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Employer pays $20k in first case of FDH being fired after contracting Covid-19

31 May 2022


Labour Tribunal resolves first case of FDH fired after contracting Covid-19.

An employer who fired his domestic helper after she tested positive for Covid-19 was made to pay her $20,000 in claims today at the Labour Tribunal in what could be the first labor case to be resolved in the wake of terminations of foreign domestic helpers (FDHs) during the fifth wave of Covid-19 infections in February.

The employer, Enoch Chen Tian-ern, was hauled to the Labour Tribunal by his domestic helper, Hazel Garces, to claim about $65,000 - for one month’s salary in lieu of notice, cost of air ticket and related travelling expenses, holiday pay, unpaid salary for one month, and for the remaining 13 months left in their employment contract.

The two sides eventually reached agreement after three hours of hearing before Assistant Presiding Officer Vivian Lee.


Garces alleged that she was terminated after she tested positive for Covid-19 on Feb. 26 this year and was made to leave her employer's house on the spot. She spent two cold days in a park in Tokwawan as a result.

Although she was pleased at the outcome of her case, Garces said the three months that she was forced to remain in Hong Kong while waiting for the result had left her exhausted.

"Uuwi na lang ako, pinapauwi na rin kasi ako ng asawa ko," the 39-year-old worker from Bacolod said. (I just want to go home now, as that's what my husband also wishes).


Told that she could pursue a separate claim for discrimination at the Equal Opportunities Commission, she said she'd rather just go home and forget about her sad experience.

She had worked for her employer for two years and nine months, and she said they used to get along quite well. But things changed when the pandemic forced her employer to work from home, and he reportedly started nitpicking on what she did.

After she left for her day-off on Feb 26, she said her employer told her to return home and take a rapid test for Covid-19. The result was positive. She said she was told to do the test twice after that, and the result for both was inconclusive. 

Despite this, Garces said her employer told her to look for a place to stay, and she left without taking any of her things with her. After deciding to camp out in the park, she sent out appeals for help, until The SUN eventually told her to get in touch with Fr John Wotherspoon. The Catholic priest known for his charity work been providing for her needs since.

Garces' termination came two days after the Labour Department (LD) reminded employers (on Feb. 24) that they should not dismiss FDHs who have contracted COVID-19 and should continue to observe the requirements under the Employment Ordinance (EO) and the Standard Employment Contract (SEC).

“Under the EO, an employer is prohibited from terminating the contract of employment of an employee on his/her paid sickness day, except in cases of summary dismissal due to the latter's serious misconduct,” the statement said.


“An employer who contravenes relevant provisions of the EO commits an offence and is liable to prosecution and, upon conviction, to a maximum fine of $100,000. Besides, if an employer has breached the EO, he/she will not be considered eligible to employ an FDH for a period of time and his/her visa applications for FDHs will be refused.

“Employers are also reminded of possible violation of the Disability Discrimination Ordinance (DDO) if they treat their FDHs less favorably (e.g. by dismissing them) because the FDHs have been infected with or recovered from COVID-19," it added.

Last March 5, the Government reiterated its warning, declaring that it does not and will not tolerate illegal dismissal of FDHs who catch COVID-19.


“The Government will stay vigilant in taking enforcement action against any violation of law in liaison and collaboration with the relevant consulates general,” it said in a press statement.

FDHs under employment who test positive for COVID-19 or are regarded as close contacts will receive support like any other Hong Kong citizen, the Government added.

"The HKSAR Government is committed to continue protecting the employment rights and interests of FDHs in order to maintain Hong Kong as an attractive place for FDHs to work," it declared. 

The Hong Kong government has been issuing such warning to employers as early as Nov. 3, 2020. (See related story:

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