An eight-week public consultation will be launched next Tuesday on further regulating “job-hopping” among migrant domestic workers, where workers terminate their contracts early to find another employer.

According to the Labour Department’s proposal, employment agencies would be required to “clearly explain” to domestic workers that applications to change employer before the completion of the standard two-year contract will “normally not be approved,” apart from in “exceptional circumstances.”

Foreign domestic workers in Central on January 22, 2023. Photo: Candice Chau/HKFP.
Foreign domestic workers in Central on January 22, 2023. Photo: Candice Chau/HKFP.

Exceptional circumstances, according to the department, include “the transfer, migration, death or financial reasons of the original employer,” or where “there is evidence that the [foreign domestic worker] has been abused or exploited.”

The government also proposes that agencies “should not adopt business practices such as providing monetary incentives to FDHs [foreign domestic workers] in employment to induce them to terminate their contract prematurely.”

Under the existing policy, migrant domestic workers must leave Hong Kong within 14 days of completion or termination of their contract. The Immigration Department told HKFP last year that the “two-week rule” was “necessary for maintaining effective immigration control and helps prevent FDHs from job-hopping frequently and working illegally in Hong Kong after premature contract termination.”

Migrant domestic workers’ rights advocates have long fought against the policy, however, saying that it “promotes modern day slavery.”

Labour Department
Labour Department. File photo: Candice Chau/HKFP.

According to the Immigration Department, 1,760 visa applications from migrant domestic workers were rejected in 2022 on grounds of suspected job hopping. There are around 340,000 domestic workers in Hong Kong.

It is not just the two-week rule that has long been criticised by concern groups and workers’ organisations.

By law, migrant domestic workers must live with their employers during the course of their contracts. Additionally, domestic workers are given no path to residency and are excluded from the city’s welfare policies.

Excluded from Hong Kong’s minimum wage scheme, migrant domestic workers have a minimum monthly salary of HK$4,730, which was increased by HK$100 last year after being frozen for several years.

Ahead of the International Women’s Day earlier this month, several rights group urged the government to review its policy.

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Candice is a reporter at Hong Kong Free Press. She previously worked as a researcher at a local think tank. She has a BSocSc in Politics and International Relations from the University of Manchester and a MSc in International Political Economy from London School of Economics.