Local authorities are seeking to to raise the maximum penalty for the offences of overcharging job seekers and unlicensed operation of employment agencies.
In a government press release issued last Friday, authorities gazetted The Employment (Amendment) (No.2) Bill 2017. The new bill seeks to amend Part XII of the Employment Ordinance (EO) (Cap 57) to raise the maximum penalty for overcharging job seekers.
Under present regulations, the maximum commission which may be received by an employment agency from a job seeker shall not exceed 10% of his or her first month’s wages. A person contravening the provision is liable to a maximum penalty of a fine of $50,000.
The bill has proposed to raise the penalty of such offences to a maximum fine of HKD$350,000 and imprisonment of three years, so as to generate greater deterrence.
A Government spokesman said “These legislative amendments will afford better protection to job seekers, particularly foreign domestic helpers who come to work in Hong Kong for the first time and may easily fall prey to dishonest employment agencies that overcharge them on commissions as they are not fully aware of their statutory rights. They will also generate greater deterrence against the malpractices of employment agencies.”
The bill which will be introduced to the Legislative Council on June 28 also proposed to raise the the maximum penalty for the offence of unlicensed operation of an employment agency to a maximum fine of HKD$350,000 and imprisonment of three years.
Laurence Fauchon, co-founder at HelperChoice, an online platform where employers and domestic helpers can connect, agrees there should be a heavier fine. “We believe that HKD$350,000 is a more relevant amount given the amounts of money involved in fraud. Overcharging domestic workers is not just a matter of money, it also makes them tremendously indebted and therefore potentially places them in situations of forced labour in the sense that they are unable to quit an employment that they are unhappy with,” she said.
She also urged the Labour Department to put more resources in making investigations and pursuing the fraudsters.