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Gov't to monitor FDH boarding houses more closely

17 February 2022

Employment agencies' boarding houses will be monitored more closely.

The Labour Department has pledged to monitor more closely the boarding houses provided by employment agencies (EAs) to foreign domestic helpers waiting for their working visas, to ensure that they are clean and livable.

Labour was responding to a report published today by the Ombudsman on  "Government's regulation of boarding facilities for foreign domestic helpers (FDHs)", which noted an array of problems, including overcrowding, poor hygiene and suspected violations of the permitted use of the building.

The Ombudsman said that with the policy to import FDHs, who now number around 370,000, the governent has a duty to ensure reasonable protection of their well-being, including with regard to their temporary boarding facilities.


Aside from a list of recommendations to Labour, the Ombudsman also urged the Immigration Department to process working visa applications more quickly to reduce demand for these boarding houses, and for the Home Affairs Department to optimize procedures for handling complaints about these facilities.

Ombudsman Winnie Chiu’s recommendations for improvement were welcomed and accepted by the three agencies.

For its part, Labour said employment agencies are not required to provide boarding facilities for job-seekers (including FDHs) under the Employment Ordinance, the Employment Agency Regulations and the Code of Practice for Employment Agencies (CoP).


But if they do maintain one, the CoP requires that “they must ensure that the relevant approval(s) or licence(s) for operating the boarding facilities or bedspaces have been obtained from all relevant government authorities, and the prescribed standards in respect of building structure, fire safety as well as health and hygiene as specified in the relevant laws of Hong Kong and/or any other licensing requirements as devised for such facilities are fully and satisfactorily met at all times.”

If an agency violates the CoP, the Commissioner for Labour may revoke or refuse to issue/renew its licence, or issue warnings so that the irregularities are corrected.

“Since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, Labour has repeatedly reminded agencies to keep their boarding facilities hygienic and observe the relevant health guidelines in order to minimize any infection risk. We will continue our efforts in this respect,” it said.


As suggested by the Ombudsman, Labour will strengthen the monitoring of boarding facilities and work more closely with other government departments to facilitate checking, exchange of information, referral of complaint cases and follow-up actions, it said.

Other recommendations include: 

(1) liaising with stakeholders and requesting agencies to submit information about their FDH boarding facilities (if any), thereby creating a database for such boarding facilities; 

(2) compiling and publishing a list of FDH boarding facilities operated by agencies for better information transparency and facilitating informed choices of FDHs, as well as fostering improvement in the sector's operation standards by market forces;


(3) revising the CoP with more specific details on the relevant laws, standards and guidelines applicable to agencies engaged in FDH boarding service for their reference and compliance;

(4) stepping up education in urging agencies to actively co-operate with the Government's initiatives, and encouraging voluntary improvement of FDH boarding facilities;

The full investigation report can be read in the website of the Office of The Ombudsman at

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