Date Posted: 06/09/2021
Should I use a Domestic Helper Angency in Hong Kong?
Common practices of unethical employment agencies in Hong Kong
Hiring an unethical employment agency can be a problem for domestic workers and the employer. As employment agencies mainly benefit from fees levied on employers and placement fees paid by domestic workers, they have to think about an alternative, sometimes illegal, ways of making money.
Common unethical employment agency practices include:
Fee's, Fee's, Fee's!
Excessive collection of placement fees for domestic workers
In Hong Kong, agencies can only receive 10% of domestic helper's first month's salary, which should only be received after the first month's wage is paid.
However, one of the common ways unethical agencies deceive domestic workers is by overcharging them with placement fees. Most agencies in Hong Kong overcharge their domestic workers. Some may even charge up to 13 times the legal limit. Unethical loan companies can also charge domestic workers up to 60%, forcing them into debt slaves.
Most of the time, domestic workers end up sending the salaries of the first few months to these agencies and may even have to borrow money from money lenders. Sometimes the illegal placement fees are as high as HK$ 24,000. Some of these agencies also confiscate domestic workers' passports to prevent returning to their country of origin.
Why is HelperFirst the best choice?
HelperFirst's goal is to root out unethical domestic workers agencies and the illegal placement fees they charge, making them fair to employers and their employees – domestic helpers.
HelperFirst has an online platform that gives employers the control and freedom to scroll through job profiles to find the right domestic worker for their needs. This feature cannot be found when using an unethical placement agency, as the broker will hide the process from both sides.
Confiscation of brochures issued by the Ministry of Labor
When domestic workers arrive at Hong Kong airport, they receive a leaflet from the Ministry of Labor informing them of their rights in Hong Kong. However, these brochures are often confiscated by employment agencies. They often refuse to inform domestic workers of their rights, which makes them easier to abuse.
As the boss of the house, you are responsible for informing your domestic worker about her rights, and you can ask them if they received the leaflet at the airport and have read and understood it. The leaflet also shows other resources provided by the Hong Kong government.
Providing false information about the domestic worker
Some employment agencies work with domestic workers and give employers false information about themselves.
For example, to find an employer for a domestic helper whose contract was terminated due to poor performance in the workplace, an employment agency might notify potential employers that the helper's contract was terminated for external reasons, such as the employer relocated to another country. Sometimes, they list skills that the domestic worker does not have, but when they start working, the employer realizes that her skills do not match the qualifications listed on her profile.
Providing unethical and illegal advice to employers
To show that they are on the employers' side, some employment agencies will offer unethical advice or even illegal advice to the employer.
For example, they could advise employers not to give the domestic helper time off for a few months or deduct money from the domestic worker's wages when they make mistakes. These actions are not only unethical but also illegal.
Remember that your domestic worker needs one day off per week and has a minimum wage. If you want your domestic helper to work on a day off, you cannot pay wages in lieu of the off day, and you must give her another day off within 30 days.
So don't blindly trust such an agency's advice; look at the Ministry of Labor pamphlet to better understand your domestic helper's rights.
Refusing to reimburse agency fees
Another unethical practice of employment agencies is to ask for employees with better work experience and language skills who are always available at the agency. Therefore, when potential employers arrive at the agency, they interview the most qualified domestic workers.
Once satisfied with the interview with the domestic worker, employers would be more willing to pay the agency. The agency then informs the paying employer that the domestic worker has decided to opt-out of the job for some reason and that the agency's fees won't get reimbursed. Under these conditions, the employer will have to find a new domestic helper at the agency, which probably does not have the qualities like the first one that was interviewed.
Advising the domestic worker to misbehave so that the employer can terminate the contract
It is common for unethical domestic worker's agencies to advise the employee to misbehave, for example, to have a negative attitude so that the employer terminates the contract with the employee. There are reasons why some of these agencies do this.
First, the agency will collect agency fees regardless of the domestic worker's quality and the contract's termination.
Second, the employer will come back to seek further help through his agency so that the employment agency can earn even more.
For the domestic helper, if you have worked for at least three months, you can get a return ticket to your country and one month's salary if the employer decides to pay wages in lieu of notice.
However, keep in mind that if the worker has had their contract terminated multiple times, they may be banned from working in Hong Kong. To avoid falling victim to this practice, you can do additional research before appointing an employment agency to help you hire a domestic worker.
Some employment agencies exploit domestic workers invited forgein workers to jobs that dont exist.
Convincing domestic workers to apply for bogus job vacancies
Many domestic workers hope to work in Western countries, believing that the new environment would be better, not knowing that many countries do not have visas for foreign domestic workers.
Some employment agencies exploit this weakness of domestic workers and invent jobs that do not exist to help people work in some of these countries. They would first ask their domestic workers to pay for their visas, but obviously, they would never have the chance to go and work in those countries.
What is the alternative?
To avoid falling prey to these unethical practices, you should watch for signs such as a sudden drop in domestic worker performance. You should have a talk with your domestic worker as soon as possible, preferably the first week, to find out if you are a victim of unethical employment agencies.
Ethical agencies, such as HelperFirst, allow employers to get only the best domestic workers and peace of mind when they hire through HelperFirst.
Frequently Asked Questions for Finding a Domestic Work Agency
What is a domestic worker agency?
A domestic work agency is the "intermediary" for both the employer and the domestic worker. While domestic workers can easily find work through the agency, employers can find the full-time domestic worker of their choice. Domestic employment agencies will provide appropriate services for the employment of foreign or local domestic workers.
Why use an agency to find a domestic worker?
The agency assists employers by providing them with a list of qualified and well-selected domestic workers. The employment agency will propose candidates according to skills (children care, housekeeper, caregiver, nanny, cook, driver) and their availability. The support agency also organizes meetings between employers and domestic workers to quickly hire the right candidate who can integrate perfectly into his family.
What are the responsibilities of a domestic agency?
In addition, a domestic helper's agency reviews the helpers' immigration and visa documents and obtains the employment contracts signed by the employer and the domestic worker to avoid further problems. The agency will take care of the procedure with the Immigration Department, the Indonesian Consulate, or the Philippine Consulate (visa fees, essential medical examination, consular fees, training, compulsory insurance, plane ticket, and airport pickup if necessary). All files are closely monitored to ensure that each participant arrives in Hong Kong and begins work on time. A domestic employment agency will also help you renew or terminate a domestic helper's contract.
Tips for choosing a domestic worker employment agency
The domestic worker agency must be licensed and have a high retention rate. Remember that a good agency will have a reputation. Giving the right jobs is very important. If you find many negative reviews, it's best to think twice before going to the agency. The agency should also offer competitive rates, but keep in mind that cheap rates shouldn't be the only criteria when looking for a reputable domestic agency.
Hong Kong Domestic Helpers Agencies
Three hundred fifty thousand foreign employees work in Hong Kong. Over 1,500 agencies are registered with the Hong Kong Ministry of Labor. These agencies offer their services to find a domestic worker and assist you in the immigration process. They will help you hire workers abroad (mainly from the Philippines or Indonesia) or find a candidate already in Hong Kong (breach of contract, termination of relocation, or others). But the best is HelperFirst.