Effective from February 9 2018, the provisions in the Employment Ordinance relating to Employment Agencies (EAs) have been amended to:
- increase the maximum penalty for the offences of overcharging commission from job-seekers and the unlicensed operation of EAs up to a fine of HK$350,000 and imprisonment for three years;
- extend the overcharging offences to associates of the holder of a licence to operate an employment agency, including persons involved in the management of or employed by the EAs, or a person purporting to act as a licensee or associate;
- amend the grounds for refusing to issue or renew, or for revoking an EA licence to include if the licensee or a related person has within the last 5 years been convicted of certain criminal offences, breached the relevant provisions of the EO or regulations relating to EAs or has not complied with any code of practice issued in respect of EAs; and
- empower the Commissioner for Labour to issues codes of practice setting out principles, procedures, guidelines and standards for the operation, management or control of EAs. The Commissioner for Labour also issued a new Code of Practice for EAS on 9 February 2018 (COP), which may be downloaded from the Labour Department’s website (labour.gov.hk) or EAs Portal (www.eaa.labour.gov.hk).
In its press release, the Labour Department issued a reminder that failure to comply with the laws and COP relating to EAs may lead to prosecution and possible revocation of licences. In January 2018 alone, two licensees of an EA were convicted of overcharging commission, ordered to pay a fine and refund the excessive placement fees paid.
EAs should take note of the increased penalties, read through the COP and take steps to comply with the requirements and standards set out in the COP.
The above is not intended to be relied on as legal advice and specific legal advice should be sought at all times in relation to the above.
If you would like to discuss any of the matters discussed in this brief article, please contact: