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Sick Filipina settles claim for $9,100 but fails to get paid for forced 20-day wait

25 December 2021

By Vir B. Lumicao 

The worker was confined at Prince of Wales Hospital for 4 nights

Can an employer refuse to pay a foreign domestic worker wages for the days that she did not allow the helper into her house despite the official start of her work visa?

This was the question a Filipina domestic helper sought to resolve after she was dismissed by her employer after working for less than a month.

Mary V., 47, is set to leave on Sunday, Dec 26, after agreeing to settle her claim against her employer for $9,100, representing her unpaid wages, a month’s salary in lieu of notice and other payments.

She did not get paid for the 20 days that she would have worked if her employer did not tell her to stay out for a few more days before moving into her house in Shatin, apparently out of fear the worker might have the coronavirus.


Mary came to Hong Kong on Mar 6 this year to work as a caregiver for a 79-year-old man in Kennedy Town. But the old man died on Oct 5, so her employment ended prematurely.

She looked for a new employer and was signed on by a Mrs Wong at My Sweet Home employment agency on Oct 11. When she got her new work visa on Nov 8, Wong reportedly told her to wait for 20 days before moving in, so she started work only on Nov 28.

On Dec 9, Wong reportedly asked the helper to sign an agreement which stated they mutually agreed to end the contract on Dec 26. Mary said she was surprised and hesitated, but Wong reportedly said it was just tentative and she would know after Christmas if the termination was final.

Pindutin para sa detalye

Their working relationship was apparently not smooth sailing. Mary complained about having to wake up before 6 am and work non-stop until past 11 under the watch of CCTV and Wong’s mother, who lived with them.

On Dec 15, while waiting at her ward’s kindergarten with the elderly woman, Mary had a severe headache and breathing difficulty, and couldn’t move her right arm.

An ambulance took her to Prince of Wales Hospital in Shatin, where a series of laboratory examinations showed she had a vein wedged between her two collar bones, causing the headache and blocking normal blood flow to her right arm.

Press for details

Upon learning that Mary was in hospital, Wong reportedly told her she would sign their agreement and compute what she would pay the helper before Dec 26.

Mary was released on Dec 19, but Wong told her she could not return to the house and must stay elsewhere until Dec 26. The employer gave her $700 for her room and board during that time.

The worker went to the Labour Relations Division in Taikoo Shing on Thursday to find out if she could claim wages for the 20 days that she was forced to stay out. But the labour officer was non-committal and told her to ask Immigration to clarify when her employment officially took effect, she said.

Pindutin para sa detalye

But when the worker sought advice from the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration office and the Mission for Migrant Workers, she was told that the official start of her employment was on Nov. 8 when Immigration released her visa.

At the Immigration on Friday morning, the officer who attended to Mary reportedly said the visa is an official document, meaning her starting date of employment should be Nov. 8.

But when she asked for a written statement so she could claim payment for the 20 days, she was referred to another window. When she got there, another officer directed her to a third window.  Mary said she lost her patience and left, as she was already hungry.

She went next to the employment agency, My Sweet Home, for a scheduled meeting with her employer, to finalize the payment issue, but the latter did not show up, saying she was busy at work.

In the end, she just settled for a $9,100 total payment from the employer. She said this represented her wages from Nov 28 to Jan 8; a $1,000 addition to her air fare, as a one-way ticket had already been purchased for her; and $100 for her travel allowance. 

Mary told The SUN she was set to fly home on Dec 26 and get some rest to recover from her ailment before trying to find a new employer again.

She said OWWA had already made arrangements for her departure and arrival assistance in Hong Kong and Manila. She said OWWA also advised her to go to its regional office and apply for livelihood aid.

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