More than eighty per cent of Hong Kong employers believe they have the right to sack a domestic worker if she becomes pregnant, according to a survey by an NGO.

domestic worker helper
File photo: Robert Godden.

The survey conducted by Pathfinders, an organisation that supports pregnant domestic workers, showed that employers generally knew little about domestic workers’ maternity rights and protections. In Hong Kong, it is against labour regulations to terminate a domestic worker’s contract due to pregnancy.

Pathfinders surveyed over 100 people – who were employers of domestic workers – on the streets in 2020. Forty per cent had employed one domestic worker, around 36 per cent employed two at the same time, and 19 per cent employed three.

Forty-nine per cent were unaware that domestic workers are eligible for leave if they fall pregnant.

Apart from the 84 per cent who said they thought they could sack a pregnant worker, over 90 per cent of respondents believed domestic workers “are not allowed to become pregnant in Hong Kong because they are here to work,” and 56 per cent believed they are “not allowed to give birth in Hong Kong.”

covid covid-19 social distancing domestic workers helpers
Photo: GovHK.

A majority of employers also did not know that they must provide a home for their pregnant domestic worker, and continue to do so following delivery of the baby.

Survey results ‘unsettling’

Hong Kong has around 340,000 domestic workers, mostly women from the Philippines and Indonesia. They are legally required to live in their employers’ homes and their work includes household chores and taking care of children and elderly.

A 2019 study by consumer credit report company Experian and local NGO Enrich found that domestic workers’ contributions – which free up parents’ time so they can join the workforce – make up 3.6 per cent of the city’s GDP.

Domestic Workers under Covid-19
Indonesian domestic workers during their day-off in Victoria Park. Photo: Candice Chau/HKFP.

Carmen Lam, the deputy CEO of Pathfinders, said the survey results were “unsettling,” but also “reaffirmed [Pathfinders’] ongoing effort to raise awareness of Migrant Domestic Worker maternity protections.”

“From what we see, despite legal protections, unlawful dismissal of MDWs is still perpetuated in our society. We must do everything we can to break this cycle so that no child’s future is compromised.”

The study also found that 66 per cent of employers felt non-profit groups supported domestic workers more than they did employers, and 27 per cent felt Hong Kong lacked laws and regulations to “protect employers especially in the case of emergencies such as pregnancy.”

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Hillary Leung

Hillary has an interest in social issues and politics. Previously, she reported on Asia broadly - including on Hong Kong's 2019 protests - for TIME Magazine and covered local news at Coconuts Hong Kong.