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New CoP for Hong Kong employment agencies

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Earlier this month the Hong Kong Labour Department presented a new Code of Practice for employment agencies. Aimed at promoting the “professionalism and service quality of the industry”, it mainly seeks to protect both job seekers and employers from unscrupulous agencies.

The 120-page document highlights existing legislative requirements employment agencies must follow. Additionally, it sets out the minimum standards expected of licensed agencies by the Commissioner for Labour.

Parts of the code are aimed specifically at the process of placing foreign domestic helpers, but the overall code applies to anyone who operates a business with the purpose to (a) obtain employment for another person; or (b) to supply the labour of another person to an employer.

The code does not introduce any new legislation, and some of its content seems common sense, but its issuance does signal the government’s involvement with the recruitment sector. A spokesman for the Labour Department said the department will closely monitor agencies’ compliance with the code and will conduct regular inspections.

The question remains, however, how much of an impact the code will have. Human Resources asked two Hong Kong HR experts about it.

“I expect the code will have a positive impact on our business, as it will govern the way employment agencies work and will ensure that they follow the statutory requirements. For companies using these employment agencies for temporary staff and payroll services, the new code will ensure full compliance,” Bella Chan, head of HR, Northeast Asia, BT said.

When asked if there was a need for the code, she added: “Yes, definitely. There is currently no market standard set for the employment agencies, and so the quality varies.”

Talking about the code’s overall impact on the Hong Kong recruitment industry, Chan said: “There may be a slight change of operation practice and procedures in the recruitment industry, but I expect the short term impact to be minimal.”

Collin Lam, regional director, human resources & administration, Fancl agreed to an extent. With regards to the code’s impact on Fancl, he said: “It will help companies like ours to differentiate professional agencies from unprofessional ones. Additionally, it will give the agencies some clear guidelines as to what to do and what not to do.”

Considering the need for an employment agency code, he commented: “It’s a mutual thing – both the agencies and their clients should behave professionally. I have heard some stories about companies that didn’t honour their part of the agreement with agencies. For example by not paying agreed fees, or stealing candidates for the sake of cost savings.”

Lam expects the code will limit the competition in the market. “Not all agencies are big enough to spend time on “adhering” to these codes of conduct. Therefore, a balanced view must be maintained to ensure the new Code of Practice won’t kill fair competition.”

ALSO READ: No after-hours email legislation for Hong Kong, experts say

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