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