Official list of erring employment agencies to be published

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Foreign domestic workers protest against abusive agencies in Chater Garden

THE Labour Department intends to publish online the list of erring employment agencies in Hong Kong that overcharge foreign domestic workers.

Shiella Grace Estrada, Hong Kong Federation of Asian Domestic Workers Unions (FADWU) secretary, said Labour officials informed migrant leaders during a consultation meeting on August 7 that they intended to publish the list online soon.

“This is good but we are asking that the name of the agency owner should also be there so that they can really be classified,” Estrada said.

But because of Hong Kong’s strict Privacy Ordinance, that might not be possible, she added.

The list would include HK employment agencies convicted of overcharging and unlicensed operation; those whose licenses were revoked or whose license application was rejected; and those who were issued warnings for violating labor regulations.

The Labour Department said it was coming up with the list due to “requests from the community,” to better regulate employment agencies, and to protect public interest.

“(It would enable) job-seekers and employers to make a more informed decision and avoid falling prey to unscrupulous employment agencies,” the LD said.

A FADWU study, dubbed “Agents of Change–Assessing Hong Kong employment agencies compliance with the Code of Practice (CoP)”, showed that 56 percent of foreign domestic workers were charged with illegal fees by employment agencies.

Under Hong Kong laws, employment agencies can charge only up to 10 percent of the domestic worker’s first month’s wages ($441 or 10 percent of the current minimum allowable wage of $4,410).

“Despite the CoP’s clear re-statement of existing legislation on agency fees, the current research shows that 56 percent of interviewees (253 out of the 450 who responded to this question) were charged illegal fees by employment agencies after their arrival in Hong Kong,” the study said. “Furthermore, 30 percent of interviewees were also charged in advance of receiving their first month’s salary in contravention of the CoP,” it added.

The CoP stipulates that the 10 percent commission “shall only be charged after the job-seeker has received his/her first month’s wages” and so migrant domestic workers cannot be charged in advance. Agencies that break the law are liable to a maximum fine of HK$350,000 and imprisonment for three years.

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