An Indian woman has been found guilty of underpaying her domestic helper a total of HK$6,400 last year.
Kanwaljit Kaur, 35, failed to pay Manjit Kaur the statutory wages between March 13 and May 15, news website hk01.com reports.
Kanwaljit was ordered by a Kwun Tong magistrates’ court to pay a fine of HK$24,000, on top of paying the domestic helper the full amount of wages.
The court heard Manjit did not get any holidays during the two months she worked for Kanwaljit.
Although her contract stipulated that she would be paid HK$4,210 per month, her employer wired only 10,000 rupees per month, equivalent to HK$1,200, to her family in India.
Kanwaljit allegedly promised Manjit that she would be paid 20,000 to 25,000 rupees per month before hiring her.
When Manjit found out that she was only paid 10,000 rupees in April, she confronted Kanwaljit and was assured the outstanding amount will be paid in the coming months.
A month later, Kanwaljit said she had no money to pay Manjit’s wages. Manjit was forced out of her employer’s home.
Manjit stayed at a friend’s home and sought help from the Labor Department to file a civil lawsuit against her employer, according to Ming Pao Daily.
The judge criticised the employer for exploiting her compatriot, adding the severity of the offense could have warranted a jail term.
The judge said the only reason Kanwaljit was spared jail is that she has no criminal record but added she showed no remorse when she pleaded not guilty.
The Hong Kong Federation of Asian Domestic Workers Unions said Manjit Kaur’s situation is only the tip of the iceberg.
According to a survey by the union, nearly 45 percent of Nepalese domestic helpers are not paid on time.
In some cases, the wages given to domestic helpers are as low as HK$1,700 per month because these helpers do not speak English or Chinese well enough to know their labor rights.
More than half of the domestic helpers interviewed in the survey did not enjoy the statutory 12 days of paid holidays while some did not even know they are entitled to such rights.
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