Rights and Wrongs

A Revised Legal Manual for Domestic Helpers

The extent to which individuals are protected from wrongdoing is not always sufficiently addressed in all societies. Some dither with human rights, others are slow to enact civil rights. In each case the individual is at risk not only from the state, but also from other individuals. Consider a work environment in which basic rights such as time to rest, sickness leave, sufficient accommodation and a clearly defined minimum wage are sometimes withdrawn, arbitrarily. This is a situation that involves both government regulation and employer responsibility – each party can be held responsible, to a certain extent. But who should be pursued for recompense, and in what direction should that pursuit head?

Knowing your rights is often more difficult than it seems, especially for people who work long hours, live in their place of employment and often suppose that the government will not help, simply because it’s not their government. That’s a fact of life for many foreign domestic helpers in Hong Kong. James Rice set out to set out to provide a remedy for this situation in the first edition of his manual Take Your Rights Seriously, and he’s now offering the second edition online at no charge. You can download it from the sidebar at the right.

Leading the reader trough a series of questions and answers, the manual takes a conversational approach to the many problems domestic helpers meet in dealing with employers and the government in Hong Kong. Even though it necessarily deals with sometimes complex legal topics, the language is easy to follow and the sections are clearly laid out to help readers quickly identify precisely what they need to do in their own situations.

If you’re in Hong Kong and know anyone who could use a little guidance through their difficulties, please let them know that help is at hand. At the very least, the manual will provide enough information for them to consider when they contact one of the professional help organisations listed in the final pages. If you’re not in Hong Kong, it might also make interesting reading, especially the advice on how to deal with detention and interrogation by the Immigration Department.

Life is often more than the tourist brochures allow.

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