Whether it’s because of a relocation or an incompatibility of characters, at some point you may need to consider terminating your working relationship with your domestic helper. In any situation be mindful of the legal, ethical, emotional, and career impact the termination may have for your helper and for you.
Cause of termination
There are many different reasons an employer may need to end an FDH contract. The most positive for the helper is a finished contract or termination due to relocation. This allows the helper to find another job more easily, it also means she/he does not have to return to her/his home country before taking on a new position, and she/he can apply for an extension of stay . Other reasons for termination, which are less favorable and impact an the ability to find work, include violation of the terms of contract, violating Hong Kong law, lack of compatibility, and stealing. An employer cannot terminate a contract for sick leave or pregnancy. Break contract (where the helper terminates the contract) or termination (where the employer fires the helper due to a reason other than relocation) are less favorable for the helper and may result in future visa rejections when new applications are made.
Healthy communication is key to any ongoing relationship. Conflicts and problems are inevitable, so it’s important to consider how you will handle issues before they occur. Thinking about potential problems before they arise and speaking with your helper about how you would like to address problems and issues in your household can help smooth potential causes for conflict. Additionally, making sure your helper has her/his needs met through nutrition, rest, mental wellness, and exercise keeps a household in good condition. Considering these factors can also prevent unnecessary causes for termination.
Ending the Contract
As an employer, ending a contract requires written notice with a notice period not less than one month. It is possible to pay your domestic helper a month of salary in lieu of notice to terminate the working relationship more quickly. This can be important if there is sudden relocation or your helper needs to exit your home urgently. The one-month notice gives your helper time to find another job, prepare financially, and/or it gives you more time to find a new helper that may be a better fit for you/your family. When giving your helper notice, best practice encourages having a witness when the employer and helper sign the termination letter and salary payments.
If the contract is terminated before the two-year expiration, the employer and the helper must inform the Director of Immigration by sending a notice (form ID 407 E) in writing within seven days of the date of termination. You can either notify the Hong Kong government online or by post, fax or in person. This notice must include a copy of the other party’s written acknowledgement. This means as an employer you need three signed and witnessed copies of the termination notice: one for you, one for your helper and the last one for Hong Kong Immigration. The reason for termination must be clear and well-explained, as this will affect the helper’s work permit and his/her chances of future employment. Immigration can blacklist employers for terminating five contracts within two years.
Outstanding Salary, Severance and Long-term Service
- Outstanding Salary: No matter the reason for termination make sure to pay all outstanding salaries owed to prevent future legal disputes including owed salary, salary for the notice period and any long-term service.
- Severance: If the helper is employed continuously not less than 24 months, he/she is owed severance.
- Long Service: Your helper is due long-service payment when he/she is employed continuously for not less than 60 months (5 years). The fee is [(monthly wage * 2/3)(years of service)]. The long-service fee is not paid for cases of serious misconduct.
Annual Leave and More
Employers are required to settle different allowances in the contract at termination.
- Annual leave: Settle the amount of the annual leave on a pro-rata basis for the current year.
- Return flight: If flight back home is included in the contract, make sure you cover it including transportation and food.
Settling salary, outstanding payments, annual leave, and termination requirements are required by law. Keep all receipts for payments in case of complaints.
Protecting your helper for future employment and yourself as the employer are all factors to consider when there is change in your helper situation at home.
The Future for Your Helper
Writing a positive reference letter and including your contact information will assist your helper in finding a new position. The letter does make a difference, so try to include specific qualities where your helper excels. That could be in childcare, if she/he has ever handled emergency situations, cooking ability, and more. The more positive and specific the compliments, the better! It is also helpful to provide time for him/her to search for a new job when considering how long to give notice, to refer him/her to agencies that do not charge agency fees, and giving him/her a transition packet. If she needs help moving to her new accommodations, consider hiring a van to help transport her/him belongings to her/his new home.