Methods to resolve conflicts between employers and helpers due to disagreement in health protection interventions during the epidemic

Stress of helper during pandemic

In terms of helpers, since the outbreak of COVID-19, there have been countless difficulties faced by maids, including:

  • Increased workload

  • Less time off

  • Worried about being discriminated against after contracting the disease

  • Fear of being fired after going out on a day off


Stress of employer during pandemic

As for employers, due to media reports and the spread of social media, some employers may be over-infected and strengthen home hygiene protection. General hygiene precautions are appropriate, such as frequent hand washing and hand sanitizing with alcohol-based hand sanitizer. However, if employers require maids to comply with the following excessive hygiene protection requirements, maids may feel at a loss and feel discriminated against:

  • Require maids not to go out at all on rest days, even if they need to stay at home for meals

  • Requiring maids to wear protective clothing for long periods of time

  • Ask the helper to go to the public toilet downstairs only when using the toilet


If the employer has excessive and unreasonable requirements in terms of health protection, there is a chance to accidentally violate the following relevant regulations:

  • Sex Discrimination Ordinance

  • Disability Discrimination Ordinance

  • Family Status Discrimination Ordinance

  • Racial Discrimination Ordinance

The Sunlight Employment Agency recommends that when there is a disagreement between the two parties in the practices of health protection, the two parties can first try to communicate to resolve the problem. If the disagreement is serious and cannot be resolved through communication, please contact your employment agency immediately. A reputable center will generally provide the following assistance to both parties:

  • Understand the incident from both sides from a neutral point of view, and then make mediation

  • Translation services 

  • Counselling service



In addition, Sunlight Employment Agency has prepared the following scenarios to help maids and employers understand how to deal with related problems in different situations.


Scenario one:

After Maria, a Filipino maid, returned home from a vacation with friends, Mrs. Chen thought that Maria might be infected with the new coronavirus, so she immediately fired her. Does the Disability Discrimination Ordinance apply?


Ans:The novel coronavirus falls within the definition of disability under the DDO, which

includes the presence of organisms causing or capable of causing disease or illnessin the body

. The DDO also covers disability that is “imputed” to a person, i.e.thought or suspected to exist in a person.However, under the DDO, it is not unlawful to discriminate against an employee with a disability if: (i) the disability is an infectious disease listed under the Prevention and Control of Disease Ordinance (e.g. COVID-19); AND (ii) the discriminatory act is reasonably necessary to protect public health.

When considering whether a certain act is “reasonably necessary”, employers

should take into account the fact that the Government has been monitoring the

latest developments of the pandemic and implementing social distancing measures

as needed. Moreover, if an employer is concerned about infection risks after the

FDW has gone out on a rest day, the employer may first consider asking the FDW to

adopt preventive practices once she/he returns home (e.g. washing hands,

changing clothes, taking a shower, etc.) and, when necessary (e.g. when symptoms

emerge), to get tested.

Given the above, it may not be “reasonably necessary” for the purpose of protecting

public health to dismiss an FDW when she/he returns home after a day out simply based on the perception or speculation that she/he has been infected with the novel coronavirus. As such, the dismissal might risk violating the DDO.


Scenario two:

Maria had previously contracted the novel coronavirus but has since recovered. Can her employer fire her when she recovers?


Ans: Since former illnesses (or former infections capable of causing disease) fall within the definition of disability under the DDO3, it may be unlawful for an employer to treat an FDW less favourably (e.g. by dismissing her/him) because she/he was previously infected with the novel coronavirus. 


Scenario three:

Maria was fired by her employer while she was in mandatory 14-day quarantine. Is this legal?


Ans: While the anti-discrimination law enforced by the EOC may or may not apply (subject to the specific circumstances of the case, e.g. whether the dismissal was based on the FDW’s real or suspected infection of the novel coronavirus), the Labour Department has stated that if an employee has been ordered by a Health Officer to be put under medical surveillance or quarantine, then the employer would need to grant sick leave to the employee according to the requirements under the Employment Ordinance or the relevant employment contract.


Situation Four:

Maria fears her employer will fire her if she lodges a complaint with the EOC.



Discrimination by way of victimisation is prohibited under the DDO4. It is unlawful for an employer to victimise, i.e. treat an employee less favourably (e.g. by dismissing her/him) because the employee has lodged a complaint with the EOC under the DDO. 

The information provided on this website is for reference only. No express or implied warranty is given by the Sunlight Employment agency as to the accuracy of the information and will NOT be liable for any errors in, omissions from, or misstatements or misrepresentations (whether express or implied) concerning any such information.