Coming to Hong Kong in the year 2017 as a domestic helper, the dreams of Baby Jane Allas turned out to be impossible after she was diagnosed with cervical cancer. What’s more heartbreaking was when she received a dismissal letter from employer, terminating her contract because of her illness.
At the age of 38, Baby Jane felt signs of the cancer last December 2018. But it was only last January 20 this year when she decided to consult a doctor where she was diagnosed of stage 3 cervical center. More than the pain of discovering how sick she was, it was being terminated from work that hurts her more.
Apparently, foreign domestic workers in Hong Kong who were fired by employers were required to leave 2 weeks after. Not only that, they also lose their right to avail free medical care which residents are entitled to.
Baby Jane filed a complaint with the Labor of Department claiming her employers had violated Hong Kong’s Employment Ordinance which states that it is unlawful to terminate an employee’s contract while underpaid sick leave. She also claimed her employer had violated the work contract several times, including not being provided with basic necessities such as a bed, and a full day off from work.
More so, she filed a complaint with the Equal Opportunities Commission claiming that under the Disability Discrimination Ordinance, it’s illegal to terminate the employment of a person with a disability.
However, in a report made by South China Morning Post, the employer insisted that they were not informed by Baby Jane that she was on sick leave when they handed her the dismissal letter.
“But the law is not adequate to protect Baby Jane and her interest. As her employer has wrongfully terminated her contract, she has lost her entitlement to live in Hong Kong and use the Hospital Authority system. She cannot stay in Hong Kong and fight her claims without care,” Jessica Cutrera, employer of Baby Jane and long-time resident in Hong Kong said.
Baby Jane worried about her treatment as even if a visa extension would be granted for her, it will not still give her access to medical care by the government. She was recommended by her doctors to undergo radiation and chemotherapy.
To help her out with her medication, Cutreta helped Baby Jane to raise funds while her case was filed in court and to continually finance the needs of her 5 children in the Philippines and to acquire passports so they can fly to Hong Kong to visit her.
Cynthia Abdon-Tellez, general manager of Mission for Migrant Workers claimed that domestic helpers with illness rely on charity after a terminated contract. They may decide to go back to the Philippines but it may become more difficult as sadly, there is little medical support in the country.
David Bishop, a university professor and former owner of an ethical employment agency in Hong Kong claimed it is common among OFWs with health problems to be terminated by employers but unfortunately, employers do not directly state in court that the reason for termination was because of illness.
Even before Baby Jane was diagnosed with cancer, she claimed she was maltreated by her employer including not given with sufficient food, overworked and not given a whole day rest once a week. She also had to sleep in a cupboard under the stairs.
She left her employer’s residence on February 19.
Meanwhile, Mary Anne, Baby Jane’s sister called for fair and just treatment by Hong Kong employers to their employees.
On the other hand, she also reminded migrant domestic helpers to look after their health by getting regular check-ups.