Anyone who has a close, healthy relationship with a domestic helper will know the difficulty in saying goodbye, if and when the time comes to relocate or move on.
Returning to one’s home country after a stint as an expat can be both exciting and heartbreaking. For some expats, one of the most difficult aspects of relocating back home is leaving their domestic helper behind.
Domestic workers often become a part of the family, particularly in places like Hong Kong where helpers are required to live with the families for which they work. Inevitably, a good working relationship eventually spills over into a more intimate one. Bonds are developed over time, particularly with small children who often spend a great deal of their time in the care of domestic workers.
On top of that, knowing that a good helper might be without a job and without a source of income for the foreseeable future sets up a difficult proposition, particularly when domestic workers are supporting their own families back home.
In rare cases, employers invite domestic helpers to relocate with the family. For many others, the most they can do is to leave a domestic worker with the best possible chance of finding a good employer for the future.
Options to Help Your Domestic Helpers Find Employment
One way to secure employment for a beloved domestic helper is through referrals to friends or family, though the chances of moving away at the same time that an acquaintance is immigrating are relatively slim. Promoting helpers on expat forums and social media can broaden the available families and increase the chances for a successful new post. Other options include employment agencies, as well as newer alternatives such as the online platform, HelperChoice.
HelperChoice, the ethics-based online platform that connects employers with domestic workers, identified this common issue and recently launched an innovative recommendations feature.
Past and current employers are now able to write a recommendation directly into their helper’s profile on HelperChoice, where about 20,000 employers registered on the site will be able to view it. Through the helper, direct contact can be facilitated between past and prospective employers.
So far, employers who have been asked for recommendations seem very open to the idea and are happily writing positive testimonials for their domestic workers. The feature caters to all domestic helpers with past experience, as well as all employers. It’s also being used by locals who are emigrating for the first time, and by employers who are moving into smaller apartments with no space for a live-in helper and want to assist their domestic helper in finding a new position.
By affirming their experience and credentials, the recommendations feature assists helpers who may find themselves in the stressful position of being between jobs.
Employer Alan had this to say when recommending his domestic worker on the HelperChoice platform: “Janet is an outstanding helper. She was diligent, cheerful and independent. She cooks well and is eager to learn to make new dishes. She is extremely reliable. We left her in the house many times while we went on extended trips and always came back to an immaculate house and a warm welcome. She cared lovingly for our aged dog and, although our children were already old when she came to work with us, she has a strong rapport with children. We are leaving Hong Kong, which is why we have to let Janet go, but I would strongly recommend her to any family.”
HelperChoice was started in 2012 by Frenchwoman Laurence Fauchon. It does not charge domestic workers to use its platform, which helps them to avoid the debt trap that is so often associated with employment-agency job placements.
If you are relocating and/or prematurely terminating your contract with your helper, be sure to follow the due processes. For one, both you and your helper need to inform the Immigration Department within seven days of termination – a process which can now be done online.
Helpers are only allowed to stay in Hong Kong for two weeks after their contract has ended – unless their visa expires before then – so make sure you plan in advance to give your helper the best chance of finding a good new job!
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