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Employers should not dismiss foreign domestic helpers who have contracted COVID-19
     ​The Government today (November 3) reminded employers that they should not dismiss foreign domestic helpers (FDHs) who have contracted COVID-19 and should continue to observe the requirements under the Employment Ordinance (EO) and the Standard Employment Contract (SEC) amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
     A Government spokesman said, "We would like to remind employers that they should not terminate or repudiate an employment contract with an FDH who has contracted COVID-19. Under the EO, an employer is prohibited from terminating the contract of employment of an employee on his or her paid sickness day, except in cases of summary dismissal due to the latter's serious misconduct. An employer who contravenes relevant provisions of the EO commits an offence and is liable to prosecution and, upon conviction, to a maximum fine of $100,000. Employers are also reminded of possible breach of contract if they repudiate the employment contract with their FDHs, or possible violation of the Disability Discrimination Ordinance (DDO) if they treat their FDHs less favourably (e.g. by dismissing them) because the FDHs have been infected with or recovered from COVID-19. Upon the recovery of the FDHs from COVID-19, employers are advised to arrange for their FDHs to start or resume work and maintain a cordial employment relationship with their FDHs."
     The spokesman continued, "When handling matters on employment with FDHs, employers should observe their obligations and requirements under the EO and the SEC. Where applicable, the employer should grant sick leave and sickness allowance to the eligible FDH in accordance with the EO. Where a sick FDH has not accumulated sufficient paid sickness days to cover the period of his or her sick leave, we appeal to the employer to be compassionate and consider granting the FDH paid sick leave. According to Clause 9(a) of the SEC, in the event that the FDH is ill or suffers personal injury during the period of employment (except for the period during which the FDH leaves Hong Kong of his or her own volition and for his or her own personal purposes), regardless of whether this arises out of employment, the employer shall provide free medical treatment to the FDH."
     At the same time, employers should take note of and comply with the relevant measures implemented by the Government in response to the pandemic, including the requirement that all persons (including FDHs) arriving in Hong Kong from all places outside China must be subject to compulsory quarantine of 14 days under the Compulsory Quarantine of Persons Arriving at Hong Kong from Foreign Places Regulation (Cap. 599E), and the relevant requirements of the specifications under the Prevention and Control of Disease (Regulation of Cross-boundary Conveyances and Travellers) Regulation (Cap. 599H), namely that if a traveller (including an FDH) has stayed in a specified place (including Indonesia and the Philippines) during the 14 days before arriving in Hong Kong, he or she must provide, before boarding a flight to Hong Kong, a test report issued by a laboratory or healthcare institution recognised or approved by the government of that place as proof that he or she has undergone a nucleic acid test for COVID-19, the sample for which was taken within 72 hours before the scheduled time of departure of the flight to Hong Kong, and that the test result is negative, as well as confirmation of room reservation in a hotel in Hong Kong for not less than 14 days starting on the day of his or her arrival in Hong Kong. The Government again reminded employers to make relevant arrangements and bear the costs of the relevant nucleic acid test, the accommodation expenses and the food allowance during the FDH's compulsory quarantine.
     On the other hand, the Government reminded FDHs not to abuse the arrangement for premature contract termination in order to change employers (commonly known as job-hopping). The Immigration Department (ImmD) has been expediting the processing of employment visa applications submitted by FDHs who are in Hong Kong, especially applications for change of employer from those whose employment contracts have expired normally. At the same time, to combat job-hopping, the ImmD will, during case assessment, continue to closely scrutinise the details of applicants, such as the number and reasons for their premature contract termination in the past 12 months. For suspected job-hopping cases, the ImmD will refuse the employment visa applications and require the applicants to leave Hong Kong.
     Employers may visit the Labour Department's dedicated FDH Portal (www.fdh.labour.gov.hk) for further information on the obligations and rights of employers and FDHs under the EO and the SEC relating to COVID-19. For information relating to COVID-19 and the DDO, employers may visit the Equal Opportunities Commission's website (www.eoc.org.hk/EOC/Upload/UserFiles/File/FAQ_COVID-19_Foreign_Domestic_Workers_and_Employers_english.pdf).      
Ends/Tuesday, November 3, 2020
Issued at HKT 16:30
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