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Contract ends with employer’s death, DH learns

16 February 2017

By Vir B. Lumicao

For her ignorance of the law, Aurora Ramirez almost found herself in jail for overstaying her visa.

Ramirez, a 44-year-old mother from Isabela, told her story to The SUN on Jan. 23, while camped overnight along with about 100 others, on the pedestrian bridge just outside the Immigration tower in Wanchai to process her new work contract.

Aurora Ramirez says
she did not know that
when her employer died
on Dec 18, her work contract
also lapsed automatically.

She said she did not realize that when her elderly employer died on Dec. 18 last year, her employment was effectively terminated, and she had to immediately report to Immigration to get permission to process a new contract.

Otherwise, she could remain in Hong Kong for only 14 days.

Not realizing this, she agreed to the offer of her employer’s two grown-up children to extend her contract for a few more days.

The children said they would give Alvarez a one-month release letter on Dec 30 so that Ramirez would be leaving the house on Jan 30.

“No, you have to give me my release letter on Dec 29 because my visa is valid only until that date, and I’ll be leaving the house on Jan 27 because the 28th and 29th are holidays,” she insisted, and the employer’s children agreed.

It was when Ramirez went to the Immigration on Jan 19 to report the change in her circumstances that she got the shock of her life: “You’re now overstaying,” the officer at the window said after looking at her employer’s death certificate and examining the visa on her passport.
“How come? My release date is Jan 29, why should I be overstaying?” she retorted.
The officer referred her to another staff, who started grilling her.

“Doon na ako niluto, kasi daw ang kontrata ko is between me and Lam Tak-fan, the mother. Automatic daw na kinabukasan ay magsisimula na ang count ng 14 days (visa extension) ko dahil namatay siya,” Ramirez said.

The officer told her that whether the children reported the death immediately or not, the countdown had started. When Ramirez said she was still living in the deceased employer’s flat, she was told not to perform any work there because it was illegal.

“Do you know that since the day your employer died, you should no longer be working in that flat, not even washing the dishes? On the day your employer died, the children should have given you a plane ticket back to your country and paid your last salary and other obligations,” the officer said.
She shook her head, and the officer was astonished: “You’ve been here 18 years and you don’t know that?”

“No, because it’s only now that my employer died,” Ramirez replied. She said Lam was her fourth employer, who she had served for just six months. She said she worked previously four years each for her first two employers, then spent 8 years and six months with the third before moving into Lam’s household.

Ramirez said she argued that she was not aware of the law because it wasn’t written on the contract that the contract was co-terminus with the employer.

The officer reportedly said she was impressed by her honesty and reasoning, and asked her to write a letter addressed to the employer’s children stating that, henceforth, she was a visitor in the house who should not be performing any chores.

The officer also asked her to apply for a visa extension and she was granted just two days, enough to process the contract with her new employer.

As of this writing, Ramirez was spending time with her nine-year-old daughter in Cauayan City while waiting for her new working visa before returning to Hong Kong.

She said she would be working next for an employer in Mawan who had offered to hire her even before she decided to work for her late boss.

A reply to Question 33 of the “Question and Answer” section of the Immigration website states that “The contract with the deceased employer is no longer valid on the date of his/her death. The FDH is required to give the Director of Immigration notice in writing within seven days of the date of termination and to leave Hong Kong in two weeks. If the FDH would like to work for the employer’s spouse or family members, he/she has to submit an application for change of employment sponsored by the spouse or a family member within two weeks from the date of such termination. The Immigration Department will process these applications expeditiously.”

In passing, Ramirez said her only regret was that no one at the labor office of the Consulate told her about this provision when she went there to seek help in computing the money due her from her deceased employer.

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