Migrant labour groups decry proposals to the Code of Practice of recruitment agencies 

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A Hong Kong-based alliance group wants the Labour Department (LD) to review the Code of Practice for Employment Agencies (CoP) as their proposals are in contradiction with the existing national and international regulations as well as continue to perpetuate discrimination.

 The Asian Migrants Coordinating Body (AMCB), which is composed of migrant workers from the Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand, Nepal, and Sri Lanka, provided their positions on several issues in a statement. 

Beginning with the ‘on job seekers’ documents’: 

The LD proposed that if EAs need to ask/or keep passports or personal documents, EAs are required to explain the reason(s) to the job seekers and to provide them with a written acknowledgment. 

However, according to AMCB, passports or personal identification documents of job seekers are government property and therefore they should not be kept by any other person including Employment Agencies (EA) and Employers. 

One only needs to show their identity documents and/or to provide a copy on the spot and they should not be handed over for retention. 

Furthermore, AMCB clarified that the Standard Employment Contract as well as other personal documents (passport and HKID) must not be kept by EAs, employers, and any other finance companies. 

The next issue discussed was the ‘job hopping of Foreign Domestic Helpers’: 

The LD proposed that the EAs explain to FDH job seekers about circumstantial situations like premature termination owning to the transfer, migration, death, or financials of the original employer, abuse or exploitation, an application from an FDH to change employer in Hong Kong within the two-year contract period will normally not be approved. 

An FDH must leave Hong Kong and submit a fresh employment visa application to be employed by a new employer. If there is evidence that an FDH job-hops, their employment will be refused. 

However, AMCB said this proposal violates the Labor Ordinance and Employment Ordinance. They also added that this contradicts the ILO Convention on forced labour and the Hong Kong Bill of Rights Ordinance. 

Further, the proposal criminalizes migrants without due process. The existing labour ordinance is more equal than the proposed code of practice. 

AMCB said the Hong Kong Department of Labour and Immigration should make clear regulations on how many times a migrant domestic worker can change employers and to create guidelines when reporting cases of violence, abuse, exploitation, long working hours, and inadequate accommodation. 

Other proposals that AMCB provided include the refund or replacement arrangements in case of premature termination of the contract initiated by FDHs, this restricts the right for any MDWs to terminate their contracts and change employers. 

AMCB further discussed the removal of these discriminatory policies that are harmful to MDWs which result in their termination: 

  1. Removing the malicious and discriminatory accusation of “job-hopping” against MDWs
  2. Abolishing the two-week rule
  3. Allowing MDWs to freely change employers
  4. Legislating working hours for MDWs
  5. Including MDWs in the statutory minimum wage, while this has not been legislated, raises migrant domestic workers to a living wage of HK$6,014
  6. Ensuring the day off and statutory holidays of all MDWs
  7. Making Live -out as an option