Two lawmakers have been rebuffed by the Hong Kong government after asking it to review the law on free medical treatment for domestic workers. The territory’s secretary for labor and welfare, Dr Law Chi-kwong, said it was “reasonable” to hold employers responsible for domestic workers’ insurance or medical expenses.
Michael Tien, who represents the city’s New Territories West constituency, said employers have no authority to stop domestic workers from going out during inclement weather or interfering with their engagement in high-risk activities on non-working days.
However, the insurance policies taken out by employers for their domestic workers normally do not cover medical expenses incurred due to illnesses or injuries not attributable to their employment.
Tien said he had received requests for assistance from employers who had been required to bear hefty medical expenses for their workers.
He asked the government to review its Standard Employment Contract for domestic workers so that employers and employees shared the relevant expenses.
Ann Chiang, a lawmaker from the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong echoed Tien, adding that some domestic workers become pregnant during their holidays. She urged the government to revise legislation.
Dr Law Chi-kwong, secretary for labor and welfare, replied in the Legislative Council on Wednesday that the existing Standard Employment Contract requires employers to provide free medical treatment for domestic workers no matter the cause of their illness or injury. This means they do not suffer delays in treatment or go without.
The government considers it reasonable, he said, to hold employers responsible and does not see any strong justification to abolish or revise the current arrangement.
Law added that a number of comprehensive insurance products for domestic workers were now available on the market.
He advised that employers be fully aware of what is covered by their insurance products and to talk to their domestic workers about them.