Updated: Nov 22, 2019
Fair Employment Agency
Employment agencies have been making a lot of money without actually doing the right job. Both employers and employees are very often charged by these agencies. The negative effects of such a practice are that employees –or domestic helpers– are left in debt and employers are getting employees who are willing to pay rather than those who fit a particular role.
Many agencies charge employees up to HK$21,000. Due to the fact that they cannot afford such a large bill they will often get a loan, which they have to pay back at a 70-80% rate of their total income for seven to eight months long. This situation makes helpers susceptible to poverty and debt, leading to abuse or exploitation in many of the cases.
The Fair Employment Agency was motivated to act in order to solve this pressing issue by introducing a more ethical way of hiring domestic helpers. This agency works for the interests of everybody. On the one hand, it fights for employees to not start their jobs already in debt and for employers to only pick those that are the perfect match for the particular role. At the same time, Hong Kong has also benefited because Fair Employment Agency is setting a new standard of professionalism for all employment agencies. By removing the debt issue many of the problems of human trafficking and other forms of abuse will be solved.
As part of the hospitality industry, hotels have the responsibility to ensure that all the labor is being outsourced in an ethical and legal way. Working with agencies like Fair Employment Agency is a win-win situation. The Fair Employment Agency does not only strictly follow laws and regulations, but also aims to ensure that the employees that they recruit have the appropriate skills that match the needs of the employers that hire them.
Case Study: Marriott International
Marriott international has trained more than 500,000 workers in order to fight human trafficking, the second largest and fastest growing criminal industry in the world. In the words of Arne Sorenson, President and CEO of Marriott International: “Human trafficking is a horrific form of modern slavery that entraps millions of people around the world.”
Marriott International has attempted to raise awareness worldwide about modern-day slavery. They believe that training their staff to be capable of recognizing suspicious behaviour and reporting it to management or law enforcement is the most effective means of combating the problem.
At the training, hotel workers from Marriott learn to observe and take notes about things that they remember and report to a manager in case of suspicion. Managers are also taught that they should contact law enforcement if they suspect human trafficking. Law enforcement officials have identified how this training is enhancing security within the community by increasing awareness and responsiveness inside and outside hotels.
Marriott International translated the training program into 16 languages and made sure that the training could be taken both online or in a classroom setting. This way, it has been accessed and understood in all 130 countries and territories where Marriott operates, including Hong Kong.
Marriott International recognizes and regrets the fact that traffickers sometimes use hotels to exploit victims and commit their crimes. However, rather than wishing the situation was different, they have made their properties -more than 6,000 hotels around the globe- part of the solution for this worldwide issue.
One example of the positive effects that the training program has had is the following story. One early morning, one of Marriott hotels’ employee noticed something very suspicious. There was a young boy accompanied by two older men. One of them mentioned to the other that he was maybe going to take this kid home. After receiving the appropriate training, the employee notified his supervisor, who called the police. All the suspicions were actually correct: the boy had been missing for three days.
If hotels want to be part of the stories with positive endings, they need to step up and become part of the solution. It is undeniable that hotels are common venues for the trafficking of humans; hotels can also further contribute to the problem if they are hiring staff that are victims of human trafficking or if they use products or services that are produced by trafficking humans or other unethical labor practices.
However, by working closely with the police, training hospitality staff, using ethical employment agencies to hire employees, and developing a protocol for action, the issue can be tackled, and one day solved. Hotels should - and must - become part of the solution.