A huge number of migrant labours coming from neighbouring countries come to Hong Kong for work as domestic helpers, and over time they became a part of the permanent labour force and city demographics. Residents heavily rely on them for day to day tidying and upkeep tasks at their homes. Apart from the regular toils and labour, these workers are also exposed to certain on-duty risks while performing their duties. Though none of these risks is really life threatening in nature, over time these can take a serious toll on their health and well being.
For connecting the dots between households and domestic helpers, there are many professional agencies who maintain a substantial database of these worker profiles and regularly facilitate interviews and job postings allowing labourers to find domestic help job of their preference and households to find their necessary labour force. But none of such assignments mentions the prior risks associated with these jobs and how to handle them efficiently.
Here we are a few job risks for domestic helpers while performing their duties.
1. Taking care of sick and disabled
This is probably the most commonly overlooked tasks that involve several risks and on-job threats to the domestic helpers. When the homeowner leaves his or her disabled family member to the house maid or domestic staff, they need to be extra careful of their duties in taking care of the person, because any negligence on their part can lead to disastrous consequences like accidents or health disorders. The responsibility ultimately bestows upon the domestic helper, and this is precisely why he or she should be cautious with such tasks.
2. Lifting and carrying heavyweight things
It is a common complaint cited by many domestic helpers coming to Hong Kong from neighbouring countries. Often the migrant workers are forced to lift heavyweight things like large appliances and need to carry elderly residents at times. While the first offers huge risks of getting hurt while lifting such weights, in the second case there is the additional risk of hurting the elderly or disabled persons when lifting or handling them. Sometimes domestic helpers are also forced to lift objects from the homeowner’s car or office premises resulting in greater risk being physically hurt. This is advisable to mention the reluctance of performing such tasks at the time of appointment.
3. Working at the workplace of employer
Well, this a common risk associated with domestic helpers. When the homeowner requests to lend a hand for some tasks at his or her workplace outside of the routine duties, many helpers simply allow them to comply with the order or request of their employer. This puts them at an awkward condition since according to the agreement they are not supposed to engage in tasks outside of the designated home premises. Besides a breach of commitment and statutory agreement this also poses greater risks of working extra time leading to health and fitness risks. A domestic helper is not legally entitled to perform the duties of the storekeeper, part time cashier and other typical job roles in businesses and commercial establishments.
4. Taking care of hyperactive kids
Kids normally are always overactive and restlessly energetic, and that is quite a natural thing for the little ones. But if a home has several hyperactive kids who just do not give a minutes rest to their caregivers or family members responsible for looking after them, even maidservants and other domestic helpers who look after the kids can find it hard to prevent them from doing mischiefs and making errands that can prove fatal. In case it is really hard for the helper to manage such kids, he or she should straightforwardly relate it to their homeowners without any reservation.
5. Taking care of pets
In certain homes, domestic helpers are additionally given the task of looking after the pets though they are not entitled to do the same. Such additional responsibilities put them in a more riskier condition since without proper training and knowhow they can be physically hurt, or at times the hygiene can be compromised by coming into contact with dangerous bacterias and some allergies. Pets often scratch, or bite in retaliation when anyone other than the family members go nearby whether to feed or for cleaning them. Since such risky tasks are not part of any contract of domestic helper job, one should not comply with requests for performing such additional tasks.
6. Working at relative’s place
In numerous cases when the homeowners go to holidays, they take the advantage by assigning their regular domestic helpers at their relative’s place so that the price of their working hours can be compensated with daily works. Since their relatives or friends are likely to have their maids or domestic helpers, the additional helper is assigned with an array of tasks that are not part of his regular tasks as per the contract. This poses extra risks for their well being and health.
7. Technically challenging tasks like repairing electrical appliance fittings
There are numerous instances where an employer requests his or her domestic help to help in fitting an appliance or doing a repairing task. Obviously, dealing with electrical wiring and electrical appliances are risky as far as chances of physical damage and getting hurt is concerned. Apart from that such tasks can also lead to permanent damage of the appliances, electrical goods and wiring just because the domestic helper is not a trained professional to carry out such technically challenging tasks. When the domestic help is not entitled to perform such task as part of his or her regular contract, and when he or she is completely unaware of the challenges involved in them, they should tell their owner about it without beating around the bush.
It is a well-known fact that employers always try to get more works and lot of additional tasks performed by their domestic helper without having any sincere regard for the compliance or contracts. But in such cases, domestic helpers should be kept on guard and express their concerns and reluctance openly about such tasks.
Edouard Muller is a French entrepreneur working in the Hive Sai Kung. He is the founder of HelperPlace – a leading platform to find the right domestic helper in Hong Kong.