(Press Release) HK Government Raises the Penalty For Overcharging Domestic Helpers: The Beginning Of a New Story?

(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

香港政府計劃提高職業介紹所濫收外傭佣金的罰款:改變業界風氣的開始?

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。

僱傭條例及職業介紹所規例規定中介公司僅允許收取外傭不多於第一個月月薪的10%作為中介費,但有濫收費用的金額是高達法定金額的13倍。高額佣金直接影響外傭的生活水平:她們負債嚴重,更可能因為無法退出一份她們不喜歡的工作而落入強迫勞動的境地。

僱傭條例修訂草案將於本月28日提交立法會。該草案旨在把職業介紹所濫收求職者佣金罪行的最高刑罰由港幣5萬元加重至港幣35萬元。條例草案亦建議把濫收求職者佣金罪行的涵蓋範圍,擴展至持牌人之外的相關人士(包括管理層及受僱於職業介紹所的人員)。勞工處亦可能就有關罪行拒絕向違法中介發出或續發牌照,或將牌照撤銷。

加重罰款可能會改變業界風氣。HelperChoice的行政總裁Laurence Fauchon表示:「考慮到中介由濫收佣金中賺取的利潤,現時的罰款不足以起阻嚇作用。」HelperChoice創立於2012年,是一個位於香港、把僱主和外傭直接連結起來的網上平台,透過不收求職外傭費用來影響部份外傭中介的不道德經營手法。

如果這項修訂可以對一些職業介紹所的不法行為產生更大的威懾力,我們只有在執行上述罰則的時候才能感受到影響,這也意味著勞工處有更多的資源進行調查違法人士。僱主亦有權力影響中介的行為,因為他們可以要求中介披露向外傭收取的佣金,並在發現中介有濫收情況時向勞工處報告。

HelperChoice是一所於2012年在香港創立的初創企業,業務正快速擴展至其他位於亞洲和中東的國家。這個處於領導地位的網上平台幫助僱主以方便和道德的形式自行尋找適合的外傭。HelperChoice向僱主提供適合和優質的服務,同時不向外傭收取費用。

如要查閱更多關於僱傭(修訂)(第2號)條例草案的資料,請瀏覽www.info.gov.hk

Sources 資料來源:

http://www.info.gov.hk/gia/general/201706/16/P2017061600447.htm?fontSize=1

http://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/law-crime/article/2093836/study-finds-hong-kong-domestic-helpers-subjected-employment