Money Matter

Foreign domestic helpers' minimum wage

Article exclusively contributed by the
Labour Relations Promotion Unit
of the Labour Department

One evening Mary met her good friend, Linda, in a supermarket where they both did their shopping after work.

"I haven't seen you for nearly three weeks! What have you been busy with recently?" asked Mary.

"My company is going to set up a new retail outlet and I have been assigned to take charge of the project. I don't really have time anymore to do my housework and I am looking for a foreign domestic helper to help me out," said Linda.

She continued: "I've already approached an employment agent who told me that I could employ a maid with a monthly salary of $2,800, as some of them were willing to accept lower wages at these times of economic hardship.

"She said that the monthly wages stated in the standard employment contracts of foreign domestic helpers were just a matter of formality."

"Linda, are you really sure this is okay? I've heard that there was a minimum wage entitlement for foreign domestic helpers," Mary said, sounding worried.

"Well, I really don't know ..............."

Can Linda pay her foreign domestic helper less than the minimum wage entitlement?

  • All foreign domestic helpers in Hong Kong should be paid in accordance with the monthly wages stipulated in their standard employment contracts, which should be not less than the minimum wage entitlement ($3,670 per month as at present). (Now revised: For standard employment contracts made on or after 20 September 2012, the applicable MAW is HK$3,920 per month. For contracts made before that date, an employer should pay the helper throughout the contract period wages not less than the rate specified in the standard employment contract.)

  • The Employment Ordinance stipulates that wages shall become due on the expiry of the last day of the wage period. An employer should pay wages to an employee as soon as practicable but in any case not later than seven days after the end of the wage period.

    An employer is required by law to pay interest on the outstanding amount of wages to the employee if he/she fails to pay wages to the employee within seven days of it becoming due.

  • Under the Employment Ordinance, if an employer fails to pay wages to an employee when it becomes due, he is liable to prosecution and, upon conviction, to a fine of $200,000 and to imprisonment for one year. (Now revised: to a fine of $350,000 and to imprisonment for three years.)

  • In view of the above, Linda shall have contravened the law if she paid her foreign domestic helper lower than the minimum wage entitlement.
The above case only serves as an illustration of the Employment Ordinance's provisions on payment of foreign domestic helpers' wages. The Employment Ordinance, however, remains the sole authority for the provisions explained above and in case of dispute, the final decision rests with the court.

Q & A about the Employment Ordinance
Q1 Can I pay my helper a smaller amount of wages than what is stipulated in the employment contract if she agrees to it?
A1 No. All foreign domestic helpers in Hong Kong, regardless of nationality, should receive at least the minimum wage entitlement as stipulated in the employment contract. It is an offence if you pay your helper monthly wages below the minimum.

Q2 How should I pay wages to my helper?
A2 You are advised to pay wages by cheque or autopayment into your helper's bank account. To do this, you have to obtain your helper's consent beforehand. If your helper does not prefer such methods of payment, you should pay him/her wages in legal tender. You are required to keep records of wage payments, e.g. relevant bank statements. You should also provide a receipt for payment of wages and food allowance and ask your helper to acknowledge receipt of the amount.

Q3 When should I pay wages to my helper?
A3 You should pay wages to your helper not less than once every month. For example, if your helper commenced her employment on January 5, you should pay him/her on February 5 or as soon as possible; and in no case later than seven days after that day, i.e. February 12.

If you wish to change the date of payment, you should give prior notice to your helper and clear the outstanding wages on the new payment date you have specified. For example, your helper commenced employment on January 5. If you intend to change the payment date to the 15th of each month, you should clear the balance of the 10 days' wages (i.e. from 6th to 15th) within seven days after January 15, before you pay him/her on the new payment date in February.

Source : The Labour Relations Promotion Unit

Taken from Career Times 14 June 2002

(Last review date: 23 August 2013)

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