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How To Set Up Your Own Employment Agency

Hiring is a two-way street. While talents are available in the market, matching a candidate to an ideal job profile can be challenging. This is where an employment agency comes into play and works with employers and job seekers to provide services of search, advice, selection and payroll for a successful job match. An employment agency can also assist in the hiring process of local and foreign candidates for junior positions and senior management roles. Given the importance of employment agencies, it is no doubt that they play an integral role in Hong Kong's economic success.

In fact, there were 3,148 licensed employment agencies registered under the Labour Department in Hong Kong as of May 2020.

If you are keen to start your own employment agency in Hong Kong, you’ll need to register your company first. Read on for our nifty guide on everything you need to know.

What Is An Employment Agency?

According to the Hong Kong Employment Ordinance, an employment agency refers to “an establishment or person who aims to obtain employment for another person, or supply personnel to an employer”. In other words, recruitment agencies, staffing agencies, placement agencies, and manpower agencies all belong to the employment agency category.

Who Needs An Employment Agency Licence in Hong Kong?

A license, specifically the Employment Agency Licence is required by any person or company who undertakes job placement related activities in Hong Kong. This license is issued by the Hong Kong Labour Department.

As part of her company’s business, Elizabeth collects resumes from job seekers to place them in relevant job vacancies in different companies. Upon a successful job match, she gets a commission from the company she matches the job seeker at. Therefore, Elizabeth would require an employment agency licence to continue legal operations in Hong Kong.

When Do You Not Need a Licence?

A license is not required if it falls under the following conditions:

  • Operating on the behalf of the Hong Kong Government
  • Operating under the Merchant Shipping (Seafarers) Ordinance
  • Run by employers solely for hiring employees for company
  • Run by a educational institution solely for the employment of its students or graduates
  • Works by contractors or subcontractors for hiring manual labor in relation to building works on an employer’s behalf
  • Operated by the proprietors of publications for non-profit purposes

Stephanie is the founder of an events company. In the post-COVID climate, she had the opportunity to hold more events and found herself lacking in manpower. She posts an advertisement online in search of a suitable candidate to join her company. In this instance, she is not required to apply for an Employment Agency Licence, since she is solely hiring employees for her own company.

If you do not need an Employment Agency Licence to operate in Hong Kong, you will have to apply for a ‘Certificate of Exemption of License’ from the Hong Kong Labour Department.

Pre-requisites Before Lodging An Application For Employment Agency Licence

Before applying for the Employment Agency Licence, you will have to meet the following conditions:

  1. Company registration

You must have completed your Hong Kong company registration procedure and received a Certificate of Incorporation from the Hong Kong Companies Registry. Fed up with all the complicated procedures and wondering which paperwork need to be submitted first? You don’t have to go through this alone. We can help you with it.

  1. Nominated operator

You are required to nominate a real person as your employment agency operator. This person will be responsible for the operation and day-to-day management of the agency. The nominated operator must be either a Hong Kong citizen, Permanent Resident, or an Employment Visa holder, and could be the director or an officer of the business. This person should not be an undischarged bankrupt or convicted of any offence during the preceding five-year period at time of licence application.

  1. Overseas domestic worker placement

Your employment agency employees involved in the placement of overseas domestic workers must adhere to the regulations concerning the employment of domestic helpers from abroad.

How Do I Start My Own Employment Agency in Hong Kong?

If you’re wondering how to start an employment agency, fret not. The entire application can be broken down into a two-step procedure, namely:

  • Approval of your employment agency’s proposed name
  • Submission of documents to the Labour Department of Hong Kong

Step #1: Approval of your employment agency’s proposed name

The first step to obtaining your licence is getting the approval of your employment agency's proposed name, which can be done through submitting an application to the Labour Department of Hong Kong. The proposed company name has to comply with the following:

  • Must not infringe on trademarks
  • Must not be considered offensive or otherwise contrary to the interests of the public
  • Must not be similar to another employment agency’s name

In the event that your proposed name does not meet the criteria, your application could be rejected.

Step #2: Submission of documents to the Labour Department of Hong Kong

If you have successfully gotten the approval of your proposed name, you will then be required to submit the necessary documents to the Labor Department of Hong Kong to process the licence application.

Your employment agency’s director or nominated operator will need to make an in-person submission of the documents, and attend a short interview during this submission. The required documents are:

  • Employment Agency License application and Supplementary Form
  • A certified true copy of Hong Kong ID cards or travel documents (of each director and nominated operator of your employment agency). The travel documents must prove that those involved are allowed to take up a job placement or establish a business in Hong Kong without any restrictions
  • Certified true copies of the company’s Business Registration Certificate
  • Certified true copies of the company’s Articles of Association
  • Certified true copies of the company’s Certificate of Incorporation
  • Certified true copies of the company’s first secretary and directors
  • Certified true copies of any changes to the company’s secretary and directors
  • Certified true copies of documents confirming the appointment of the nominated operator

How Long Will The Entire Process Take?

For successful applications, the entire process will usually take three to four weeks after you have submitted the required documents to the Labour Department of Hong Kong. Upon licence issuance, you are required to pay HK$2,000 for the licence fee, which is issued for a 12-month period. During your operation, this licence must always be conspicuously displayed within office premises.

What Do I Do If My Application Was Rejected?

Typically, once you have submitted the required documents and given accurate information for your licence application, the authorities would approve it. However, if your application was rejected, you can file an appeal with the Labour Department of Hong Kong’s Administrative Appeal Board within 28days of notice of rejection.

How Do I Renew My Employment Agency Licence in Hong Kong?

After starting your employment agency in Hong Kong, you are required to renew your Employment Agency Licence prior to its expiration. The renewal period is two months before your current licence expiry date. You will have to pay a licence renewal fee of HK$2,000, along with the following documents:

  • A completed prescribed Renewal of Licence application form
  • A Declaration Form declaring that the you are not an undischarged bankrupt
  • An authorisation to conduct a criminal record check on you
  • A certified true copy of a valid Business Registration Certificate

Summing Up

Before you can start your own employment agency in Hong Kong, there are a few steps to go through. The first step is to have your proposed name approved, submitting the necessary documents, and paying the HK$2,000 licence fee to get your employment agency up and running.

Stay On Top Of Things

While expanding your business, there might be too many things to keep track of. Leave this to us at Osome. Our Company Secretary service can help you stay on top of things. We track all your deadlines, put your documents in order, and make sure your company stays compliant, always. Talk to our experts right now!

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