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Waiver leaves maids in limbo

Beatrice Siu

Friday, July 18, 2008

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Many households are holding back on employing maids until the just announced domestic helper levy waiver comes into effect in September.

Another consequence of Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen's inflation relief measure is that in order to enjoy the HK$400-a-month waiver, a number of employers are considering terminating their helper's contract to employ a new one.

Technic Employment Service Centre managing director Teresa Liu Tsui-lan said the total HK$9,600 levy can be paid in four phases within a two- year contract. Under the law, employers have to pay the first six months (HK$2,400) in one installment.

"About 50 percent of employers have called us to reconsider hiring and some are thinking of even terminating their helpers' [contract]," Liu said.

She said domestic helpers, particularly those at the end of their contracts and needing to find a new employer within two weeks, will suffer as a result of the measure.

Ms Tang, a first-time employer, has held back on hiring a domestic helper and will wait until September.

"I am very busy and I need a helper, but I just want to save as much money as I can. I am happy to enjoy the government's relief measure," she said.

But the scenario was different for Ms Choi who welcomed her helper yesterday. She vented her anger at missing out on the new measure and is now liable to pay the levy until the end of the contract.

"It is so unfair. The government should stop charging the remaining phases. I cannot benefit from the waiver," Choi said.

Hong Kong Employers of Domestic Helpers Association chairman Joseph Law said the waiver should be backdated to July 1 to benefit employers who signed the contract before September.

Law said the government should also reimburse employers who have prepaid more than one installment of the levy.

The Immigration Department said all prepaid levies will not be reimbursed.

It also said September is the earliest to start the waiver.

Meanwhile, the MTRC has extended the 50 percent fare cut for full- time students aged between 12 and 25 on MTRC East Rail, West Rail and Ma On Shan lines as well as Light Rail and MTRC buses.

The new offer is effective from October.

Children under 12 can still enjoy the half fare concession on all MTRC lines.


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