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Employment (Amendment) (No.2) Bill 2017 gazetted
     The Employment (Amendment) (No.2) Bill 2017 was gazetted today (June 16).

     The Bill seeks to amend Part XII of the Employment Ordinance (EO) (Cap 57) to raise the maximum penalty for the offences of overcharging job-seekers and unlicensed operation of employment agencies (EAs), expand the scope of application of the overcharging offence, provide for new grounds for the Commissioner for Labour (C for L) to consider refusing to issue or renew or revoking a licence to operate an EA, and provide a legal basis for the issue of codes of practice for EAs.

      Under the EO and the Employment Agency Regulations, the maximum commission which may be received by an EA from a job-seeker shall not exceed 10 per cent 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. It is proposed to impose a heavier penalty on EAs charging job-seekers excessive fees with a maximum fine of $350,000 and imprisonment of three years, so as to generate greater deterrence. 

     At present, operating an EA without a licence or a Certificate of Exemption is an offence and is liable to a maximum fine of $50,000 upon conviction, i.e. the same level of penalty as that for the offence of overcharging job-seekers. It is suggested to correspondingly raise the maximum penalty for the offence of unlicensed operation of an EA to a maximum fine of $350,000 and imprisonment of three years.

     The Bill also extends the scope of the overcharging offence to cover certain persons associated with the licensee, including the management of EAs and persons employed by the EAs, and to provide new grounds that the C for L may refuse to issue/renew or revoke a licence if an associate of the licensee has contravened any provision of Part XII of the EO or any regulation made under section 62 of the EO, and if any related person in the management of an EA has been convicted of an offence against the person of a child, young person or woman, or an offence involving membership of a triad society, fraud, dishonesty or extortion in the past five years.

     In January 2017, the Labour Department promulgated the Code of Practice for EAs (the Code) as an administrative measure to promote the professionalism and service quality of EAs by setting out the minimum operation and management standards which the C for L expects of EA licensees. The Bill will provide a legal basis for the Code by specifying that the C for L may issue from time to time codes of practice for EAs, and make it clear that non-compliance with the Code by the licensee and/or associate(s) will be a ground upon which the C for L may refuse to issue or renew, or revoke a licence under the EO.

     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 EAs 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 EAs."

     The Bill will be introduced to the Legislative Council on June 28.
Ends/Friday, June 16, 2017
Issued at HKT 12:25
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