The Philippines’ top diplomat in Hong Kong said Tuesday it was illegal and “immoral” for residents to fire and turf out domestic workers who test positive for the coronavirus, as the Chinese city endures its worst outbreak yet.
Charities said last week that foreign domestic workers in the wealthy city were being “abandoned” amid the COVID-19 wave, with some forced to sleep outdoors or being denied treatment after testing positive.
Residents live in one of the world’s most densely packed cities and rely on some 370,000 foreign domestic workers — the vast majority women from the Philippines and Indonesia — who cook, clean, and care for their families.
Consul-General Raly Tejada said the mission had helped 31 Filipinos who sought its help for hospitalisation or access to isolation rooms, adding 61 in all had tested positive.
It is also looking into the cases of “around three to five” Filipinos whose employment contracts were allegedly terminated after they tested positive, he told an online news conference streamed on government television’s Facebook page.
“If it can be proven that they were asked to leave because of their sickness, this can be considered an illegal dismissal under the employment ordinance in Hong Kong,” he said.
“We are proactively engaging also the employers to explain to them that terminating their employees in these difficult times especially when they are positive is not only illegal. It is immoral.”
“Many of them have been convinced to take back their employees and to make sure that proper care and assistance is given to them,” Tejada said, without giving details.
In Hong Kong, foreign domestic workers must live with their employers, cannot swap jobs easily, and are entitled to one day off a week.
Last week a coalition of Hong Kong groups representing migrant workers alleged some found themselves denied treatment at hospitals because they had lost their jobs.
Activists said many Hong Kong employers were refusing to let their domestic workers leave often cramped apartments even on their day off, while some had been fired for taking their rest day.
Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam told residents Friday to encourage helpers to stay indoors, and said police would step up social distancing fines.