A domestic worker has filed a judicial review in the High Court against a requirement that helpers live and work in their employer’s residence.
Nancy Almorin Lubiano said the requirement violates a ban on forced labor in the Hong Kong Bill of Rights and deprives maids of their rights to a fixed number of working hours and rest time, Apple Daily reports.
Lubiano also cited the case of an Indonesian domestic helper who was tortured by her boss as proof that living with employers increases the risk of abuse.
Her lawyers argued that the Immigration Department acted beyond its authority in imposing the requirement, which went into effect in 2003.
They said the live-in requirement is not a valid condition of stay because it does not appear on the visa stamped on the applicant’s passport, news website hk01.com reports.
Requiring the helper to live at the employer’s address is no different from putting the helper on standby 24 hours a day, Lubiano said.
She said many helpers could not enjoy a full day’s rest even on their days off as they are asked by their employers to return home at a specified time.
The requirement has also prevented them from expanding their social life and support network, making it difficult for them to seek help or find refuge when needed, Lubiano said.
Betty Yung, who chairs the Hong Kong Employers of Overseas Domestic Helpers Association, said not all domestic helpers are against the idea of living with their employers, citing the benefits of accommodation and meals.
There is a genuine need for domestic helpers to live in their employer’s residence because of a lack of elderly homes and child care facilities, she said.
Yung said if Lubiano wins, Hong Kong employers might be forced to hire local domestic helpers who usually charge by the hour.
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