- Licensing of employment agency
Licensing of employment agency
Employment Agency Licence
According to the Employment Ordinance (EO), any person who wishes to operate an employment agency (EA) in Hong Kong to provide job-placement service must apply for a licence, or a Certificate of Exemption (CoE) from the Commissioner for Labour before he/she can carry out business. The EO stipulated that, only the holder of an EA licence or CoE or an associate of the holder may operate, manage or assist in the management of an EA in Hong Kong. An associate is only allowed to operate, manage or assist in the management of the EA to which the licensee’s licence relates.
In short, an associate includes the management of and a person employed by an EA. According to the law, an associate means a related person of or an individual employed by the licensee or the person intending to be the licensee of an EA;
A related person means, in relation to a company, a director, manager, secretary, or other similar officer of the company; or in relation to a partner in a partnership, another partner in the partnership or another person concerned in the management of the partnership.
Operating an EA without a valid licence or a CoE is liable for an offence, which is subject to a maximum penalty of $350,000 and imprisonment for 3 years upon conviction.
The licence is valid for operating an EA at the place of business specified in the licence or CoE issued in respect of the EA only. A duplicate licence should be obtained for each of the branch office(s) of the EA which is located at different address(es).
Validity of the licence
The licence is valid for one year from the date of issuance. The licensee should ensure that his/her EA licence (including main and duplicate licence(s)) is renewed before the present one expires.
Renewal application should be submitted to Employment Agencies Administration (EAA) no later than two months before the expiration. The licensee is reminded to submit the renewal application with all information and supporting documents required timely to avoid the situation where the licence could not be renewed before it was expired.
Requirements when the EA is in business
- The licence must be displayed in a prominent position at the licensed address.
- The Second Schedule to the Employment Agency Regulations (which sets out the prescribed commission) must be displayed in a prominent position at the licensed address.
Failure to do so may be liable for an offence, subject to a maximum penalty of $10,000.
Change of business details / Cessation of business
The licensee is required to notify EAA in writing, for any change of the following within the specified period –
- Change of nominated operator – within 14 days after the change
- Change of related persons of the licensee – within 14 days after the change
- Change of individuals employed by the licensee – within 14 days after the change
- Change of place of EA business – not less than 14 days before the change
- Cessation of business – within 7 days after the cessation. The licence (main and duplicate) should be returned to EAA by the same deadline.
Code of Practice for Employment Agencies
The Commissioner for Labour, pursuant to section 62A of Employment Ordinance, promulgated the Code of Practice for Employment Agencies (CoP)(transcript) for compliance by the industry with a view to promoting professionalism and quality service in the EA industry.
The LD may issue warning letters to EAs for rectification of irregularities detected, including but not limited to failing to meet the statutory requirements and/or standards set out in the CoP. The Commissioner for Labour may also consider, amongst other relevant factors, the relevant track record of the EAs and/or their capability of meeting such requirements / standards, in making decision of revoking, or refusing to grant or renew EA licences.
The CoP is available for inspection by the public free of charge at the office of the Employment Agencies Administration of the Labour Department during office hours. The CoP may also be downloaded from LD’s website and at this thematic website.
Useful documents and forms
All EA operators and potential operators should read the Practical Guide for Operating an Employment Agency for the legal requirements and procedures that should be followed when applying for an EA licence as well as operating an EA.
The Code of Practice for Employment Agencies(transcript) should be read by all EA licensees, the nominated operators, related persons of and the individuals employed by the licensee or the person intending to be the licensee, as well as parties interested in joining the EA business, for salient legislative requirements that they must follow when operating their business and the minimum standards which the Commissioner for Labour expects from them.
Depending on the type of application / notification to be submitted to EAA, different forms and documents would be required. For the forms that are commonly used, please click here.
According to paragraph 4.2.3 of the Code of Practice for Employment Agencies, EAs are required to notify EAA as soon as practicable and preferably within 14 days of any change of the contact particulars of the licensee, company director(s) and/or nominated operator by submitting Form CoP-F1. Besides, EAs are required to notify EAA within 14 days if there are any changes (including joining, leaving or position change) of the related person(s) or employed individual(s) by completing form EA-LOA(transcript). If there is insufficient space to provide particulars of all the related persons or employed individuals in the form EA-LOA, please use the ‘Supplementary Sheet-Related Person (EA-LOA-Supp-RP)(transcript)’ and the ‘Supplementary Sheet-Employed Individual (EA-LOA-Supp-EE)(transcript)’. The completed form(s) together with the authorisation at Appendix (if applicable), all in original should be submitted to EAA by post.
EAs should also update their particulars displayed in this website (EA Portal) where necessary by submitting the Form EAP-F1.