What does domestic helper hiring look like right now with the impact of COVID-19? (Philippines)
This is a developing situation and further changes should be expected. We will continue to update this article as official advisories are provided by the relevant authorities.
New undertaking for FDH visa application
With immediate effect, ALL employers applying for the domestic helper visas, regardless of whether the helper will defer or take her home leave immediately, will be required to sign an undertaking.
The undertaking indicates that employers will arrange for:
- the COVID-19 test and hotel quarantine for their domestic helper, and
- be responsible for the relevant costs when their FDHs are arriving on or after July 25, 2020.
If employers are found to have breached the undertaking, their FDHs may be denied entry into Hong Kong and future applications from those employers for employing an FDH may be refused.
The undertaking can be downloaded from the website of ImmD: HERE and obtained free of charge from the Immigration Department Headquarters and Immigration Branch Offices.
Can domestic helpers process in Hong Kong without returning home?
Many employers and domestic helpers may be aware of the current travel restrictions and challenges. Hong Kong Immigration has introduced some flexibility to allow some domestic helpers to be exempted from having to leave Hong Kong for their home country to process. However, this process is not standardised and not guaranteed. Read more: Can domestic helpers process locally, in light of COVID-19 travel challenges?
Can first-time domestic helpers be hired at this time?
- First-time domestic helpers will need to go through a TESDA-Accredited Domestic Worker training and obtain a Domestic Work NC-II certificate. They will also need to go through a Pre-Departure Orientation Seminar (PDOS) and Overseas Worker Welfare Administration (OWWA) Training for First timers – these are run by government agencies.
- Currently, due to COVID-19 measures, training and assessment centres are not operating. This means first-time workers are unable to process right now.
- See the official advisory on this from the Philippine Technical Education and Skills Development Authority, TESDA: here
Overseas Processing from the Philippines to Hong Kong
Timelines for domestic helper hiring is currently around 14-17 weeks for those with Domestic Work NC2 Certification, and 16-19 weeks for First-Time domestic helpers to Hong Kong. The COVID-19 situation has affected travel and operations in both Hong Kong and the Philippines. While the process has greatly stabilised since earlier this year, there remains some uncertainties. We explain these below:
- Suspension of Overseas Employment Certificate (OEC) and Delays: Until now, OEC processing is not yet back to normal and is causing delays to those who are currently in the process of coming to Hong Kong to work. Due to a system-wide update, the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) suspended issuing OECs between 6th-16th November. Domestic helpers require OEC in order to leave the Philippines for work. See the official advisory: HERE.
- Travel Challenges in the Philippines: Many domestic helpers may not live near the agency office and may need to travel back and forth for appointments. Different cities and provinces in the Philippines have varying COVID-19 restrictions which are enforced. Some local governments enforce province-to-province quarantines, and Travel Permits, which are applied for at the local police station.
- There is a lack of transportation options. Public transportation is limited and private cars are also limited and expensive.
- There are very limited domestic flights Philippine Airlines (PAL) the flag carrier of the Philippines has issued an appeal for all travellers to be aware of changing restrictions from the local and international governments: HERE.
- Limitation to Validity of Medical Exam: Domestic helpers are required to certify as “Fit to Work” before being able to fly out for work. The Medical Certificate is valid for 3 months. If the certificate expires before the domestic helper is able to travel, the medical exams will need to be redone. The usual timeline for a medical certificate is 10-12 days. This costs around HK$400-$600 depending on the clinic.
- These exams can only be done by accredited medical clinics.There are very few accredited clinics in the provinces. There may be delays to booking appointments.
- What is the Medical Certificate and why are domestic helpers required to get it? Read: HERE
Scheduling COVID-19 Test, Quarantine Hotel & Flights
- This aspect will take considerable planning.
- COVID-19 tests are limited and require several days advance booking. Where can I get tested for COVID-19 in the Philippines?
- Flights will need to be scheduled within 72 hours of the test sampling.
- At the HK airport, there will be another COVID-19 test and will take several hours. Tests are not administered overnight – in which case travellers will be provided accommodation for the night.
- From the airport, the domestic helper will need to travel to the hotel by taxi.
- Quarantine will need to be at an appropriate hotel for a full 14 days (15 nights, 14 days) Quarantine arrangements for domestic helpers arriving to Hong Kong
Extra Costs to be Aware Of
Here are some additional costs to be covered by the employer:
- Flights may be more expensive than usual
- The cost of the COVID-19 test in the Philippines ranges from 6,000 to 9,300 PHP. We see that the costs of these tests may rise over time. Where can I get tested for COVID-19 in the Philippines?
- Hotels in Hong Kong have different packages available for the full 14 day quarantine. Employers will also need to take into account for meal costs. Quarantine arrangements for domestic helpers arriving to Hong Kong
Here are some additional costs that may be faced by the worker:
- Transportation costs may be higher because of the lack of public transportation options
- Board and accommodation if the worker does not live in Manila, while waiting for processing/to fly out.
At times, domestic helpers have difficulty covering costs needed to complete the processing steps. This may create delays in the timeline. Employers may consider remitting money in advance to their domestic helper to ensure they can pay for the items needed.
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Last updated on November 20th, 2020