Hong Kong Immigration Department has started a move to stop some local employers taking their domestic workers with them when they go abroad, often for extended periods of time.

Recent reports indicate Filipino domestic workers who returned to Hong Kong after being away for some time have been warned by Immigration officers not to repeat the practice, sunwebhk.com reported.

One of the cases involved a Filipino driver hired by an American businessman married to a Filipina. The driver said that on arrival in Hong Kong two weeks ago he was asked extensively why he had been in the Philippines for months.

He was told that he could not stay away from Hong Kong for more than six months in total each year.

He also confided that he was paid less than Hong Kong’s minimum allowable wage while in the Philippines, with the employer arguing that he was spending much less while there.

Another case involved a Filipina domestic worker who travelled extensively with her employer in the United States and other Asian countries. She was also warned when she applied to extend her contract in January, with officers saying she could not stay away for months on end.

Her employer was also made to sign an undertaking that she would not take her worker out of Hong Kong for longer than six months each year.

The Filipina helper was not happy about being stopped from accompanying her employer on her frequent travels abroad. She was at least paid her Hong Kong salary and allowed to venture out and explore the foreign places they visit.

It appears the new immigration policy does not apply to those crossing the border. But a Filipina helper who is in China more often than in Hong Kong says her employer was made to sign an undertaking that she would only work at the residential address on their contract.

Labor Attache Jalilo dela Torre welcomed the news, saying it bodes well for Filipino domestic workers who are often taken across the border to China by their Hong Kong employers.

Eman Villanueva, chair of the Filipino Migrant Workers Union, said Immigration’s move was welcome. But Eman said the Hong Kong government must ensure that foreign domestic workers are assured of adequate protection while away.