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Extensions on offer for maids

Local | Riley Chan Nov 17, 2017
Domestic workers with soon-to-expire contracts may extend their employment until the end of February next year.

This is the latest development in the Manila-orchestrated saga of a 19-day suspension of maid departures from the Philippines which has affected more than 1,000 helpers set to leave for Hong Kong.

The suspension was imposed on Monday after an announcement three days earlier. It is subject to extension, officials say. The suspension is to counter persistent reports of illegal recruitment, after five Hong Kong agencies were allegedly trafficking Filipino domestic helpers to Russia and other countries, according to Jalilo Dela Torre, the labor attache at the Philippine consulate.

Under Clause 15 of the Standard Employment Contract, an employer may extend the period of employment by not more than one month by mutual agreement between the employer and the foreign domestic helper, and with the approval of the director of immigration.

Prior consent from the commissioner for labor is required for extending the period of the contract beyond a month.

The flexibility arrangement announced yesterday allows all foreign domestic helper contracts that expire on or before December 31 to be extended up to February 28, on the basis that such variation is mutually agreed by both the employer and the helper.

Employers in need may apply to the Immigration Department for an extension of stay of their foreign domestic helpers on or before December 31.

A government spokesman said it is hoped that the "flexibility arrangement can help the families affected by the situation or in need, especially those who need help in taking care of the elderly and children, so they can continue to retain their current foreign domestic helpers temporarily while waiting for the new foreign domestic helpers that they intend to hire to report for duty."

He added the government will continue to liaise with the Philippines consulate and request Manila to exempt Hong Kong from the suspension order, as well as to complete the investigation and resume the issuance of the overseas employment certificates to Filipino helpers coming to Hong Kong as soon as possible.

Dolores Balladares-Pelaez, chairwoman of United Filipinos in Hong Kong, welcomed the move by the SAR government.

But she said many Filipino domestic helpers may not wish to extend contracts for their own reasons. Some may want to be home for Christmas dinner with family, others might have found new employment back in the Philippines, she said.

"Many families in Hong Kong are very dependent on their workers. Manila should lift the suspension as soon as possible."

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