Top Five Common Misconceptions Among Foreign Domestic Workers In Hong Kong
HK currently employs 390,000 FDWs. This number is forecast to rise to over 600,000 by 2047 to care for a rapidly ageing population. The majority of the FDWs currently employed in Hong Kong are of childbearing age, yet many lack reproductive health knowledge and are not aware of their maternity rights. There is also a well held misconception that all children born in Hong Kong will receive permanent residency or citizenship status. In light of these, PathFinders seek to equip FDWs with adequate knowledge to empower them to make well-informed and planned decisions about pregnancy whilst working in Hong Kong. This ensures every child born in Hong Kong can receive a fair start in life and a well planned future. In 2019, we educated and empowered 34,729 FDWs! As of today we have 58 Foreign Domestic Workers(FDW) Ambassadors helping us reach out to the FDW communities in Hong Kong to raise awareness about common misconceptions such as the followings:
Misconception #1: Children of FDWs will receive permanent residency or citizenship status automatically if they are born in Hong Kong.
Every child born to a person with right to land in Hong Kong receives the resident status which provides them with the right to land automatically. FDWs do not have the right to land in Hong Kong. They have to leave the city once their visa expires. In order for a non-Chinese baby who were born in Hong Kong to become a permanent resident of Hong Kong, a parent should be a permanent resident of Hong Kong (foreigners who have lived in Hong Kong lawfully for 7 years and have taken Hong Kong as their permanent place of residence). Please visit the Immigration Department page here for more information.
Misconception #2: It is illegal for FDWs to get pregnant in Hong Kong.
FDWs are entitled to the right of pregnancy in Hong Kong. The Labour Department has implemented a set of laws to protect the maternity rights of all women in Hong Kong. Pregnant FDWs do not need to resign. Upon pregnancy, FDWs should give notice to their employer about their pregnancy with confirmation from a medical practitioner and by producing a medical certificate with the expected date of confinement. They are entitled to a continuous period of 10 weeks maternity leave. Pregnant FDWs have full access to the public health care services provided by the government as long as their work visas are valid. It is recommended Foreign Domestic Workers (FDWs) spend time reading the Employment Ordinance issued by the Labor Department to learn more about pregnancy related matters. Click here for more information about maternity leave.
Misconception #3: It is legal for FDWs’ employer to terminate their contract or force them to resign if they find out she is pregnant.
Employers dismissing a pregnant employee from the date on which she was confirmed pregnant by medical certificate to the date she is due to return to work is strictly prohibited by the law. In other words, it is illegal for employers to terminate FDWs’ contract simply because they are pregnant. FDWs can claim remedies for employment protection against their employer if they are dismissed without a valid reason. A list of rights enjoyed by pregnant employees can be found here.
Misconception #4: A single act of sexual intercourse will not lead to pregnancy.
In some situations, pregnancy indeed occurs after a single act of unprotected sex. It is also possible for pregnancy to occur during the first sexual intercourse or loss of virginity. Therefore, it is advised that FDWs who do not plan to have children take contraceptive measures. More information about contraceptive methods is provided by The Family Planning Association.
Misconception #5: FDWs should perform all household duties during pregnancy.
If a pregnant employee produces a medical certificate with an opinion as to her unfitness to handle heavy materials, work in places where harmful gas to pregnancy is generated, or do other work injurious to pregnancy, the employer may not allocate such work to the employee. If the employee is already performing such work, the employer shall within 14 days after receiving such request remove her from that work. It is advised that FDWs discuss their pregnancy with their employer as soon as possible so that they can reach a mutual understanding on the type of household duties they may perform during the period. PathFinders have published useful resources to guide both Employers and pregnant Foreign Domestic Workers. Frequently asked questions are addressed on our website here.
Written by PathFinders' Intern Vivian Yeung
Photo taken by Sharon Leung