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Where to start if things are not working out between you and your domestic helper in Hong Kong

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By Edouard Muller

There are many issues that might arise between yourself and your domestic helper. These may be issues that have an affect your own life, or your helper’s. However, if you deal with the situation promptly and objectively, you can save yourself and your helper a lot of heartache and frustration. Below are some common problems for both employers and helpers, along with  recommendations on how to resolve them.

Employer: Dissatisfaction with the domestic help’s work

You may feel dissatisfied with the service your domestic worker is providing for many different reasons, such as negligence towards duties, inadequate attention towards expected chores and inattentiveness towards the work they are doing. Before you even hire a helper, make sure that you emphasize your requirements during the screening process so that you hire a domestic help that is competent and capable based on your needs and requirements.

To resolve your dissatisfaction, you can begin by having a clear conversation to state your requirements and needs. Try repeating the instructions several times if language seems to be a barrier between you two. Write the instructions down if necessary and encourage your domestic help to take language classes so as to facilitate better communication. If competency is the question, encourage them to take training and classes to improve their skills. Learn to be patient with your domestic help but also maintain a firm attitude, clearly communicating to them that you have certain expectations that if not met might result in termination. If fatigue is the cause of poor performance, take time to review they have and allot them the necessary time to recuperate and work to their complete potential.

Employer: Dishonesty from your domestic helper

Dishonesty can range from lying to stealing, to even not being honest owing to cultural and language barriers.  If cultural and language barriers are barring your domestic helper from communicating with your properly and preventing them from being honest with you, be patient. Patiently explain the roles and responsibilities and that they need not be afraid to be honest with you. Lying on part of the domestic help can prove to be a serious breach of trust, therefore, you need to make it clear to her that this kind of behaviour is unacceptable and will result in termination. Stealing is a serious offence. So is accusing someone of the same without evidence. Therefore, make sure that you have proper evidence before you accuse your domestic help. Threatening to inform the police might be the best way to make them confess and return the stolen item. Also, allow them the chance to explain themselves, as various situations might have prompted them to take the step. Make it clear to your domestic help that such behaviour is not accepted. You can also choose to install security cameras to monitor or dissuade your domestic help from making such actions.

Employer: Affairs and pregnancy

It is not uncommon for domestic helpers in Hong Kong that are women to get into a relationship or affair during their employment and as a result become pregnant. Although, such a situation might leave you, the employer, completely helpless while she is going through pregnancy, you also need to understand that the sexual choices of your domestic help are completely her own private matter and you do not have a say in the life that she leads. If your domestic help is open to the discussion, make sure that you have this talk in a patient and clear manner with her. This will allow you to have a better understanding of the things she wants and whether you should even be worried about such a pregnancy in the first place. However, if your domestic help does decide upon having a child, remember that it is her reproductive right and you do not have a say in it and cannot bar her from enjoying motherhood. Make a contingency plan and discuss it  with your domestic helper so as to avoid any disruptions during the pregnancy of your domestic help. Remember, it is unlawful to terminate the employ of a domestic helper due pregnancy or to impose contraceptive pills on her. You can also not discriminate a candidate based on her age and propensity to get pregnant. Therefore, having an alternative plan for such situations, such as a part-time maid, is a good place to begin.

Helper: Language and cultural barriers

A lot of domestic help working in Hong Kong come from different countries, belong to different cultures and speak different languages. This can create barriers in communication between the domestic helper and the employer owing to cultural and language differences. Hence, the employer might start to feel dissatisfied with the service of the domestic help or the domestic help might have trouble understanding their roles and responsibilities. To bridge the gap, a domestic helper could take language classes to ensure that they can speak a common language with their employer and that there are no obstacles in communication. This will ensure smooth workflow and a clearer understanding between both parties. Also, a domestic helper should not be afraid to ask their employer to educate them in the various customs and cultural intricacies important to the employer and the employer’s family.

Helper: Lack of proper rest

Rest is another huge concern for domestic helpers in Hong Kong. Due to a common lack of privacy during rest hours and huge workload, many domestic workers struggle with underperformance due to fatigue and lack of proper rest. It is important for a domestic helper to communicate clearly with the employer regarding the troubles that they are facing, and ask for proper accommodation of rest hours and privacy as they recuperate. Per Hong Kong law, it is mandatory that domestic helpers are treated fairly and provided proper rest hours to help them work to their full potential.  Make sure to create a proper work schedule, with agreement from both the employer and domestic helper, that include adequate time for resting.

Although, problems might arise for either party during the employ of a domestic helper, termination should only be a last resort. The best advice is to work through these problems as a strong employer-domestic help relationship builds on the foundation of  trust and open communication.


HelperPlace is an online social platform connecting domestic helpers and employers. Many recruitment agencies charge high placement fees, but HelperPlace is entirely free for helpers to use. Trusted by more than 110,000 users, you can easily find and hire the right helper for your family. Download the app for both Android and iPhone at www.helperplace.com.

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