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Labour proposes getting agencies to warn FDHs against ‘job hopping’

17 March 2023

By The SUN

Labour is proposing to add 'job-hopping' in the agencies' Code of Practice

A proposal by the Labour Department to include so-called “job-hopping” by foreign domestic helpers in the Code of Practice for Employment Agencies has been met with angry responses by migrant workers and agencies, but was welcomed by employers.

In a paper submitted to the Legislative Council on Thursday, Labour proposed requiring agencies to explain to their recruits that if they terminate their contracts they cannot remain in Hong Kong and move in with another employer, unless for exceptional reasons such as relocation, financial hardship or death of the employer, or if the worker has been abused or exploited.

The agencies will also be expressly forbidden from offering any monetary reward to FDHs to induce them to terminate their contracts, and at the same time, will be required to discuss with the employer the refunding of fees, or FDH replacement in case of contract pre-termination.


The proposal will be presented to Legco’s Manpower Panel on March 21, after which an eight-week consultation period will be held. Stakeholders such as EA and FDH organizations and employer groups will be asked for their views.

Ahead of the consultation, several FDH organizations and their support groups hit out at the proposal, saying helpers would not terminate their contracts deliberately just so they could sign up with another who offers them a better deal.

Given the amount of money, time and effort it took them to secure a job in Hong Kong, they will not be putting all of that at risk by moving to another employer who may not necessarily treat them better, the groups say.

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Eman Villanueva, spokesperson for United Filipinos in Hong Kong, said the proposal is also tantamount to promoting bonded labor.

“It threatens migrant domestic workers of possible denial of working visa and as a result, will force many to stay even in the most unbearable working and living condition,” said Villanueva.

“It also contravenes their own policy of allowing both the employer and the worker to terminate their contract prematurely.”

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Eni Lestari, chair of the International Migrants Alliance, said there is no such thing as job-hopping, but just an exercise of the worker’s right to choose who to work for.

“If other people are allowed to change employers or companies freely, why not us? In our experience, most of the domestic workers would stay with a family as long as they are treated humanely, they are treated properly and they are paid enough,” Lestari said.

Curtailing workers’ right to choose their employer could also be a violation of the Basic Law, otherwise known as Hong Kong’s mini-constitution, according to Thomas Chan, chair of the Hong Kong Union of Employment Agencies.


He cited article 31 of the BL which provides that “Hong Kong residents shall have freedom of choice of occupation,” and article 43, which says that all persons in the HKSAR shall enjoy the same rights and freedoms as Hong Kong residents.

Chan said rather than giving the Immigration Department wide powers to act on job-hopping suspicions, the government should set up a committee comprising representatives from the workers, employers, agencies and the consulates concerned, which will have a final say on such cases.

He also said that Labour would effectively be amending the law with Legco’s approval if job-hopping, a concept that is too vague and has never appeared in any statute, is included in the Code of Practice.


But Betty Yung, chair of the Hong Kong Employers of Overseas Domestic Helpers Association, welcomed the government’s proposals, saying the current system is unfair.

Yung said in an interview that employers pay a huge sum to agencies to get the FDH to come to Hong Kong, so the worker should not be allowed to freely terminate the contract before the expiry term of two years. She griped that employers are even obliged to pay for the worker’s return air ticket.

Such sentiment is shared and promoted by some legislators, in particular those who come from the pro-Beijing Democratic Alliance for the Betterment of Hong Kong.

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Not only do they want workers who terminate their contracts to be sent home, they are also calling for the 14-days they are allowed to remain in Hong Kong post-termination to be cut to seven days. They also want FDHs who terminate their contracts prematurely to pay their employers a certain sum.


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