worker’s salary for loan repayment or otherwise, and this must be covered in a separate transaction. If your domestic worker asks to borrow money, this may be a sign that she would benefit from more support with her finances. Consider sponsoring her to attend Enrich’s Financial and Empowerment Education Programme. During this programme she will learn about debt management, goal setting and budgeting. Meanwhile, encourage your helper to improve how she manages money. Explain the importance of tracking income and expenses, how to make a budget, give smart shopping tips, and encourage her to save. Remember, as an employer, you are not her financial advisor. Even if you are willing to help her, make sure she also gets access to professional help from Enrich.
是否向外傭借出金錢是你的個人決定。若你願意借貸予你的外傭，你必須跟她訂立一份書面協議，詳細列明貸款金額、還款方式及還款期。在外傭的薪金扣減金錢以作還款或其他用途均屬違法的行為，你跟外傭的還款事宜須在另一交易處理。外傭若提出借貸要求，她們很有機會會受惠於進一步的財務管理協助。你可以考慮資助她參加Enrich的Financial and Empowerment Education Programme（理財及賦權教育課程），讓她學會管理債務、建立財務目標及做好財務預算。同時，多鼓勵你的外傭改良她管理金錢的方式，向她講解紀錄收入和開支的重要性、如何做好財務預算、提供精明的購物小貼士以及鼓勵儲蓄。謹記，身為一名僱主，你並不是她的財務顧問；即使你願意為她提供財務上的協助，請確保她能夠透過Enrich獲取專業的理財知識。
How can I stop receiving loan company letters addressed to our former helper?
1. Send proof to the loan company that the worker no longer works at that address. The “proof” they need to see is a letter of termination (government template here) or, better yet, the notice from immigration saying that they have received notification of the termination. This looks more official to the loan company.
2. The employer should also make sure that they record having sent that notification to the loan company, so it is recommended to either send the loan company that notification via email or have the letter delivered via registered post.