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LCQ21: Handling complaints against employment agencies by the Employment Agencies Administration

     Following is a question by Hon Emily Lau and a written reply by the Secretary for Labour and Welfare, Mr Matthew Cheung Kin-chung, in the Legislative Council today (July 8):


     In 2014, the Employment Agencies Administration (EAA) of the Labour Department received 170 complaints against employment agencies (EAs) in Hong Kong which provided intermediary service for foreign domestic helpers (FDHs). However, only four EAs were convicted in that year: one for overcharging an FDH, two for unlicensed operations, and one for failing to notify the Labour Department of the change of management within the statutory timeframe. Regarding the handling of complaints against EAs by EAA, will the Executive Authorities inform this Council:

(1) among the 170 complaints received by EAA in 2014, of the number of those which were rejected by EAA; of the most common reasons for EAA rejecting such complaints;

(2) whether a mechanism is in place to ensure that EAA fully considers the merits of a complaint before deciding to reject it ; and

(3) of the total number of complaints against EAs received by EAA from FDHs in the past three years; among such complaints: the respective numbers of those which were rejected and those rejected for evidential reasons; a breakdown of the number of those rejected complaints by reason for rejection; if such statistics are not available, the relevant statistics for another period which are available?



     My consolidated reply to the questions raised by Hon Emily Lau is provided below.

     The Employment Agencies Administration (EAA) of the Labour Department (LD) is responsible for enforcing Part XII of the Employment Ordinance (EO) and the Employment Agency Regulations (EAR). It monitors the operation of employment agencies (EAs) through licensing, conducting regular and surprise inspections to EAs and complaint investigation.

     Upon receipt of complaints against EAs, EAA will definitely follow-up the cases in accordance with the established procedures and the Manual of Instruction. Generally, if the complaint involves an EA being suspected of breaching EO and/or EAR, EAA will first contact the complainant to gather more information as well as the case background. If considered necessary, EAA will conduct surprise inspections to the EA concerned to collect evidence and make inquiries to the licensee and staff members. Upon completion of the investigation, EAA will, depending on whether there is sufficient evidence, seek the advice of the Department of Justice in deciding whether prosecution can be taken out against the EA concerned. Whether or not the suspected law-defying EA could eventually be successfully convicted depends on many factors, for example, whether there is sufficient evidence, whether the victim is willing to attend the hearing or to act as prosecution witness, etc.

     If the complaint does not involve an EA breaching EO and/or EAR (e.g. it is mainly concerned about the service quality of the EA or other offences, etc.), EAA will refer the case to relevant departments/organisations (e.g. the Customs and Excise Department, Hong Kong Police, Immigration Department, Consumer Council, etc.) for follow-up.

     In 2012, 2013 and 2014, EAA received 77, 194 and 170 complaints against EAs respectively. Of these, 25, 31 and 48 cases respectively were unrelated to EO and/or EAR and thus EAA did not have the authority to take enforcement action. LD was unable to take out prosecution on the other cases largely because it was unable to contact the complainant to obtain further information, the complainant refused to act as prosecution witness, the complainant had withdrawn the case, the prosecution time-bar had passed, or lack of sufficient evidence.

Ends/Wednesday, July 8, 2015
Issued at HKT 14:33


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