A Hong Kong migrant domestic worker fell from the sixth floor of her employer’s flat in North Point while cleaning the balcony windows Thursday, and was declared dead at the scene.
A passer-by found the Indonesian woman, 37, lying unconscious outside the building shortly before 10am, according to the South China Morning Post.
Police said an investigation showed the woman accidentally fell while cleaning a window, and that nothing suspicious was found.
The tragedy has renewed criticism of the government’s lack of regulations around what employers can and cannot ask their domestic workers to do.
In 2017, following a spate of cases involving domestic workers falling to their deaths while wiping down windows, Hong Kong authorities added a new clause to the standard employment contract for workers, stating that employers can only ask domestic workers to clean windows above ground level if there are grilles installed.
The provision also specifies that no part of their body, other than their arms, should be extended outside the window.
But a breach of the rule does not lead to criminal liability, meaning offenders are not subject to fines or other consequences.
From time to time, pictures of domestic helpers putting their safety at risk to clean are circulated online. Last April, a helper was photographed balancing precariously on a pipe on the apartment wall’s exterior while wiping down a window.
Sringatin, a representative of rights group Asian Migrants’ Coordinating Body (AMCB), called on authorities to enact laws to protect the city’s 385,000 domestic workers.
“The Hong Kong government should legislate to have a penalty for violating the clause. There should be fine and punishment,” Sringatin told Coconuts.
According to the Labor Department, domestic workers have the right to turn down employers who ask them to clean windows from height.
The workers can also “seek assistance” from the department, which can provide “free conciliation services” for the employer and the employee, the Labor Department website states.
But Sringatin pointed out that it is difficult for domestic workers to refuse their employers as they fear they may have their contracts terminated.
She added that the AMCB is asking its network in Indonesia to visit the family of the woman who died.
Ray Lee, Head of Insurance and Personal Injury at ONC Lawyers, told Coconuts that in cases of a work accident causing the death of an employee, it is likely that the Labor Department will launch an investigation.
The employer may be held criminally liable depending on the circumstances of the accident, Lee added.
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