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'HK employers must pay for their helpers’ quarantine'

17 June 2020

By Daisy CL Mandap


HK and Phl labour officials say employers should pay for the FDWs' quarantine expenses

With up to 10,000 Filipino domestic helpers expected to start trickling into Hong Kong in the next few weeks, the question of who should pay for the workers’ quarantine expenses is being raised more frequently now.

Just as often, it is reported that employers are hesitant to admit their newly arrived domestic workers into their homes, even if they had tested negative for Covid-19 on arrival at the airport.

This was confirmed by a group of employment agencies who called on the Hong Kong government last Sunday to provide a centralized quarantine facility for arriving foreign domestic workers.
The agencies said that since most Hong Kong homes are small, giving space to FDWs for home quarantine is proving difficult for most employers.

Their appeal has not merited any response from the government so far.

In the meantime, many Filipino domestic workers due to return, or take up employment in Hong Kong, have resorted to appealing  online for directions or help, on what they should expect when they start their home quarantine.


But this shouldn’t be the case. When mandatory home quarantine was imposed on all passengers arriving in Hong Kong on Mar 19, the Labour Department immediately made it clear that employers should  open their homes to their domestic helpers who need to self-quarantine for 14 days.

If the employers choose another place for the quarantine such as a hotel, the LD  said they should pay for the accommodation and provide the helper with a food allowance for her meals during the entire 14-day stay.

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The government press release said: “The employer is also reminded to comply with his/her obligations under the SEC (standard employment contract), including bearing the accommodation expenses of the FDH and providing food allowance to the FDH.”

Earlier, on Mar 17, he Philippine Overseas Labor Office issued an advisory to all employment agencies, saying the same thing: that employers should ensure the well-being of their Filipino domestic workers who are on home quarantine and provide for all their needs.
Agencies are further tasked to monitor the situation of their recruits and update Polo “whenever necessary.”

Part of the advisory signed by Labor Attache Melchor Dizon also read: “If the worker will be accommodated outside such as (a) hotel, all expenses shall be borne by the employer (who) shall ensure the provision of food.”

More importantly, Dizon directed that no worker shall be terminated during the home quarantine period.

Despite the clear-cut guidelines, however, many FDWs still complain of being told by their employers that they should pay for part, or all, of the expenses of the home quarantine.
 
The tracking wristband that everyone under quarantine must wear
Joyce S. said in an online message that she was in Manila, and had been told by her new employers to return to Hong Kong as they will be flying in at the same time from Tokyo.

The employers, however, did not want her to spend her quarantine at their home, and wanted her to stay in a hotel, and pay for all the expenses.
Joyce asked for any advisories or statements from the Hong Kong government that makes it clear her employer  must shoulder her quarantine expenses. Not having an employment agency to advise her employers, she said she had to do the explaining herself.

Last she posted, however, her employers decided to stay on in Japan until August, and told her to remain in the Philippines and enjoy her own vacation. She did nor respond when asked if she was paid her salary while on vacation leave.

Another message came from Lyn A., who said she was one of the three FDWs who reached out to a group because they were not provided food by their employers in their quarantine facilities.

Lyn said her employer paid for her hotel in Yaumatei, and told her to bring lots of noodles and biscuits. Little did she know that that was what she was supposed to eat during her 14-day quarantine.
 
Food left by a concerned employer outside a helper's hotel room (from DWC Help)

When word about her plight reached the group, Justice for Migrant Workers, members took turns delivering food to her hotel. Her employer visited once to bring a lunch box, and that was all.

But she said that when she asked for food allowance, “luckily binigay nya.” (Luckily she gave it)

Told that she should have complained about being left to fend for herself in the hotel room, she asked, “Kanino ako magrereklamo?” (Who should I complain to?)

She said she was grateful enough that she was asked by her employer to return to Hong Kong.

Pasalamat na lang ako at pinabalik pa ako sa dami ng nate-terminate ngayon at nawawalan ng trabaho.”(I should be thankful that I was asked to return to Hong Kong, given that so many are sacked, or lose their jobs nowadays).

But she did not reply when asked if she knew that she should have been provided food, or realized that she could have starved if no one had stepped in to help her.






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