The Labor Department has updated a list of 20 local employment agencies that the government issued written warnings to over irregularities.

The list stated the name and address of the employment agencies, as well as the reasons they were sent warnings, which varied from failing to draw up agreements with either employers or job-seekers, to failing to return passports to job-seekers, information on the Labor Department’s website showed.

Some employment agencies were also involved in the financial affairs of job-seekers.

Joan Tsui Hiu-tung, convenor of the Support Group for Hong Kong Employers, advised employers to check the list before signing a contract with any agency.

Tsui also alerted employers to some irregular practises by employment agencies recently.

In one case disclosed on a Facebook group, an employer said her Indonesian domestic worker, who had worked for her for 13 months, suddenly resigned. The worker claimed her husband left for overseas work so she needed to return home to take care of her son. The employer agreed.

As she wanted to hire a new worker, she asked the same employment agency to send her profiles of more domestic workers so she could select a replacement.

To her surprise, the employer received the resigned worker’s profile, who said on the application form that she could report for duty in July.

The employer questioned the employment agency but did not receive any response.

It was understood that some agencies persuade domestic workers to change employer, as the agency can get another handing fee – usually around HK$10,000 (US$1,275) per deal with an employer.

Another tactic was the agency would give out supermarket coupons or cash, or waive the commission for workers who are able to change employers.

Under the Employment Ordinance and Employment Agency Regulations, the maximum commission that an employment agency can get is only 10% a worker’s first monthly wage, which is around HK$452 (US$57).