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Labour officer rules that employer's holiday not DH’s annual leave

17 August 2019

Tribunal officer said FDWs cannot be considered to be on leave just because their employer leaves town

By Vir B. Lumicao

In a ruling that could impact a lot of foreign domestic workers in Hong Kong, an
officer at the Labour Tribunal said an employer who leaves Hong Kong with his family cannot consider their absence from home a vacation leave for their helper if she decides to stay behind and do her chores.

Presiding officer Isabella Chu made the statement on Aug 15 as she thumbed down employer Li Jinyi’s attempt to avoid paying just over $500 for the unused annual leave of his dismissed Filipina helper, Mary Ann Villanueva.

Li had argued that the maid was idle while the family was away, so she could be deemed to be on vacation.
But after Chu dismissed the argument, Villanueva and Li ended a two-month stalemate by agreeing on a $6,312 payout to the maid. 

The sum was reached after Li and his wife talked to Villanueva outside the courtroom to get the $7,762 proposed settlement computed by the presiding officer reduced further.

Villanueva had claimed $3,675 in arrears in wages, $4,390 wage in lieu of notice, $543.31 for unused annual leave, $100 travel allowance, and $700 for one-way air ticket.

She was terminated by Li just eight months into her two-year contract, saying in a three-page statement that he was dissatisfied with her performance.
But, after Chu computed what he should be paying, Li said he would file a claim for one month salary in lieu of notice, since it was Villanueva who allegedly terminated her contract.

“I just don’t understand it. In your statement you used three pages to say you were not satisfied with the claimant’s performance so you dismissed her. You gave a her a month’s notice on Jun 6, so, why do you say she left her employment?”  Chu asked Li.
The employer said that after he served the notice, Villanueva should have continued to do her work “but she did something that angered us,” Li said, while his wife butted in and said the helper was always on her phone.

But Chu, who had read Villanueva’s statement, said the helper could not work because the couple didn’t allow her to do so.

Unable to do anything, the maid left Li’s house on Jun 9 and took her case to the Labour Department.
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