How can I hire domestic helpers fairly?
Why it Matters
For too long, employment agencies have been making money from doing a bad job. Employers are charged for bad customer service, while agencies secretly charge domestic helpers too. This illegal practice of charging placement fees leaves domestic helpers in debt and fails employers.
When agencies charge domestic helpers, they are incentivised to place those who are willing to pay, rather than those who are right for the job. When a helper is fired or quits, the agency makes more money by charging replacement workers. Meanwhile, the domestic helper gets further into debt as she borrows more money for a new job.
But there is a better way.
When hiring is done fairly, domestic helpers benefit because they start their jobs free from recruitment debt. Employers benefit because the agency is motivated to find a worker who will be a good match for their family. And Hong Kong benefits because a new standard of professionalism is set for all employment agencies.
Choosing an agency
There are many domestic helper employment agencies in Hong Kong, but choosing the right one is difficult. If you choose an employment agency that is incompatible or unethical, it not only wastes your money, but also your time.
The sad reality is there are many unethical employment agencies operating in Hong Kong, Indonesia and the Philippines. With this in mind you’ll want to pay attention if the agency does any of the following:
Offers low prices
If an agency is offering low prices, this usually means that they’re forcing the domestic helper or sneaking in hidden costs throughout the hiring process to make up the difference. When this happens, it can cause a host of problems for both employer and domestic helper.
Offers an ‘exit to Macau’ option
This exposes both the domestic helper and you to prosecution for violating immigration law. Depending on the situation the domestic helper is leaving, the law requires them to return to their place of origin between contracts.
Offers unusually fast processing
When an agency promises extremely fast processing times, more often than not, they are just using unrealistic marketing tactics. Mainly because they have almost no control over the processing time. See our: Expected Processing Times for more on this.
We started Fair Employment Agency because we saw a better way of hiring workers. We are completely transparent about what’s included in our pricing from the start and our talented team knows the system inside out. As part of our ethical code, we never charge fees to domestic workers and only place people who are a good match with your family. View our pricing and see which of our options is right for you to get started on the hiring process.
Regardless of which employment agency you choose to use, you should as a minimum check that it is fully licensed and accredited:
- Hong Kong Labour Department Licensed Employment Agencies
- The agency should be accredited by the home country of the domestic helper. Check for the accreditation certificate at the agency from the appropriate Consulate.
Three Steps: Ask, Report, Support
Regardless of the employment agency, there are 3 steps that employers can take in order to make sure they are hiring domestic helpers fairly and supporting fair recruitment.
Agencies operating illegally will take advantage of misinformation, and will oftentimes brush over or avoid giving you details about their fees. Stay informed by asking both the agency and domestic helper what the conditions of the placement were.
- Ask the employment agency for a detailed breakdown of costs for yourself and the worker.
- Ask the domestic helper what they actually paid.
- Ask the domestic helper if they have access to their passport or if the agency or a lender is holding it as collateral.
Legally, an employment agency can only charge a maximum of 10% of the helper’s first month’s salary. If you find out that the agency overcharged your helper, it is important that you as an employer report this together with the domestic helper affected.
- Report overcharging or passport holding to the relevant Consulate and Labour Department through the Employment Agencies Portal. On 10 October 2018, the Hong Kong Labour Department announced that the records of conviction, revocation/refusal of renewal of licence and written warnings of employment agencies will be published at its online Employment Agencies Portal.
- Be aware that your complaint will be heard more strongly than a helper’s, who often do not have the same resources to present their case.
Many domestic helpers will need the support and reassurance of their employer to pursue a case against an overcharging agency. They may not know their statutory rights and may be worried about needing to take time off from work to attend their court hearings.
Encourage the domestic helper to pursue a case by letting them know it is within their rights. Let them know their job with you is not at risk if they pursue a case, and try to accommodate time off for them in order to attend court proceedings and legal counsel.
Fair Employment Agency (FEA) got started in 2014 because we saw a better way of hiring domestic helpers. Through the years we have helped thousands of households hire domestic helpers, without ever charging fees to workers, and looking out for everyone’s best interest in each hire. Today, we are more motivated than ever.
Read more: Our Story
Get started with:
- Am I eligible to hire a domestic helper?
- Do I need to use an employment agency?
- How much does it cost to hire a domestic helper?
- Can I join the team at Fair Employment Agency?
Last updated on June 9th, 2021