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Ask Andreas: How do I Sever a Contract with my Helper?

ExpertsPost Category - ExpertsExpertsFamily LifePost Category - Family LifeFamily Life - Post Category - Domestic HelpersDomestic Helpers

Ask Andreas is back! Our resident Domestic Helper expert is the author of one of our most-recommended books: Hiring & Managing Domestic Help. It’s an absolute must-have for Hong Kong mamas and you can buy it here! Today we’re finding out what you should do if you’re leaving Hong Kong and need to break your contract with your Helper…

We’re moving away from Hong Kong and I’d love to know what I need to do in order to break my helper’s contract? What are my obligations in terms of paying severance? I’m guessing there’s a legal amount, but then a higher amount most people pay?

There are several steps that need to be taken in order to break the contract.

Inform your helper. You owe her one month’s notice period but you can also let her go on the day and pay her one month’s wages.

Draw up a letter in two copies (one for each of you) stating when the contract ends and for what reason. Make her sign the copies and sign them yourself. This protects you both from any future arguments.

Send a letter to immigration informing them of the end date of the contract and the reason. Make sure you quote the contract number and both your and her HKID number. Since you are leaving it is very important to state this as the reason for termination. If the employer is leaving Hong Kong a contract terminated early does not count as “broken”, giving the helper advantages when she looks for a new job.

One of two payments (but not both) may be applicable. Severance Payment is made if the helper is made redundant (as is the case here) and has worked for you at least 24 months. Long Service Payment is made for one of four reasons: a) if the helper is dismissed for other reasons than redundancy (for example if you employ a new helper), b) she becomes medically unfit for the job, c) she resigns at age 65 or above or d) if she dies in service. The helper has to have worked for you for five years or more to receive Long Service Payment.

The amount is the same in either case. Two thirds of her last monthly wage times the years of service, with incomplete years being prorated. For example if a helper has worked for you three years and her last wage was HK$4500 per month, her severance payment would be 4500 *2/3 *3 = HK$9000. The Labour Department’s “Practical Guide” spells out your monetary and other obligations in mind-numbing detail here.

Those are the legal requirements, but nothing stops you from being more generous if you feel that your helper has been a great employee. One of the most common things employers do is to help the helper find a new employer by asking their friends if they know anyone in need. You should in any case write a reference letter stating at least dates of employment. If your helper has been a good employee, consider writing a more personal one. Many employers will also give a varying amount of cash as an extra leaving bonus.

Finally, do bear in mind how your children may react if they are attached to your helper. It may be traumatic for them when she leaves.

For the only guide you’ll ever need on working with a helper, check out Andreas’ fab book ‘Hiring and Managing Domestic Help’ and buy it here.

Do you have a question for Andreas? Email [email protected] with the subject line “Ask Andreas” and we’ll make sure it gets answered on the site!

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