Filipina domestic worker Baby Jane Allas, who was fired by her employer in Hong Kong after being diagnosed with cancer, has died aged 40, the Hong Kong Migrant Workers Cancer Prevention Programme announced Tuesday.
She is survived by her five children in the Philippines.
Allas was abruptly dismissed in February 2019 while on sick leave for stage three cervical cancer. Her termination letter said the reason for her dismissal was her illness and related sick leave.
Her story sparked a public outcry and shed a light on the exploitation of tens of thousands of domestic workers in Hong Kong, who can be fired after being diagnosed with an illness. They are left with little support to navigate their case, and often with no access to health care.
Allas was a single mother who came to work in Hong Kong in 2017 to support her family in the Philippines. After her termination, she was no longer eligible for free treatment from the Hospital Authority.
A crowdfunding campaign was initiated by American Jessica Cutrera – who employed Allas’s sister, and housed Allas after her dismissal – to cover her medical expenses.
The campaign raised more than HK$850,000, surpassing its original target by more than half the amount. Allas began treatment for the aggressive adenocarcinoma in March 2019, telling HKFP a month later that her tumour had since shrunk.
“We are all devastated by this, especially given her successful battle with cancer,” Cutrera told HKFP on Wednesday. “She lived with us for nearly a year during her fight and treatment and we are heartbroken by the news. Her children are our primary concern now as the father is not involved.”
Cutrera added that Allas was the family’s sole breadwinner and recently started her own business in the Philippines to provide for her family until she was able to return to Hong Kong to work.
“We are now focusing on figuring out what is needed for the surviving children,” said Cutrera. “ We had funds left over that we were saving for future care needs, and have been able to use those to pay for her funeral and cover the family for the next few months. We are trying to make a plan from there next.”
Allas has an active case with the Equal Opportunities Commission against her former employer: “Her case has been significantly complicated by her former employer evading service of legal documents and Covid-related delays,” said Cutrera. ““We hope to pursue that case on behalf of her estate and to continue to raise the profile of domestic workers like Baby Jane who face discrimination and have difficulty accessing justice under Hong Kong laws.”
Allas was awarded HK$30,000 in compensation from her former employer at a Labour Tribunal hearing in April 2019. She had originally sought HK$84,061.29 in her claim, which covered wrongful dismissal, failure to pay wages, failure to provide statutory rest days, failure to pay sickness allowance, failure to pay medical expenses, failure to grant annual leave, failure to provide return passage to her home country, and failure to pay food and travel allowance for returning to her home country.
The Migrant Workers Cancer Prevention Programme has appealed to foreign domestic workers (FDW) to enrol in cancer screening services in Hong Kong.
“In Baby Jane’s memory and for all the FDWs out there facing similar circumstances, please “like” this page, consider supporting and take up any preventative and cancer screening services available to you,” the post said.