Labatt: Labour gets ‘very strict’ with agencies

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Labor Attache Jalilo dela Torre

THE Labour Department (LD) is “becoming very strict” in making sure that employment agencies (EAs) follow the new rules against overcharging and other abuses, according to Labor Attache Jalilo dela Torre.

Dela Torre said the LD was conducting “surprise inspections” of EAs to find out if they follow the newly-amended Employment Ordinance and the Code of Practice (CoP) for EAs, which requires them to issue receipts.

“This is a step in the right direction…increasing the penalties by, I think, sevenfold, and then criminalizing certain offenses for up to three years. So, this is good,” Dela Torre said in an interview.

“It boils down to enforcement how serious the Labour Department will be in enforcing this,” he added.

Dela Torre said the initial feedback he received from EAs was that the LD was regularly inspecting them for compliance.

What I heard from the agencies is that the Labour Department is becoming very strict in inspecting the agencies. They’re being inspected regularly to make sure they are complaint with the CoP and this new law, he said.

The HK government last month enacted a law that amended Part XII of the Employment Ordinance and raised the maximum penalty for EAs overcharging job-seekers and operating without a license.

Hong Kong labor rules allow agencies to collect fees equivalent to 10 percent of the worker’s first monthly wage. The current minimum wage for foreign domestic helpers is $4,410.

Previously, a violation of the rule incurred a maximum fine of $50,000. Under the new law, however, those charging job-seekers excessive fees could face a maximum fine of $350,000 and imprisonment of three years.

The law also provided a legal basis for the CoP, which sets out minimum standards for employment agencies.

These standards include maintaining transparency in business operations, drawing up service agreements with job-seekers and with employers, providing payment receipts, promoting a job-seeker’s and employer’s awareness of their rights and obligations (including the provision on sample wage receipts to facilitate record-keeping of FDHs and their employers) and avoiding involvement in financial affairs of job-seekers. The Labour Department promulgated the CoP in January 2017.

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