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How should I prepare for Chinese New Year?

Chinese New Year is a major holiday in Hong Kong. It marks the beginning of the lunar calendar year. There are usually three statutory days off for the holiday and many people take the week off. It is a very family focused holiday and was traditionally a time to honour their ancestors. The holiday is associated with many customs, superstitions and myths.

Statutory holidays during Chinese New Year

Many families will rely on the support of domestic helpers leading up to and during that week due to the customs of doing major house-cleaning and multiple family functions. Employers should give advance notice if they will require their domestic helper to work through the statutory holidays. Domestic helpers are entitled to have all statutory holidays off and should be compensated with alternate days off within 60 days if they are required to work through them.

A minimum of 48 hours notice is required, however, we recommend giving as much notice as possible. Because it’s a holiday, many domestic helpers will have special activities and outings planned.

Work safety while window cleaning

A reminder that if employers require domestic helpers to clean the exterior windows they must be located where it is reasonably safe for the helper to do so. The windows being cleaned should be on the ground level, have a balcony adjacent, or the window must be:

  • fitted with a grille which is locked or secured in a manner that prevents the grille from being opened, and
  • no part of the helper’s body extends beyond the window ledge except the arms.

Observing Traditions

Domestic helpers may not be familiar with all the customs and traditions of Chinese New Year. Below, we share some common traditions, however, different families may have different customs and beliefs.

We suggest employers and domestic helpers spend some time in advance to make sure everyone is on the same page with expectations for the holidays, especially when there are visitors.

Lai-See Packet and Chinese New Year Bonuses

Many employers use this opportunity to show appreciation of their domestic helper. This may be through the popular custom of lai-see gifting, or even choose this time to present their domestic worker with their annual bonus.  Read more about the background of traditional lai-see giving on South China Morning Post: here.

If you are considering gifting a lai-see bonus

Bonuses are often used as a way to reward positive work performance. But keep in mind this is not the most effective way to incentivise good performance. Avoid confusion by having performance reviews and/or regular feedback, separate from the bonus.

Some tips from Enrich, a Hong Kong charity that provides financial education to domestic workers:

  • Check with your domestic worker if she has a bank account in Hong Kong. If she doesn’t consider helping her open one – especially if you are planning to give a larger amount.  Read more about opening bank accounts here.
  • Consider encouraging your domestic worker on financial planning and education. More on this here.

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Last updated on February 1st, 2019
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