How can I hire domestic workers fairly?

Guest post by Fair Employment Foundation

Why it Matters

For too long, employment agencies have been making money from doing a bad job. Employers are charged for bad customer service, while agencies secretly charge domestic workers too. This illegal practice of charging placement fees leaves domestic workers in debt and fails employers.

When agencies charge domestic workers, they are incentivised to place those who are willing to pay, rather than those who are right for the job. When a domestic worker is fired or quits, the agency makes more money by charging replacement workers. Meanwhile the domestic worker gets further into debt as she borrows more money for a new job.

But there is a better way.

When hiring is done fairly, domestic workers benefit because they start their jobs free from recruitment debt. Employers benefit because the agency is motivated to find a worker who will be a good match for their family. And Hong Kong benefits because a new standard of professionalism is set for all employment agencies.

Three Steps: Ask, Report, Support

Regardless of the employment agency, there are 3 steps that employers can take in order to make sure they are hiring domestic workers fairly and supporting fair recruitment.


Agencies operating illegally will take advantage of misinformation and will often brush over or avoid giving you details about their fees. Stay informed by asking both the agency and domestic worker what the conditions of the placement were.

  • Ask the employment agency for a detailed breakdown of costs for yourself and the worker.
  • Ask the domestic worker what they actually paid.
  • Ask the domestic worker if they have access to their passport or if the agency or a lender is holding it as collateral.


Legally, an employment agency can only charge a maximum 10% of the domestic worker’s first salary, currently amounting to a total of HK$410. If you find out that the agency overcharged your domestic worker, it is important that you as an employer report this together with the domestic worker affected.

  • Be aware that your complaint will be heard more strongly than a domestic worker’s, who often does not have the same resources to present their case.


Many domestic workers will need the support and reassurance of their employer to pursue a case against an overcharging agency. They may not know their statutory rights and may be worried about needing to take time off from work to attend their court hearings.

Encourage the domestic worker to pursue a case by letting them know it is within their rights. Let them know their job with you is not at risk if they pursue a case and try to accommodate time off for them in order to attend court proceedings and legal counsel.

About Fair Employment Foundation

Fair Employment Foundation (FEF) is a Hong Kong charity that builds market solutions to end the forced labour of migrant domestic workers. Their initiatives include social businesses such as Fair Employment Agency, which since 2014 has now placed over 2000 workers in jobs and saved an estimated US$3 million in recruitment debt, the equivalent of 500 years of forced labour. The Fair Hiring Pledge is another FEF initiative, which 16 companies have signed, committing to support the fair hiring of migrant domestic workers.