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The Two-Week Rule: A Barrier to Justice

Hong Kong law discourages against any migrant domestic helper (MDH) brave enough to speak out.[1] One of these legal impediments faced is the Two-Week Rule.[2] This rule stipulates that MDH’s must find new employment and receive an approved work visa within two weeks of the termination of their contract or the contract ending, or they must leave Hong Kong.

This ‘archaic’ rule has been subjected to an abundance of criticism, for good reason. It acts as a barrier in the pursuit of justice. Workers are pressured to remain in abusive situations since if they leave their job, this may likely result in leaving the country making the repayment of recruitment fees and supporting their families impossible, the main reason an MDH migrates to Hong Kong. The requirement to find a new job within two-weeks places the MDH at the whim of employment agencies, catering for further exploitation as the MDH may have no other choice but to accept excessive recruitment fees and a salary below minimum wage.[3]

Moreover, in abusive situations, the rule makes it difficult and expensive for the MDH to file a case against her employer as they need to apply for a visa extension at the cost of HK$190 for 14 days yet the Labour Tribunal takes nearly two months to process a case. During which the MDH is prohibited from earning an income and has to pay for her own upkeep. These are significant barriers for MDH to overcome in order to seek redress for human right and labour violations. Therefore, the rule provides a “disincentive for the workers to denounce exploitative practices and seek justice through the legal channels.”[4]

There have been calls urging the government to review the rule and to “improve legal protection for MDH’s so that they are in line with those afforded to local workers”[5] but these have been blocked by fears of ‘job-hopping’. However, job-hopping has been debunked as a myth with findings stating that the rule in fact “encouraged employers to violate the standard form contract and to ‘maid hop’… putting a ‘menace of penalty’ in the hands of every employment agent and employer”.[6]

How can the government continue to uphold a law that provides an avenue for injustice? MDH are vulnerable and it’s time for the government to take action by scrapping the rule and abiding by international human rights norms.[7]

[1] Grundy, T. HK Helpers Campaign Blog, Scrap the 2-Week Rule ( Accessed: 09/11/18

[2] The ‘two-week rule’ is a quasi-official immigration regulation applied to MDHs since 24 March 1987 when it was imposed by the Governor through an Executive Order.

[3] Amnesty International 21 November 2013 Report: China: Exploited for profit, failed by the governments: Indonesian migrant domestic workers trafficked to Hong Kong.

[4] Grundy (no 1)

[5] UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, Concluding Observations on the People’s Republic of China (including Hong Kong and Macao) UN Doc E/C.12/1Add.107 13 May 2005, para95

[6] Grundy, T. (no 1) 2006 HKU study

[7] R151 Migrant Workers Recommendation, 1975 (Geneva: 60th Session ILO Conference, 1975) adopted 24 June 1975, Article 30.

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