Domestic workers whose work permits expire by the end of the year will be extended by three months, the Hong Kong government announced on Thursday.

Applications for an extension can be made to the Immigration Department if there is mutual agreement by the employer and domestic worker before 31 December, Ta Kung Pao reported.

The work permit could then be extended till the end of February 2018.

According to the Standard Employment Contract, foreign domestic worker can extend their stay for one month. If they need to a longer extension, they need to seek consent from the Labour department chief.

The move came after the Philippines announced a 15-day suspension of the processing of citizens’ overseas employment certificates (OECs) so it can investigate illegal recruitment practices.

However, employer groups said the move would only provide a little help in easing the problem that the suspension of OEC processing has caused.

Teresa Liu Tsui-lan, managing director of Technic Employment Service Centre Ltd, said many Filipino domestic workers had already bought flights to go home, as Christmas was always the time that they go back for visits. So, many workers whose contracts have ended may not be willing to stay.

Joan Tsui Hiu-tung, convenor of the Support Group for Hong Kong Employers, also noted that if a domestic worker had found a new employer they may not be willing to extend their current contract.

But Cheung Kit-man, chairman of the Hong Kong Employment Agencies Association, believed the flexible move could attract workers who want to retire to stay for two more months.

Paul Law Siu-hung, chairman of the International Professional Insurance Consulting Association, also said employers should also extend their insurance policies as well – to better protect both employer and the domestic worker.

Read: Manila suspends processing of maids’ work certificates

Read: Maids protest over suspension of overseas work certificates