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Compulsory medical insurance eyed for FDHs, says legislator

01 April 2019

legislator Kenneth Leung (in black shirt) is flanked by Consul General Antonio Morales and solicitor Louise Le Pla for a souvenir photo to cap the Kapihan.

By Daisy CL Mandap

Hong Kong legislators are likely to pass a motion that will compel employers to take out medical insurance for their foreign domestic workers.

This information was shared by pan-democrat legislator Kenneth Leung during a consultation meeting with Filipino community leaders at the Consulate on Mar 24.

Leung said his fellow legislator, Fernando Cheung, is set to table the proposal at the next meeting of Legco’s manpower panel set for Apr 16.


“And many of us will support it,” Leung said.

The move was said to have been prompted by the well-publicized case of Baby Jane Allas, who found herself unable to access medical care in Hong Kong after she was fired by her employer on learning she had stage 3 cervical cancer.

Leung said the proposal will have two components: the first is compulsory medical insurance for FDWs, and the second is to treat FDWs as local residents when accessing medical services.

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He clarified that the insurance that employers are currently required to take for their helpers covers only employee compensation and doctor’s consultation. A medical insurance will also pay for hospitalization and specialist treatment.

The other part of the proposal could see migrant workers not being cut off from getting medical treatment in public hospitals as soon as their work contract is terminated by their employers.

“As long as you are legally staying in Hong Kong, you shall be regarded as a local Hong Kong resident,” he said.


Leung started his presentation by talking about the high regard local people have for the FDWs’ contribution to Hong Kong’s economic prosperity. He identified several issues that concern FDWs, including illegal money lending and human trafficking.

He said he was part of a group that drafted an Action Plan a year ago to improve Hong Kong’s record in combating human trafficking. The proposal includes a draft that will finally make human trafficking a crime in Hong Kong.

An offshoot of that work was the installation of hotline in December last year that FDWs can call when faced with problems related to their employment and rogue employment agencies. The number, 2157 9537, is said to be manned by staff speaking seven languages so the workers can use their native language in making a query or complaint.

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Asked during the open forum if he could help debt-saddled migrant workers by asking why money lenders are allowed by law to charge interest rates of up to 60%, Leung said yes.

He said it might be time to revisit the law, and ask why “such a huge cap” was put in place for the licensed money lenders. 

He called on the consuls general of the Philippines and Indonesia to continue doing their own initiative to get the high interest rate cut as it adds up a lot to the debt woes of their constituents.

One issue that appeared to stump him was the lack of a law on the working hours for domestic workers, leading to abuse by employers.

Leung said even office workers do not have legislated working hours, but conceded that foreign domestic workers could be far more susceptible to abuse because they are forced to live with their employers.

Also at the dialog was solicitor Louise Le Pla, who went through the provisions of the standard employment contract for FDWs, and advised the workers to know their rights and assert them.

“Do not sign anything that your employer gives you unless  you agree with in and you undertand,” she said. These documents can used against them in case of disputes.

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