CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Sunday, 1 September 2019

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Draft code lacks penalty system commission says

HONG KONG (SE): With the Labour Department of Hong Kong submitting a Draft Code of Practice for Employment Agencies for public consultation, the Hong Kong Catholic Commission for Labour Affairs believes there should still be a penalty system for substandard service, even though the code is not legally binding.

Law Pui-shan, policy research officer of the commission, said that although the code of practice listed in black and white what an employment agency should and should not do, the consequences of non-compliance are not spelled out.

She said that the commission had already suggested using a points system as one of the requirements of retaining a license, with the threat of point deduction threshold acting as a deterrent against bad conduct.

Law further explained that although the code of practice is not law, some administrative measures, like the points system, can still be used to penalise misbehaving agencies. She noted that similar measures are already being used in licensing outsourced cleaning companies.

She also believes that staff and even directors of employment agencies should be required to undergo training to guarantee a professional level of service.

Law noted that the code also has a few wobbly guidelines. For instance, employment agencies are not obliged to verify the information provided by a foreign domestic worker, though they are allowed to say that the information is only provided by the person concerned and they have no liability if it is wrong.

Many agencies do not verify the working history of a foreign domestic worker even though previous employer may have provided contact details. Law believes that under the proposed code of practice, an employment agency should be required to verify information if the former employer can be reached. 

The draft can be downloaded in the website of the Labour Department and written views can be submitted to the department until June 17.

The commission will attend a public consultation meeting at the Legislative Council at 2.30pm on May 24. 

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