HK's new rule in window cleaning to protect domestic helpers by January 2017
Nov 18, 2016
Starting January next year, all foreign domestic helpers hired or renewing their contracts will be protected by new rules on window cleaning, aiming to avoid deadly accidents on high-rise buildings.
Domestic helpers contracts will have a new clause stating that the employers will not be able to make helpers clean the outside of any window not on ground level or next to a balcony or corridor, unless the window is fitted with a secured grille and no port of their body except their arms extend beyond the ledge.
But a domestic helper group complained that some 300,000 domestic helpers were not covered by the Labour Department's new rules and employers violating the clause would not be held criminally liable.
The Philippine consulate announced last month that a new clause will be introduce for all Filipino domester workers' contracts stating that cleaning the outside of windows was no longer part of their duties. However, it was suspended after the Hong Kong government asked for more time to work out details and get everyone on board.
Commissioner for Labour Carlson Chan Ka-shun urged existing employers not bound by the contractual clause to follow the new requirements and ensure safety of the domestic helpers.
While employers would not be held criminally liable for violating the rules, they might be asked to chip in if insurance companies had to compensate victims of window cleaning accidents.
But employeess can approach the Labour Department or submit a claim to the Labour Tribunal if they were unfairly dismissed over the new clause.
Emman Villanueva, spokesman for the Asian Migrants Coordinating Body said he was concerned that existing contracts had been left out.
"The majority of the helpers remain unprotected,"he said, pointing out that punitive provisions were missing from the new clause. "If an employer violates the clause, what is the level of accountability?
Chan said it woudl take at least two years more for the clause to be included in all domestic helpers' contracts, as employers wanting to keep employing their current maids would have to renew their contracts.
The Immigration Department said they would still process contracts signed on or before December 31, 2016 using older forms without the clause, provided that the applications will reached the department on or before January 27, 2017.
They also promised to step up publicity to ensure awareness among employers and domestic helpers.