FDH calls for laws against on-the-spot termination of ailing domestic helpers

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District Court


Hong Kong should pass laws prohibiting the hasty dismissal of foreign domestic helpers suffering from illnesses, a Filipina suing in behalf of a domestic helper allegedly fired for having cancer said on Dec.18.

Carla Temporosa said this at the sidelines of the first court hearing on the case she filed in behalf of her friend Joan Sarmiento Guting, a domestic helper who was reportedly terminated after her employer found out she has cancer. Guting died on Aug,18, 2018 after suffering from cervical cancer, acute renal failure and oedema for more than a year.

Temporosa filed a case against Guting’s former employer, Rita Choy Chiu Yee for discrimination based on disability at the District Court in October.

Guting also previously filed a case against Choy for unlawful and unreasonable dismissal at the Labour Tribunal on June 29, 2017. The proceedings were discontinued, however due to her worsening condition.

The hearing on Dec. 18, presided by Judge Winnie Tsui, weighed in on what track the case should take –  if the case at the Labour Tribunal will proceed given that there is a case being heard at the District Court, or if the cases, since they are both based on the same facts, can be “combined” and tackled at one legal avenue only.

Aside from seeking justice for her church mate, however, Temporosa said she wants Guting’s experience to spark legislative amendments on existing measures covering the termination of domestic helpers.

“Our goal is to show the government of Hong Kong that they should revise their laws in order to protect the rights of domestic helpers,” she told Hong Kong News.

“If employers will terminate their domestic helpers, they should be made to state the cause on why they did it,” she said. “There should be clear grounds for unlawful termination.”

Domestic helpers can be prematurely terminated by their employers for an array of reasons ranging from financial difficulties, mistrust and long-term illnesses which render them unfit to work.

In such instances, employers must pay their domestic helpers one month’s worth of salary. Domestic helpers will then have to leave Hong Kong within 14 days.

But even if long-term illnesses is a valid ground for termination, Temporosa said it should not be considered a cause for immediate dismissal.

Temporosa said her friend’s sudden termination should not have been allowed. Guting was reportedly asked to pack her bags in the wee hours of the morning on May 1, 2017.

“You just don’t do that to a dying person fighting for her life,” she said. “It’s totally unacceptable, it’s inhumane.”

Under the Disability Discrimination Ordinance, “it is unlawful for the employer, in the case of a person with a disability employed by him at an establishment in Hong Kong, to discriminate against that person…by dismissing that person, or subjecting him to any other detriment.”