A court has slapped an employment agency with a HK$30,000 fine for charging three Indonesian domestic helpers eight times the maximum fees allowed by law, local broadcaster TVB reports.
The Eastern Magistrates’ Court heard that Ursula Advanced Employment Centre had referred the three maids to work in Hong Kong in 2015 and this year.
The agency asked for fees equivalent to four to six months of the maids’ salary, exceeding the maximum amount allowed by law, which is 10 percent of their monthly salary.
Then the agency took the three to a bank to open accounts and also draw out personal loans of over HK$20,000 each. But the maids didn’t get any money from the loans.
The agency subsequently confiscated the three helpers’ travel documents, employment contracts, ATM cards and PINs.
It then withdrew HK$3,378 from each of the maids’ bank accounts by using their ATM cards and PINs. All together the agency took some HK$3,000 to HK$10,000 from each of them.
As a result, the helpers were only able to withdraw HK$700 to HK$800 as their wages.
Their case was brought to light after the three helpers sought help from the Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions, which then filed a complaint to the Labour Department.
In his ruling, the magistrate rebuked the agency for exploiting the Indonesian helpers, adding that its illegal acts would deter other foreign domestic workers from coming to Hong Kong to work.
The magistrate ordered the agency to refund the salaries taken from the helpers on top of paying the HK$30,000 fine.
The license holder of the agency is Wong Yuk-ching, according to a social media post by the Hong Kong Federation of Asian Domestic Workers Unions.
The federation urged the government to increase the penalty for overcharging agencies to at least HK$50,000.
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