Domestic workers are a big asset for households in Hong Kong. Most of the 340,000 domestic workers in the city take care of the housework, cooking, shopping for groceries, and sometimes taking care of children or elderly parents. But as a potential employer, where do you start when you want to hire a full-time domestic worker?
First of all, you need to define whether you want to hire a foreign domestic worker directly or through an employment agency. Here are some tips to help you make up your mind.
In terms of autonomy, direct hire gives you more freedom to pick the helper who best matches your criteria. You can ask for recommendations from your friends or in Facebook groups, or screen profiles on online platforms like HelperChoice. In this way, you can interview as many domestic helpers as you need. On the other hand, if you look for a helper through an employment agency, you might have a choice of fewer candidates, and you might only get superficial information about each.
Using an employment agency can save employers time and effort, as agencies guide you in the process of selection (sometimes they even coach you for the interviews) and all the paperwork. And even if you hire a helper yourself, you will have to use an employment agency to assist with the paperwork (except if she is Filipino with a finished contract). If a domestic helper is Indonesian, a Filipino with a break or terminated contract, or a Filipino overseas hire, an employment agency must be used to notarize the employment contract and to manage the visa application.
As employment agencies spend time looking for the right domestic worker for you, it will cost you between HKD7,500 and HKD18,500, so it is quite expensive. If you opt for direct hiring, once you have picked the right candidate, you just need to find an employment agency to handle all the paperwork, or handle it yourself and pay the visa fees and other small amounts (like for the medical check-up if your new helper needs it). If you use an online platform like HelperChoice to choose your helper yourself, this will cost you about HKD350.
Preventing exploitation of your worker
Unethical agencies sometimes overcharge domestic workers or confiscate their passports. Those practices have been reported in 70 percent of the employment agencies in Hong Kong. To avoid exploitation, you can hire your worker yourself so no unethical employment agency can charge him or her huge placement fees.
Whichever option you choose, you should first identify the time and money you want to invest in hiring a domestic worker. But in any case, do not underestimate the time to conduct interviews, to get to know the helper and to make a decision on their hiring. You are likely to live with him or her for two years or even more so it is worth the investment.
Julie Delignon is Country Manager at HelperChoice and helps employers and domestic workers find each other. She joined HelperChoice adventure because she was interested in working in the social economy to have a social impact while reconciling business requirements.