We have the best Agony Uncle at Sassy Mama – Andreas 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!
This week Andreas, our expert extraordinaire when it comes to all things helper related, helps one mama with her question on health insurance and what to do with a helper who has called from vacation with a health emergency.
What should I do when my helper calls from her holiday destination, and says that she needs to have an operation done, and she can’t come back to work in Hong Kong until after a two month convalescence? I have paid the basic insurance for her via HSBC. What right to health care does she have in Hong Kong? Should I insist that she comes back and be cared for in Hong Kong?
Your helper is entitled to almost free (see note 2 below) health care at government clinics and hospitals in Hong Kong, same as any other HKID holder. Your HSBC insurance includes HK$25,000/year of hospital expenses. This will not get you very far at a private hospital when it comes to surgery, but it is plenty for public care.
While your helper may well be telling the truth about her condition, unfortunately many helpers use the “operation” tactic as a way to get extra time off. You should tell her that unfortunately you can’t reimburse expenses for health care abroad. After all, she can get practically free health care in Hong Kong so why should you pay for it in her country?
Since she wants extra time off, you should ask to see doctor’s statements and receipts. An emailed scan or picture of a receipt goes a long way. You want to see if she is actually sick. Continue by saying that if she cannot produce documentation and she does not report back to work after her vacation time on the date agreed beforehand you will terminate her. Employing anyone is based on trust, and if you cannot trust she is being honest with you that should be the end of her employment.
If she can produce documentation, you will have to evaluate based on the diagnosis and so forth. Was it a sudden illness? Could she have planned her procedure? Could she have it in Hong Kong instead?
Note 1: If she is traveling with you in a working capacity you should reimburse health care expenses and claim on insurance. Best in this case to take out a travel insurance policy for your helper before you leave.
Note 2: Public health care fees are listed here. As you can see helpers are “Eligible Persons” as they have a HKID.
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.
Andreas Rosboch was born and raised in Sweden by an Italian father and a Swedish mother. He has been an expat for more than ten years and plans to keep it that way. He has spent most of his career in the information technology field, handling everything from brand management to customer support. He is the author of one of our most-recommended books Hiring & Managing Domestic Help – an absolute must-have for Hong Kong mamas (psst- and you can buy it here). He lives in Hong Kong with his wife, two children and dog.