HK govt junks ‘probation period’ proposal for FDHs

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Secretary Law

THE Hong Kong government has rejected suggestions that there should be a “probation period” for foreign domestic helpers (FDHs) who want to work in the city.

Labour and Welfare Secretary Dr. Law Chi-kwong said the proposal to amend the Standard Employment Contract to require a probation period might cause more problems not just to the workers but also among employers.

“The government has no plan to set a probation period for the employment of FDHs or amend the notice period required for contract termination,” Law told the Legislative Council (LegCo) on December 12.

“The proposal of setting a probation period for FDHs or amending the notice period for contract termination involves complicated issues. Although the proposal may shorten the time required by employers to terminate the employment contract with their FDHs, it may give rise to other problems,” he added.

Law said that, if a probation period is set, FDHs would also have the right to terminate a contract prematurely “at any time within the probation period” while employers would “still be required to bear the costs related to contract termination, including the return passage to the FDHs’ places of origin.”

Law added that employers would also have to bear the expenses for hiring a new FDH, “including travel expenses, visa fees and authentication fees…even if there is a probation period.”

“On the other hand, if FDHs are required to bear the risks of a probation period or a shorter notice period for terminating a contract, many FDHs may not be able to afford the costs of coming to work in Hong Kong, or they may suffer serious losses as a result of not passing the probation,” he said.

“This would affect the desire of FDHs to work in Hong Kong, thereby limiting employers’ choices and even rendering them unable to employ FDHs,” he added.

Law said the current system that allows either the employer or the FDH to terminate the contract by giving one month’s notice in writing or one month’s wages in lieu of notice “already provides a degree of flexibility to both parties and has taken into account the interests of both employers and FDHs.”

The labour chief made the statement after LegCo member Chiang Law-wan asked if government would examine proposals to amend the Standard Employment Contract for FDHs “by adding a probation period or stipulating a longer or a shorter termination notice period.”

Some employers and lawmakers had kept floating the idea of a probation period for foreign domestic workers as early as 2011 but this was repeatedly dismissed by the government.

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