VIII. Foreign domestic helpers can only perform domestic duties

Clause 4 of the standard Employment Contract provides that a foreign domestic helper “shall only perform domestic duties” for the employer. This Clause 4 also forms part of the conditions of stay to be imposed on the foreign domestic helper by the Immigration Department upon the foreign domestic helper’s admission to work in Hong Kong. Any breach of this condition of stay will render the foreign domestic helper liable to criminal prosecution and removal from Hong Kong. The employer, who aids and abets the foreign domestic helper to breach a condition of stay, is also liable to prosecution and upon conviction, the maximum penalty is a fine up to HK$50,000 and imprisonment for two years.

But what exactly is “domestic duties”? Clause 3 of the standard Employment Contract states that a foreign domestic helper “shall work and reside in the Employer’s residence” . Does it mean that the helper cannot do any work outside the residence, meaning that the helper cannot go to supermarket to buy food, nor go to the garage to wash the car, nor to bring garbage to the collection station? That obviously is stretching the interpretation too far. According to the Schedule of Accommodation and Domestic Duties as attached to the Standard Employment Contract, domestic duties include:

  1. household chores;
  2. cooking;
  3. looking after aged persons in the household;
  4. baby-sitting; and
  5. child-minding.

While this may not be very helpful, it is probably unrealistic to list all domestic duties in details on the Schedule of Accommodation and Domestic Duties since domestic duties can be sundry in types. Whether a duty required to be performed is considered to be domestic in nature must depend on the facts of each case. In any event, some duties to be performed outside an employer’s residence will be considered incidental to household chores, e.g. car-washing, buying groceries and bringing the employer’s children to school. However, to address the genuine needs of some employers, a special arrangement is made to allow foreign domestic helpers to perform driving duties which are incidental to and arising from domestic duties. Application may be made to the Director of Immigration for such special permission.

An employer should also note that a foreign domestic helper shall only be required to work in the employer’s residence at an address specified in Clause 3 of the Standard Employment Contract. In other words, if an employer owns several flats, he/she can ask the foreign domestic helper to work at only one household at one location.