• Sat
  • Sep 20, 2014
  • Updated: 8:57am

Labour Department will not tolerate abuse of foreign domestic helpers

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 20 August, 2014, 4:45am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 20 August, 2014, 4:45am

I refer to the article in PostMagazine by Angharad Hampshire ("Maid to pay", August 10).

The government is fully committed to safeguarding the legal employment rights and benefits of all workers, including foreign domestic helpers, in Hong Kong.

We attach great importance to protecting the well-being of these helpers.

We strongly adhere to the standards prescribed by the 41 international labour conventions that we have subscribed to. These conventions do not contain specific provisions on charging of fees by employment agencies to job-seekers.

According to the laws of Hong Kong, the agencies can only charge a maximum of 10 per cent of a job seeker's first month's salary as commission on successful placement. The same rule applies to local workers and migrant workers, including foreign domestic helpers.

The Labour Department does not tolerate any abuse or overcharging of helpers and arranges regular and surprise inspections of agencies so as to proactively identify any contravention of the law.

We have already stepped up our publicity and promotion efforts through various channels (for example, placing adverts in the newspapers of foreign helpers' native languages, videos, information kiosks at helpers' gathering places) to educate helpers about their employment rights and benefits, and the means of launching complaints with the government in case they face exploitation by employers or agencies.

We have also intensified our collaboration with the consulates of the major exporting countries in Hong Kong (for example, joining consulates' briefings for newly arrived helpers from time to time) and established a regular liaison mechanism to discuss various matters pertaining to helpers.

Under the Magistrates Ordinance (Cap. 227), the statutory time limit for offences under Part XII of the Employment Ordinance (Cap. 57) is six months.

We have been advising all aggrieved job-seekers, including foreign domestic helpers, to come forward and report their cases to the department as soon as possible.

Upon receipt of complaints, it would initiate the investigation promptly.

If there is sufficient evidence, the department will institute a prosecution against the employment agency concerned without hesitation. Furthermore, if satisfied on reasonable grounds, we may revoke or refuse to renew the licence of an agency.

Queenie Wong, for Labour Department


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This article is now closed to comments

Simply not believable Queenie.
The Department of Labour has received 93 complaints from helpers this year about agencies overcharging. How many of these have led to prosecutions? Just 3 prosecutions, and only in one case was the agency convicted for overcharging. If the Department were in the private sector it would be shut down for underperforming.
Every helper in Hong Kong knows that overcharging in Hong Kong is rife- after all surveys tell us that up to 90% of helpers are overcharged by agencies. Helpers also know that it is pointless approaching the Department of Labour- simply look at the Department's results.
However, the Department of Labour's ineptitude does enable Hong Kong to perpetuate the myth that helpers are fairly treated in Hong Kong- mission accomplished.
Nevertheless, the LD refuses to understand that people observing repeated abuse of the rules in relation to the employment of domestic helpers by their neighbours are understandably reluctant to make formal complaints.
They refuse in such cases to respond to informal reports by knocking on doors to remind employers to obey the rules and asking to speak to the employee.
They wrongly believe that they need a warrant.


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