Test cheats among many maid-agency gripes

Top News | Sophie Hui 16 May 2019

A Hongkonger discovered that an Indonesian employment agency helped a domestic helper cheat in a video interview so she could pass a Cantonese test.

It is one of around 200 complaints that the Consumer Council receives annually concerning maids' employment agencies.

In that case, the complainant chose the Indonesian helper whose resume stated she has had experienced in babysitting, knows how to cook and understands Cantonese.

In the interview, the employer put several questions in Cantonese to the helper, who replied with basic words. The employer then thought the helper could speak basic Cantonese and paid HK$10,980 to the agency to confirm the employment.

"After starting work, the maid's language skills were found to be inadequate," said Nora Tam Fung-yee, chairwoman of the council's research and testing committee.

"She could not even understand basic work instructions, such as 'laundry, cook' and 'clean,' let alone engage in a conversation."

Tam added: "Communication could only be made via a translation app."

It was later revealed there was a translator off-camera to instantly translate the questions and provide Cantonese phonetic transcription for the helper.

The agency told the complainant the video interview was arranged by its partner in Indonesia and refused to offer a refund.

Tam said employers can pay attention to the helper's gaze as the tips could be placed near the camera. They are also advised to ask the helper questions from different angles to test her communication skills.

In another case, a complainant paid HK$11,465 to hire a Filipino helper through an agency which claimed it would provide "100 percent refund" if the application was unsuccessful.

But the helper could not leave the Philippines after failing to submit a training certificate. The firm then promised a full refund if the second application also failed.

And after the second application failed, the issue dragged on for four months and the employer still could not get a helper.

She demanded a refund, but the agency told the council the "100 percent refund" policy only applied to cases where a visa was not issued by Hong Kong Immigration.

Consumer Council chief executive Gilly Wong Fung-han said the quality and performance of overseas domestic helper employment agencies in Hong Kong are "an ongoing problem."

She said the complaints were similar, such as the helper not turning up after being hired or quitting after a short time or her performance was inadequate.

"We also understand the Labour Department has already issued a code for employment agencies to follow, but it seems like the compliance of the code is not as good as we want it to be, so we believe employment agencies still have a lot of room to improve," Wong said.

"More stringent enforcement is necessary to ensure that employment agencies are accountable for what they are delivering right now."

The watchdog also reminded consumers to read the terms carefully before signing any contracts.

sophie.hui@singtaonewscorp.com

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