(The Chinese version follows the English one.)
A recent survey published last month by SAFE (Students Against Fees and Exploitation) interviewing 3,000 domestic helpers and investigating in more than 100 employment agencies in Hong Kong revealed that 70% of the agencies overcharge domestic helper.
The placement fees which are received by an agency sometimes exceed by up to 13 times the legal limit which is defined by the Employment Ordinance and the Employment Agency Regulations and fixed at 10 per cent of the domestic helper first month’s wages. The high amount of placement fees charged has a direct impact on domestic workers’ life conditions: it makes them tremendously indebted and therefore potentially places them in situations of forced labour as that they are unable to quit an employment that they are unhappy with.
The bill that will be introduced to the Legislative Council on June 28 proposes to multiply by seven the maximum penalty for overcharging a job-seeker, an increase from HK$50,000 to HK$350,000. The bill also extends the scope of the offence to some persons associated with the agency like the managers and employees and may lead to the refusal of issuing or renewing – or even revoking – the license of the agency.
The increase of the cash penalty may change the rules of the game. “Currently, the fine is not deterrent enough compared to what the agencies could gain from overcharging domestic workers“ says Laurence Fauchon, CEO at HelperChoice, a Hong Kong-based online platform connecting employers and domestic helpers created in 2012 in an effort to offset the unethical activities of certain domestic worker employment agencies, by charging no fees to job-seeking domestic workers.
If this amendment can generate greater deterrence against the malpractices of some employment agencies, we will be able to feel the impact only if the said penalties are enforced, which also implies more resources at the Labour Department to make investigations and pursue the fraudsters. The power is also in employers’ hands as they may require the agency to disclose the amount of the worker’s placement fees and report to the Labour Department if they are illegal.
HelperChoice is a startup founded in Hong Kong in 2012, which activity rapidly expanded to other countries in Asia and the Middle East. This leading online platform helps employers find themselves the right domestic workers in a convenient and ethical way. HelperChoice proposes adapted and high-quality services to employers while charging no fees to the domestic workers.
To learn more about the new bill amending Part XII of the Employment Ordinance (EO) please check www.info.gov.hk
學生組織SAFE (Students Against Fees and Exploitation) 早前訪問了三千名外傭及查探了超過一百所在香港的職業介紹所（外傭中介），並於上月發布調查結果。調查指出當中7成的中介有濫收外傭佣金。