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On free passage, food and traveling allowance

21 August 2017

By Cynthia Tellez

Free passage

It is clear in the standard employment contract (SEC) that your employer must provide YOU (worker) a free passage from your place of origin to Hong Kong and another free passage to your place of origin once your contract is prematurely terminated or is completed (finished contract).  Free passage is specified under the SEC’s Clause-7(a).

An airfare or an air ticket is the most common and fastest way for you to return to your place of origin. Employers provide an economy air ticket or equivalent cash.

The airfare or the air ticket must be based on your place of origin, which is written on the SEC’s Clause-1.

However, there are instances when employers and/or through agencies provide an air ticket with Hong Kong-Manila route only even if your place of origin as stated in the SEC’s Clause-1 is somewhere else. That is also why it is important that you state your exact home address in the said Clause.

Many times, the agency writes in the contract as your place of origin the place where you stayed as transient during your application, which is either in Metro Manila or the city/town center in your province. This makes it easier for them to process and follow-up your documents for deployment to Hong Kong. Doing so will compromise your right to free passage back to your place of origin. Remember, you must ensure that what is written in your SEC’s Clause-1 as your place of origin should be the address where you reside. This is relevant as well to your daily food and traveling allowance under Clause 7 which will be discussed later in this article.

When settling your entitlements upon end/termination of contract, do take note that when your employer has not paid you all that you are entitled to and you have no other recourse than to pursue your claims through the Labour Department or HK courts, it is not advisable to accept an air ticket yet. Because once you accept an air ticket and you still have not received other payments due you, the air ticket can either expire or you may have to pay a rebooking fee that amounts to a few hundred dollars. As your employer has already fulfilled her/his obligation under your SEC’s Clause 7(a) by issuing you an air ticket that you have duly accepted, you can no longer claim a replacement even if other claims are still under dispute.

Daily Food and Traveling Allowance

It is also clearly stated in the contract that your employer must pay you a daily food and traveling allowance amounting to HK$100 per day, from the date of your departure from your place of origin until the date of your arrival in Hong Kong, traveling by the most direct route. The same payment must be paid to you by your employer on your return to your place of origin, whether your contract is prematurely terminated or completed (finished contract). Daily food and traveling allowance is laid down under SEC’s Clause-7(b).

However, there are instances when employers only pay the worker one way, such as at the end of the contract only. If your employer has not paid you the daily food and traveling allowance of HK$100 when you arrived, you are entitled to claim it.  Oftentimes, this is being overlooked.

If your travel from your place of origin to Hong Kong takes more than a day, and your travel back to your place of origin is the same, it is your employer’s obligation to provide you a daily food and traveling allowance calculated by how many days your travel took. Again, you have the right to claim it. This shows the importance of ensuring that your place of origin is correctly written on Clause-1 of your contract, and why your first day of employment is from the time you took the ride going to Hong Kong.

Start of Contract

It is not unusual that upon your arrival in Hong Kong, the agency takes you to the Immigration Department for registration to get a Hong Kong Identity Card, then to a clinic for another medical check up, maybe, and to many other places to comply with the requirements set either by the employer or by the agency itself. Keep copies of whatever documents you should have (like medical certificate) especially those that you signed. A day or so (sometimes several days) after, your employer picks you up to bring you to their house. Many times, they consider it as the first day of work. This is wrong. Your day of arrival is the first day of the contract. That is your first day of work. Fulfilling the requirements of the Hong Kong government is part of the working days. More so if the days are used to do other requirements imposed by the employer or the agency (remember, the agency is an extension of your employer until you finally are in your employer’s house). Those days are not to be reckoned as unpaid days off.

Never forfeit your right to free passage and daily food and traveling allowance upon arrival from your place of origin and upon your departure back to your home. Know when the contract starts. It is best to read through the clauses in your contract and to understand them. Ask when in doubt. Do not presume. Keep a diary so you will not forget important events and circumstances. Should you have any queries or concerns on the above matters, it is best to consult service providers for migrants such as the Mission For Migrant Workers (tel.no. 2522 8264) or the Labour Department branch near your place of work.

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This is the monthly column from the Mission for Migrant Workers, an institution that has been serving the needs of migrant workers in Hong Kong for over 31 years. The Mission, headed by its general manager, Cynthia Tellez, assists migrant workers who are in distress, and  focuses its efforts on crisis intervention and prevention through migrant empowerment. Mission has its offices at St John’s Cathedral on Garden Road, Central, and may be reached through tel. no. 2522 8264.

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