What to end when the contract is ending

Media, theSunColumn 20 Sep 2014

When a contract is about to end, the main concern of a foreign domestic worker is whether or not the contract will be renewed. Many of the calls we received in the past month were inquiries on what could be done if there is only a month or a few weeks left in the current contract and a worker has not heard a clear decision from the employer with regards to their plan.

 

As a foreign domestic worker in Hong Kong, such uncertainty can be stressful. It is important for a worker who is still interested in continuing to work in Hong Kong to make sure that you already know your position a month before the expiry of your current contract.

 

Please remember that we are talking here of finished contracts only and there are different situations and possibilities. First is when you are still willing to renew your contract of employment with the same employer and the employer is also willing. Second situation is when you are interested and the employer is not. Third is when the employer is interested and you are not. Last is when neither of you are interested to renew the contract.

 

The first scenario should be clear that because you are both willing, processing of the contract can be done a month before the expiry of your current contract of employment. This entails preparation of documents as per Immigration Department requirements. Remember that there is no need to pass through a placement agency (which we all were made to believe to be a Philippine government requirement until the Philippine DOLE Secretary declared otherwise). Those in this situation are only able to insist in not going through an agency because they are working for the same employer.

 

However, with regards to exiting Hong Kong every after a two-year contract (which is a Hong Kong government requirement), you can have two options: either you take it after the new contract is processed wherein the visa that will be given you is a “Re-entry visa” which means your new employment contract will commence upon your return to Hong Kong; or upon the employer’s request, you can continue working without leaving Hong Kong for another year which means that a one-year visa will be given to you. The employer, though, has to promise that you will exit Hong Kong within the period before the remaining one-year visa will be approved.

 

If the employer is no longer interested to renew your contract, you still have to know at least a month before the expiry of your contract. Even when the employers keep silent about their decision, you have the right to demand an answer though it is understandable that some avoid arguments if the employer does not respond to such question. So you just wait until the employer notifies you. But it may already be too late. You lose your time to find another employer. A month’s notice of termination of contract in Clause 10 may apply because a “no-offer of contract-renewal” one month before the expiration of the current contract can be tantamount to an unwritten notice of non-renewal of contract at its expiration – meaning that your employer is no longer hiring you. Thus, by all means start finding a prospective employer!

 

You are entitled to an annual leave at seven days for each year for the first two years of your employment in Hong Kong. This increases every year by one day to a maximum of 14 days a year. Even if the employer demands that you leave 14 days before the expiration of your contract, you are still legally getting your annual leave (if you still have not taken it earlier) and the employer should pay you that benefit as your annual leave pay. That is still considered a finished contract. If the employer requests you to stay until a day before the end of your visa, decision is yours and if you agree, as soon as you leave their employ, you should go to the Immigration Department to request for a 14-day extension of visa.

 

The third scenario is similar to the second except that it is you who are required to give the employer sufficient time to find a replacement for you. Similarly, that also gives you time to find a prospective employer and put together the documents that will be required of you by the Immigration Department of Hong Kong. The same goes as well with the fourth (or the last) scenario.

 

There may be some snags in the process wherein any one of you may need an extension of the contract for whatever reason and both of you agree to it. There is only one month’s extension that the Immigration may allow for a possible extension of the contract. You will need to have the employer’s letter of intent to extend the contract for another month and that has to be processed by the Immigration Department. Procedural steps will be taken and approval can be considered by the Immigration.(See Clause 15. (a) of the Employment contract)

 

Please remember that all these steps are subject to the two-week rule. Strictly speaking, under the two-week rule, your visa, no matter how long, will be cut to 14 days only to allow you to arrange your departure from Hong Kong. You are “given” 14 days only to pack up and leave Hong Kong. It is not for you to find another job. But as desperate as we are, we know that we do not waste any opportunity and thus maximize the 14 days to find another source of income for the family’s subsistence. For finished contract, that last day of your visa, we suggest, can be utilized to try asking the Immigration Department an extension of 14 more days. You do not have that 14 days anymore if you are in the category of “finished contract”. You need to go to the Immigration to complete a form for visa extension and request for that 14 days.

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