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FDWs urged to stay home; bosses told not to make them work on rest day

27 March 2020

By Daisy CL Mandap

Photo taken Mar 22 shows OFWs gathering in large numbers in Central amid the worsening contagion

Hong Kong’s Labour Department has repeated an advisory to all foreign domestic workers to stay at home on their rest days, and if they do decide to go out, to refrain from gathering in public places.

But this time around, the advisory issued today, Mar 27, was balanced with a warning to employers not to make their helpers work on their day off, or they could be prosecuted and fined up to $50,000.

The advisory was further tempered with an advice for the workers to discuss rest day arrangements with their employers, including choosing a day other than Sunday, when most FDWs traditionally gather, to go out.

Employers, on the other hand, are urged to explain the special circumstances for making an alternative arrangement when discussing rest days with their helpers.

The advisory further states that if the employers ask their helpers to work on a rest day, a substitute day-off must be designated within 30 days. The employer must also notify the helper of the arrangement within 48 hours after work.

A previous advisory that asked FDWs straight out not to go out on their rest day to avoid contracting the coronavirus disease, was widely criticized by migrant organizations as discriminatory.

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The new toned-down version was issued as the Hong Kong government imposed new restrictions on public gatherings to arrest an alarming spike in the number of new Covid-19 infections.

Health officials said that a record 65 new cases were recorded today, the highest daily tally since the outbreak began in Hong Kong in late January.

As part of the new containment measures, no more than four people can gather together in public, including when eating in a restaurant, while places that attract large gatherings like cinemas, gyms and gaming centers, will be closed for two weeks.
No more than 4 people can gather together in public places starting this weekend

Consul General Raly Tejada has issued a similar call a day earlier, advising Filipino migrant workers to stay at home as much as possible, but stopped short of asking them not to go out on their rest day.

The statement posted in the Consulate’s Facebook page said, “Due to the recent surge in Covid-19 cases in Hong Kong, the Philippine Consulate General appeals to the Filipino community to stay at home whenever possible and if there is a need to go out, to make sure to avoid crowded places and practice social distancing. We also ask employers to respect the rest day of domestic workers who choose to stay at home.”

ConGen Tejada told The SUN earlier that he was bothered to see so many Filipinos still gathered together last Sunday, Mar 22, despite the escalating rate of infection in Hong Kong.
Dolores Balladares, chairperson of United Filipinos-Migrante Hong Kong, says her group appreciates that the Labour Department has taken pains to tone down its advisory this time.

She said this should be the right approach because migrant workers realize the severity of the contagion, and are willing to make their own sacrifices for the community.
“Migrant workers are aware of the problem, and are compliant with the advice on how they can protect themselves and other people from catching the virus,” Balladares said. “Lagi silang naka-mask at hindi na nag-iipon ipon, o nagsasalo sa pagkain.”

On top of this, she said nearly all migrant workers have hand sanitizers and alcohol in their handbags to better protect themselves from contamination.

She said her group is willing to cooperate with the government in preventing the spread of the virus, and will advise members to comply with their employers’ request to stay indoors, unless they really have to go out. 

Those who will find it necessary to go out this Sunday will be advised about the new social distancing restrictions.

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