Survey: 66% Domestic Workers Got Injured Due To Work
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Occupational health for domestic workers refers to the protection and promotion of the physical, mental, and social well-being of individuals engaged in domestic work. This encompasses a range of measures aimed at ensuring a safe, healthy, and conducive working environment for domestic workers while they carry out their duties within households.
In July, HelperChoice, an ethical maid agency, launched a survey regarding occupational health for domestic workers in Hong Kong with the following key aspects: work safety, physical health, access to information and support from the employer. 213 responses were collected. 81% are currently based and working in Hong Kong.
Around 66% domestic workers in Hong Kong got injured due to work. 34% of respondents got injured or suffered body pain more than 3 times in the past 6 months. 23% and 12% experience injury or body pain “once” and “twice” respectively.
62% Of Respondents Suffered From Back Pain
Most of the respondents got injured or suffered back pain (62%), shoulder pain (46%), muscle strain (32%), hand/wrist pain (30%).
29.11% rated the intensity of pain they suffered 3 on a scale of 5 (1 is the least painful while 5 is the most painful).
45% of domestic helpers expressed that the pain lasted for less than 1 week while 23% had the pain for more than 1 week, but less than 1 month. 18% suffered the pain for more than 5 months.
60% Of Domestic Workers Had No Access To Medical Advice Or Treatment
Surprisingly, 60% of respondents had no idea where to seek medical advice or help from a healthcare professional or physiotherapist if they got injured. 72% had never consulted any healthcare professional or physiotherapist for their injured body part(s) due to work. More than a half of domestic helpers in this survey were not aware of the healthcare coverage of their domestic helper insurance.
Although employers are required by law to take medical insurance for their domestic helpers, this indicates that little information about the insurance was communicated and shared between the employer and the helper.
One helper shared that “I do love my job, but it’s just really tough because of heavy work, ironing, marketing, car washing etc. But I don’t have a choice. I have to do my duties even if I have any body pain. My employer supports me if I have to go to my appointment in the hospital, but still after that, I have to go back to work.”
Employers should pay more attention to potential injuries caused by the daily tasks and review domestic helpers’ occupational health periodically. It is important to note that 54% of respondents did not inform employers about their injury. Therefore, we advise employers to take the initiative for a conversation and encourage their helper to speak up if they get any injury or body pain. Hiding it will only worsen the injury or body pain, creating more obstacles to their work and reducing their productivity and efficiency.
Limited Healthcare Facilities For Foreign Domestic Workers
Another concern is the limited healthcare facilities accessible for foreign migrant domestic helpers in Hong Kong.
“I really wish that there’s a place for a health free check up consultant for helpers or even a small clinic with a reasonable cost/payment for us to go.“
“Health care issues in HK are really difficult, especially the public hospitals. Private hospitals are too expensive too, so sometimes we need to endure pain and just take common medicine for relief. We need more attention to the health of foreign domestic workers.“
Unfortunately, it is not uncommon to see long waiting times for speciality service in the local public hospitals and this is hardly compatible with most domestic helpers’ schedules, who are only entitled to 1 rest day per week, increasing the difficulty of getting the doctor appointment and receiving a proper medical treatment. Furthermore, going to a clinic or private hospital is doubtless beyond domestic helpers’ financial capability.
The average monthly salary of domestic helpers, according to HelperChoice’s 2022 annual survey on domestic helper salary, is around HK$5,287. Without comprehensive healthcare insurance, it might be very challenging for domestic helpers to get proper treatment for their injury or body pain due to work.
In the end, domestic helpers’ occupational health will fall on the employer’s shoulder. Currently, most general insurance policies cost each employer around HK$300 per year. For a more comprehensive insurance policy, it may cost the employer extra HK$300-700 per year.
Mahee Leclerc, General Manager of HelperChoice adds: “We highly recommend employers to take the highest coverage possible, and make sure it includes both cancer treatments and heart diseases, which are often disregarded, as we do encounter several of these cases a year.”
Employers may consider upgrading their insurance plan and get their helper an extensive healthcare insurance.