The 'Two-Week' Rule is Discriminatory and Inhumane


Credit: Tom Grundy/HKFP

Despite protests from international organisations such as Amnesty International[1] and UN Committees such as CEDAW and CESC[2] to abolish the archaic and discriminatory ‘two-week’ rule, Hong Kong continues to implement the policy which dictates that Foreign Domestic Workers (“FDWs”) must vacate the country within two weeks after termination of their employment contract.[3] This exacerbates the already tumultuous position of domestic workers in Hong Kong, as it effectively forces them to remain in abusive employment contracts. Many workers are indebted to their employment agencies as debt-bondage victims or are relied upon to send money home to their families, and a termination would render these repayments impossible. A worker seeking employment would then be vulnerable to further exploitation by agencies who understand their desperation to stay.[4] Alongside having to suffer from poor living conditions, minimum wage and the fact that one in six FDWs are already forced into labour,[5] this discriminatory rule only applies to foreign migrant workers as it is impossible for them to obtain permanent residency status in Hong Kong.


My grandma’s helper, who is currently residing in Tai Wo, has been with my family for 12 years and goes by the name “Hottie.” She is from the Philippines, has two children back at home and video calls them weekly. For someone who has almost singlehandedly taken care of my 94 year old grandma while the rest of the family resided in the UK to then be cast out and expected to leave within two weeks if the contract is terminated is unthinkable. The two-week rule acts as an abysmal barrier to justice. In order to extend their visa permits past the two week margin, FDWs have to apply for extensions at the Immigration Department, which costs them around HK$160 per fortnight. During this time, they are not allowed to work and must provide shelter and food for themselves. Furthermore, the process of extending the visa, or going through court proceedings in the event that an FDW wishes to report an abusive employer means that they will require extended stay indefinitely until that case finishes, meaning a considerable amount of expenditure for someone who usually receives minimum wage[6] and is required by law to live in with their employer until termination.


I regard this as inhumane treatment of the people that represent and make up the backbone of Hong Kong; those who take care of our children, the elderly, and the family home so that the employers can enjoy their careers, opportunities and choices that the foreign workers themselves sacrificed.


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[1] Amnesty International, ‘Exploited for Profit, Failed by Governments: Indonesian Migrant Domestic Workers Trafficked to Hong Kong’ (Amnesty.org 2013) accessed <https://www.amnesty.org/download/Documents/12000/asa170292013en.pdf> 22nd November 2018.


[2] Committee for the Elimination of Domestic Abuse against Women (CEDAW) & Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESC) See: Mary Benitez, ‘Rough Justice,’ (20 August 2008) accessed < https://www.scmp.com/article/649677/rough-justice> 22nd November 2018.


[3] Immigration Department, ‘Conditions of Employment for Foreign Domestic Helpers’ (2015) accessed <https://www.immd.gov.hk/pdforms/ID911A.pdf> 22nd November 2018.


[4] Adrienne Chum, ‘Helping Hands: The Two-Week Rule,’ (SCMP, Thursday 20 July) accessed <https://www.scmp.com/magazines/hk-magazine/article/2037255/helping-hands-two-week-rule> 23rd November 2018.


[5] Chantal Yuen, ‘Almost 95% of foreign domestic workers exploited or forced into labour in Hong Kong,’ (HKFP, 15th March 2016) accessed < https://www.hongkongfp.com/2016/03/15/almost-95-of-foreign-domestic-workers-exploited-or-forced-into-labour-in-hong-kong/> 23rd November 2018.


[6] Labour Department,’ Minimum Allowable Wage and Food Allowance for Foreign Domestic Helpers Increase,’ (28 September 2018) <https://www.labour.gov.hk/eng/news/press20180928.htm> 23rd November 2018.

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