Long working hours tops list of gripes from maids

Local | Yupina Ng 1 Apr 2016

Two out of five foreign domestic helpers work for more than 16 hours daily while nearly half do not have their own room, according to a 2015 case report. The Annual Case Work Report of the Mission for Migrant Workers shows that for three years in a row, long working hours, the lack of private rooms and denial of a 24-hour day off topped the woes of the army of foreign domestic helpers in the territory.

The report is based on 4,598 new cases, walk-in inquiries and telephone counseling by the Central-based mission, a non- governmental organization.

Long working hours topped the labor problem at 83 percent.

Three out of five helpers worked for 11 to 16 hours daily.

The mission helped the workers seek redress, with total claims amounting to HK$3.3 million in 2015.

Some HK$2.2 million, or 70 percent was recovered through conciliation, negotiations and court cases last year.

There had been no recorded extreme cases of abuse similar to the shocking one involving Erwiana Sulistyaningsih, general manager Cynthia Tellez said.

"But the problems in the working and living condition of (helpers) persist largely due to the fact that reforms have not been made to policies such as the two-week rule and the mandatory live-in employment arrangement that have been shown to expose (helpers) to unacceptable treatment," Tellez added yesterday. Foreign helpers are also not included in the planned legislation of standard working hours.

Laurence Fauchon, co-founder of Helpers Choice, an online platform to connect helpers with potential employers without any placement fee, said it sometimes took around seven to eight months for helpers to pay back the commission fee from recruitment agencies.

Fauchon pointed out that the fast pace of life in the territory made both Hong Kongers and foreign helpers work longer hours.

"Employers should realize there's not sufficient rest for foreign domestic helpers," she added.

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