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Full text of Hong Kong recruiters’ Code of Conduct

04 June 2019

On Sunday, June 2, the heads of two big employment agency groups in Hong Kong and in the Philippines signed a Code of Conduct which should govern their recruitment practices for the hiring of Filipino domestic workers in Hong Kong.

The CoC between the Association of Hong Kong Manpower Agencies (AHKMA) and Society of Hong Kong-Accredited Recruiters of the Philippines (SHARP) was drafted to conform to the International Labor Organization’s general principles on fair recruitment.

The CoC provides, in general terms, the following:

  • adherence to the law of the Philippines and Hong Kong of both agency groups;
  • commitment to not charging the worker any recruitment fee, but only “reasonable” charges for skills training and medical examination;
  • transparency in the worker’s contract terms and conditions
  • respect for workers’ rights, health and safety, including a pledge not to hold on to their work contracts and passports and to extend help to them when necessary
  • non-discrimination and humane treatment of workers
  • high quality of service
  • grievance mechanism and worker’s access to remedy
  • implementation and monitoring procedure

While the CoC is non-binding, both groups pledged to hear complaints against any errant member, and to terminate their membership should it become necessary after procedural due process is observed.

Image may contain: 11 people, including Helen Lee, people smiling, indoor
Group photo after the signing of the Code of Conduct at POLO


By promoting and branding excellence in the recruitment of Filipino domestic workers to Hong Kong, members of the Association of Hong Kong Manpower Agencies (AHKMA), also referred to as “Agencies” and the Society of Hong Kong-Accredited Recruiters of the Philippines (SHARP), also referred to as “Recruiters”, provide their employer-clients and recruitment candidates with a stamp of  high quality commitments that are aligned with ILO General Principles on Fair Recruitment.

The aim of this conduct is to support and allow members of both recruitment associations, AHKMA and SHARP, to prove and demonstrate their commitments to the highest principles of integrity, professionalism, fair and ethical business practices in the PhilippinesHong Kong recruitment corridor.
The Code of Conduct is intended to contribute to the enhancement of business operations, of maintaining the reputable brands of AHKMA and SHARP as key industry players, and of optimizing benefits to both employer and domestic worker toward a successful recruitment and employment outcome.



Recruitment across national borders should respect the applicable national laws, regulations, employment contracts, and applicable collective bargaining agreements of countries of origin, transit and destination. Agencies should take specific measures against abusive and fraudulent recruitment methods, including those that could result in forced labor or trafficking in persons.

A.1 No minors or those below the minimum age requirements shall be recruited.

A.2. All workers are in possession of proper exit clearances and visas before departing the Country of Origin, including any documentation required to enter the Country of Destination and any transit country along the worker’s travel route thereto, where required.
A.3 Visas, work permits, and employment contracts are consistent and match the worker’s designation (job position) and name of employer, and are renewed regularly in accordance with local law.

A.4 Agencies ensure compliance with Labor Rights and Hong Kong Labor Ordinance in implementing any contract terms and conditions, including termination procedures.

A.5 Agencies shall ensure to transact business only with licensed and accredited agencies to avoid unscrupulous practices.

A.6 Agencies ensure that domestic helper’s compensation is fully compliant with Hong Kong Labor Ordinance, including the provision of receipt for payment.

No recruitment fees or related costs should be charged to, or otherwise borne by, workers or jobseekers

B.1 Recruiters and Agencies do not collect any placement fee from the worker or require the worker to pay of spend for things or expenses not authorized by Philippine and Hong Kong laws.

B.2 Recruiters and Agencies do not collect any fee for documentation and processing of contracts unless required by law.

B.3 Recruiters ensure that fees that are allowed by law to be charged to workers, such as for government-required training and skills certification and medical examinations, are charged at reasonable market rates, are not exorbitant, and are at rates and limits mandated by government authorities.

B.4 Agencies will not require attendance to additional training for workers possessing TESDA Training Certificate, except for additional skills required by the employer and for which the training fee shall be shouldered by the employer.

C. Transparency to Contract Terms and Conditions

The terms and conditions of a worker’s employment should be specified in an appropriate, verifiable and easily understandable manner, and preferably in written contracts. They should be clear and transparent, and should inform the workers of the location, requirements and tasks of the job for which they are being recruited. Written contracts should be in a language that the worker can understand, should be provided sufficiently in advance of departure from the country of origin, should be subject to measures to prevent contract substitution, and should be enforceable. Workers’ agreement to the terms and conditions of recruitment and employment should be voluntary and free from deception or coercion.

C.1 Recruiters and agencies establish and implement a “job order system” that communicates to workers details about the employer, including:

·         number of family members
·         house size
·         specific job requirements and duties
·         details of accommodations
·         commitment to HK laws

C.2 Recruiters take effective steps to ensure that applicants fully understand and accept the contents of the Standard Employment Contract, including:

1.      Providing the workers with ample time to decide whether to accept the contract
2.      Providing workers with a copy of their signed contract in a language that they understand
3.      Encouraging a member of the family to join the applicant at a mandatory orientation conducted by the Agency in the Country of Origin (CoO) explaining in detail the job offer and the recruitment terms and conditions.

C.3 Agency provides all selected workers with a SHARP-AHKMA Handbook on the Profile of a Typical Hong Kong Employer.


Recruitment should take place in a way that respects, protects and fulfills internationally recognized human rights. Workers should have access to free, comprehensive and accurate information regarding their rights and the conditions of their recruitment and employment. Agencies take affirmative steps to ensure that workers are employed under contractual agreements that respect worker rights.

At the Country of Origin:

D.2 Agencies take effective steps to make sure applicants understand and are clear on their rights as workers as defined in the following:

·         Foreign Domestic Helpers Rights and Protection Under the HK Employment Ordinance
·         Agreement between HK Principal and Applicants
·         Procedure of Employment

D.3 Agencies comply with all procedural requirements to ensure that workers are properly documented in Hong Kong, including:

·         Accompanying to HK Immigration to apply for HK ID card (first-timers)
·         Registering newly arrived workers (first-timers) for Post-Arrival Orientation Seminar (PAOS) as required by the Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO)
·         Conduct of medical check-up (as needed)
·         Securing a signed acknowledgment from the worker that she retains her copy of her Standard Employment Contract, her passport and information from HK Labor Department are kept by the worker herself

D.4 Agencies shall ensure the fair implementation of workers’ employment contract terms and conditions.

D.5 Agencies will not confiscate workers’ passports or other identity documents

D.6 Agencies monitor and report to POLO, OWWA, or other concerned entity any significant event regarding the worker, including illness, accident, hospitalization, resignation, termination, or transfer of employers.

D.7 Agencies ensure that workers receive adequate medical treatment in case of illness, accident or injury during their contract period, at the employer’s expense.

D.8 Agencies shall assist in the worker’s repatriation when needed and ensure that all domestic helpers are safe and well-protected post-termination of contract and before returning to their home country.


Agencies do not discriminate, on the basis of any characteristic protected by national or international law, in the recruitment, selection, hiring, placement and employment of workers

E.1 Agencies recruit only applicants qualified and determined to work as a Household Service Worker.

E.2 Agencies treat all jobseekers and workers humanely and avoid any kind of harassment or abuse in the process of recruiting, placing or managing workers.


Agencies have systems, procedures, personnel and resources that ensure professional delivery of recruitment and placement services to the satisfaction of customers (employers and workers).

F.1 Recruiters and Agencies exert due diligence and have effective procedures in place to ensure that:

·         All information about the worker is true and correct
·         Workers are properly trained by a TESDA-accredited training center
·         Workers are physically and medically fit for the job
·         Workers complete all departure procedures and documentary requirements
·         Workers undergo pre-departure orientation, especially on the departure systems and procedures, including matters on immigration, quarantine and customs

F.2 Recruiters and Agencies assist jobseekers and workers in gathering or producing the documents required relative to their application, including visas, passports, etc.

F.3 Recruiters and Agencies treat the documents submitted by workers with utmost confidentiality and shall exercise due diligence to avoid its loss or damage or use by other entities for whatever purpose without the worker’s express consent.

F.4 Recruiters and Agencies have procedures for protecting confidentiality of information and documents received from employees, workers and jobseekers.

F.5 Recruiters provide transient quarters for departing workers that require such accommodations who are coming from the provinces. Fees are reasonable and set at a reasonable market rate. Workers who wish to live outside of these quarters will not be prohibited from doing so.

F.6 Recruiters maintain a directory of the families of workers deployed, help them organize and initiate or sponsor programs or livelihood projects or seminars, including scholarships in coordination with appropriate government agencies or interested private or non-governmental organizations.

F.7 Recruiters work only with government-accredited training institutions, PDOS providers and medical clinics.

F.8 Agencies will only transact business with employers without adverse records with the POLO and the police as far as the treatment of workers is concerned, or employers who are not watch-listed by POLO;

F.9 Agencies will thoroughly interview employers to document their capacity to comply with terms of the contract.


Workers, irrespective of their presence or legal status in a State, should have access to free or affordable grievance and other dispute resolution mechanism in case of alleged abuse of their rights in the recruitment process or any violations of the aforementioned Code of Conduct standards, and effective and appropriate remedies should be provided where abuse or violations have occurred.

G.1 Recruiters provide all departing workers with a “travel kit,” including the directories of persons or offices to be contacted, in case of problems or emergencies

G.2 Recruiters and Agencies have a monitoring and problem-solving procedure in place that includes:

·         Monitoring the status of workers
·         Providing workers a safe channel, possibly a 24-hour hotline, to report grievances and contract violations
·         A non-reprisal policy for workers reporting grievances
·         Acting on problems or concerns reported by workers, including an objective, fair and transparent investigation process
·         Counseling workers and helping to mediate worker-employer issues
·         Assisting workers to gain access to remedy where workers’ rights or contract terms have been violated


AHKMA and SHARP shall establish their own complaints procedure for members who may violate the principles of the Code of Conduct.

H.1  If a complaint is made against a member that has breached the principles and commitments contained within this Code of Conduct, the said member shall be dealt with in accordance with corresponding internal complaints procedure of AHKMA and SHARP.

H.2  Should a member fail to adhere to the principles of this Code of Conduct after a procedural due process has been completed, AHKMA and SHARP reserve the right to terminate the said member’s membership.

H.3 If a decision to terminate membership is to be adopted, AHKMA or SHARP shall act in good faith and in compliance with any applicable law and will follow its own rules and procedures, including any right to appeal.

Signed this 2nd day of June 2019, Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, China, in concurrence to the principles and commitments of this Code of Conduct:

For AHKMA:                                                             For SHARP:

Teresa Liu Tsui Lan                                                    Alfredo P. Palmiery
Chairperson                                                                 President

                                                WITNESSED BY:

Jalilo dela Torre                                                           Gaela Roudy-Fraser   
Labor Attache                                                             Programme Manager
Philippine Overseas Labor Office– HK                      ILO Fair Programme
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