CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 23 March 2019

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Communication as important as work

HONG KONG (SE): Migrant workers were reminded that communicating with their employers about things that are important to them, like food preferences, rest periods and holidays, is as vital to workplace relations as their performance, at a session organised by the Domestic Workers Empowerment Project at the University of Hong Kong on May 22.

They were told that these things can be regarded as reasonable needs, and a good understanding between employer and employee is a recipe for a good and happy workplace.

Debra Ling Mei, the operations manager of the Fair Employment Agency, and Grace Cheng Hoi-man, the recruitment manager, gave a one-and-a-half hour presentation on employment issues and interview tips for the around 200 people who joined the project.

Ling stressed that most migrants work hard and are obedient, but they tend to shy away from talking about uncomfortable topics like holidays, adequate rest time or food preference with their employers.

However, Ling stressed that these are reasonable topics and said that it is highly advisable to bring them up.

Otherwise, she said that workers may end up feeling upset, which affects their concentration and work performance.

“You cannot work properly if you are not happy with your work arrangements. And your employer may feel it and wonder why,” she explained.

Ling added that it is important to maintain a good relationship with an employer, not only through doing good work, but also by communicating well in order to avoid misunderstandings.

She added that a good relationship with an employer is also a way to get a good reference letter at the end of a contract, which can help in finding a suitable employer in the future, as many people now look for proof of good performance, instead of just relevant work experience.

Besides a reference letter, she reminded those who are about to finish a contract and look for a new job to ask for a release letter, with the last day of employment clearly stated.

She explained that it also needs to carry the employer’s signature as shown in the original contract, which is a must for the processing of a new visa at the Immigration Department.

Moreover, she said it is important for workers to know their rights, since their employers may not be really clear about them.

She pointed out that many workers are surprised when told by their employers that they do not get statutory (public) holidays during the first three months of work.

But she explained that the law only says that they are not entitled to paid statutory holidays. But it does allow an unpaid day off on a statutory holiday if they need to.

The regulation also does not apply to the mandatory one day off a week, which all workers are entitled to from day one. Nevertheless, Ling added that some employers actually do not mind giving paid statuary holidays right from the beginning.

She said workers also need to know and understand how their annual leave increases progressively every year under the Employment Ordinance.

She encouraged them to use the app, FAIR Hong Kong, which has a function for calculating sick leave allowances and annual leave.

Cheng, on the other hand, reminded workers that social media, like Facebook or WhatsApp, are also a way for a future employer or even stranger to find out things about them.

She advised setting a high privacy level to prevent their private life from being exposed and not to use improper profile pictures or usernames, as they tend to scare off a potential employer.

She also advised people not to simply describe themselves as hardworking, trustworthy, patient or obedient in job interviews, as that is what everyone says.

Instead, she suggested they give answers that address an employer’s concerns, like how they cook healthy food or how they can occupy children without resorting to letting them watch television.

The day was organised as part of an empowerment project led by Michael Manio, from the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Hong Kong. It includes a series of talks about health, law, nature, food and hygiene.

The project is now in its second phase, which requires participants to submit papers and take an examination in order to receive a graduation certificate.

The talk took place in the morning and an examination ran from 1.00pm and 5.00pm on the same day.

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