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Can domestic helpers receive cash instead of unused annual leave days?

Many domestic helpers have had to delay annual leave holidays due to the COVID-19 situations. See our article for more on Annual Leave entitlements: What holidays are domestic helpers entitled to? Statutory, public holidays, rest days and annual leave).

Are home/vacation leave and annual leave the same thing?

No. Keep in mind that home/vacation leave (See: Home Leave for Domestic Helpers – Frequently Asked Questions ) and annual leave are different types of leave with different requirements and entitlements. 

Home/vacation leave is a requirement by the Hong Kong Immigration Department for domestic helpers to return to her place of origin for at least 7 days for every employment contract and the travel expenses are shouldered by the employer. On the other hand,

Annual Leaves are paid holidays as an employee’s entitlement under Employment Ordinance and the employer is not responsible for the travel expenses if the domestic helper chooses to travel.

How many days of annual leave are domestic helpers entitled to?

A domestic helper’s entitlement to paid annual leave increases by one day each year of service from 7 days in the first year, to a maximum of 14 days. 

How are annual leaves arranged?

After discussion with the domestic helper, the employer should appoint the time/dates of the annual leave.

The annual leave dates should be confirmed by written notice to the domestic helper at least 15 days in advance, unless a shorter period has been mutually agreed. 

Paid annual leave should be granted for an unbroken period. Any rest day or statutory holiday falling within a period of annual leave will be counted as annual leave and another rest day or holiday needs to be arranged. If the domestic helper requests, it may be granted with the following condition as set by the Labour Department (Hong Kong Labour Department):

  • The domestic helper is entitled to LESS than 10 days of annual, then, up to 3 days can be granted separately; the balance should be granted consecutively.
  • The domestic helper is entitled to MORE than 10 days of annual, then, at least 7 days should be granted consecutively.

Employers and domestic helpers are encouraged to have open communication so that both can come up with a mutually acceptable arrangement.

Can domestic helpers receive cash for the unused annual leave?

Many domestic helpers may have accumulated a number of annual leave days and wonder whether these can be settled in cash since travel challenges continue. The following are the the only times that domestic helpers may do so:

  1. If the domestic helper has more than 10 days annual leave, then, she may choose to accept payment as part of her leave entitlement. 10 days must be taken as annual leave days and she may only receive cash for the remaining difference.
    1. For example, if she accumulated 15 days’ annual leave, she can take 10 days’ leave and accept payment of the equivalent wages for the 5 days’ leave.
  2. Upon termination of contract, if the domestic helper has worked for the employer for more than three months, and the reason for termination is not: ‘Summary dismissal,’ then all accumulated untaken annual leave can be settled in cash.

Can domestic helpers receive cash for the flight tickets of home/vacation leave?

Home/vacation leave is an Immigration requirement of domestic helpers:

  • Clause 13 of the Standard Employment Contract states that: Between contracts, unless with approval for extension of stay in Hong Kong, a domestic helper shall return to her place of origin for home/vacation leave for not less than 7 days. This leave is at the expense of the employer.

Due to the travel challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, domestic helpers may apply for further Extension of the Limit of Stay with the Immigration Department if she is unable to return to her place of origin within her extended limit of stay.  See: How can domestic helpers get a visa extension in Hong Kong? 

Please note that upon Extension of the Limit of Stay, the requirement of return to place of origin is deferred but not removed. The employer should make arrangements for the domestic helper to return to her place of origin for home/vacation leave within the extension period. For this reason, domestic helpers should not receive cash for the flight tickets of home/vacation leave.

However, if home/vacation leave is not taken before the current contract ends and the contract is not renewed, the domestic helper should receive the following entitlements regarding this untaken home/vacation leave, which may include:

  • Flight tickets and any local transportation fare
  • Food and travelling allowance ($100 per day)
  • Wages in lieu of paid home/vacation leave (as indicated in clause 13 of standard employment contract)

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Last updated on August 31st, 2021