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Friday, May 27, 2022

Outrage mounts over covid helper sackings

Outrage mounts over covid helper sackings

The city's anti-discrimination watchdog and Labour Department both condemned employers who fire their foreign domestic helpers after they tested positive for Covid-19, urging them to show compassion.
The phenomenon has been exacerbated in just the past week as Hong Kong saw thousands of daily confirmed cases, spawning panic in society.

Equal Opportunities Commission chairman Ricky Chu Man-kin said it "is deeply concerned about the reported incidents" and employers' actions may "constitute disability discrimination" under the Disability Discrimination Ordinance.

The EOC said it has received more than 20 complaints related to alleged disability discrimination due to Covid-19 infections,

but does not have statistics on how many cases involved the dismissal of helpers.

The EOC urged employers to show consideration to their domestic workers.

"This is a difficult time for everyone in Hong Kong including foreign domestic workers who have always been supportive and keeping our families safe and healthy. How can we turn our backs on them when they are sick and need our help?" Chu said.

"Taking care of your sick domestic workers is not only your obligation as their employers, but also a duty as a responsible citizen to prevent the pandemic from spreading, despite any fear of infection."

The Labour Department said it would like "to remind employers that they should not terminate or repudiate an employment contract with a foreign domestic helper who has contracted Covid-19."

Employers of domestic helpers "should continue to observe the requirements" under the Employment Ordinance and standard employment contract or else they could be liable to prosecution and fined up to HK$100,000 upon conviction.

This comes as a welfare officer of the Philippine Overseas Workers Welfare Administration in Hong Kong, Virsie Tamayao, told The Standard that from February 6 to yesterday it had tallied 109 Filipino domestic workers with Covid-19, though not all of them were sacked.

The Mission for Migrant Workers meanwhile said it had handled 70 Covid patients from February 18 to yesterday.

Sringatin, Indonesian Helpers Association leader, said the Indonesian consulate has assisted 14 Indonesian helpers so far.

The migrant community has been galvanized by photos of an Indonesian domestic worker and her three-month-old baby who had to wait outside Queen Elizabeth Hospital since Tuesday for PCR tests and treatment after the baby developed some symptoms.

The Mission for Migrant Workers said the two had been waiting outside "in the cold and rain for [their] results without access to food or a warm dry place to wait."

Edwina Antonio-Santoyo, executive director of Bethune House Migrant Women's Refuge, said the baby was finally given a bed in the hospital past 4am Wednesday but the mother was asked to go back to the shelter to await her test result.

Of the 12 who asked for assistance from the Mission yesterday, Santoyo said some were isolating in their bosses' homes but were asked to work despite being sick.

A Labour Department spokesman urged employers to be compassionate and consider granting helpers paid sick leave.

It asked helpers to seek assistance from the department by contacting fdh-enquiry@labour.gov.hk or filling the online form at: www.fdh.labour.gov.hk.

Tamayao said that of the 109 Filipino helpers who contracted Covid, some were isolating in their employers' homes, but many were being put up in workers' refuge shelters.

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