Employment agency convicted of unlicensed operation

     The Labour Department (LD) has reminded persons who wish to operate employment agencies (EAs) to be properly licensed before operation or they may face prosecution.

     The reminder came after a person was convicted and fined $15,000 for operating an EA without a valid licence at the Eastern Magistrates' Courts yesterday (July 17).

     In March and July 2016, the Employment Agencies Administration (EAA) of the LD received complaints against the person concerned from three foreign domestic helpers (FDHs). With the FDHs agreeing to assist in the investigation, which revealed sufficient evidence that the operator had operated an EA without a licence, the LD then took out prosecution against the operator.

     According to the law, any establishment or person operating a business in Hong Kong for the purpose of obtaining employment for another person or supplying personnel to an employer is subject to the regulation of Part XII of the Employment Ordinance (EO) and the Employment Agency Regulations. Irrespective of the modus operandi or the job types involved, all EAs must obtain a licence issued by the LD before undertaking any EA activities.

     This is the fifth conviction under Part XII of the EO this year. Three EAs, namely Gracefield Employment Service Limited (located in Tsim Sha Tsui), Enoch Employment Agency (located in Wan Chai) and Blessings Employment Agency (located in Mong Kok), were convicted of unlicensed operation of an EA, whereas one EA named Java Maid Recruitment Service (located in Causeway Bay) was convicted of overcharging job seekers earlier this year. In 2016, eight EAs were convicted of overcharging job seekers or unlicensed operation, namely Marks Domestic Helper Agency Limited (located in Tsuen Wan), Ka Ying Employment Agency (located in Cheung Sha Wan), Enoch Employment Agency (located in Wan Chai), Gold Union Employment Agency (located in Fanling), Jen's Employment Agency Limited (located in Tsuen Wan) (convicted twice), Ursula Advanced Employment Center (located in Causeway Bay), Tamas Employment Agency (located in Tai Wai) and a person operating an EA without a licence in Fanling.

     The LD reminds EAs to operate in full compliance with the law at all times. Failure to do so may lead to prosecution and possible revocation of licences.

     EAs are also reminded to comply with the Code of Practice for EAs, which was promulgated on January 13. The Code sets out the salient legislative requirements which EA operators must observe in their businesses, as well as the minimum standards which the Commissioner for Labour expects of EA licensees. The EAA will conduct regular and surprise inspections at EAs and issue warning letters on EAs' contraventions of the Code for rectification of irregularities detected. The Commissioner may exercise his power under section 53(1)(c)(v) of the EO, if satisfied that the licensee concerned is not a fit and proper person to operate an EA, to refuse to issue or to renew, or even to revoke, an EA's licence.

     In addition, the Government has introduced an Amendment Bill into the Legislative Council, in which it proposes to raise the penalty for the offence of overcharging job seekers from the current maximum fine of $50,000 to a maximum fine of $350,000 and imprisonment of three years so as to raise the deterrent effect. The Bill also proposes to extend the criminal liability of the overcharging offence to cover certain persons associated with the licensee, including the management of EAs and persons employed by the EAs. Job seekers will be afforded better protection upon the passage of the Bill.

     For enquiries or complaints about unlicensed operation, on overcharging job seekers' commission by EAs or concerning the Code, please call the EAA of the LD at 2115 3667, or visit its office at unit 906, 9/F, One Mong Kok Road Commercial Centre, 1 Mong Kok Road, Kowloon.

Ends/Tuesday, July 18, 2017
Issued at HKT 11:15