Hong Kong resident employer jailed for employing illegal workers

10 March 2017

A Hong Kong resident employer who employed two illegal workers was jailed at Shatin Magistrates' Courts yesterday (March 9).

During operation "Twilight" conducted on August 18, 2016, Immigration Department (ImmD) investigators arrested one female Vietnamese illegal worker and one male Vietnamese illegal worker, aged 51 and 53, in a bakery in North Point. When intercepted, they were found preparing food ingredients. Upon identity checking, they produced for inspection recognisance forms issued by the ImmD, which prohibit them from taking employment. Further investigation revealed that they were non-refoulement claimants. Among them, the man was also suspected of using and being in possession of a suspected forged Hong Kong identity card. An employer suspected of employing the two illegal workers was also arrested.

The two illegal workers were each sentenced to 15 months' imprisonment at Shatin Magistrates' Courts on August 22, 2016. The Hong Kong resident employer was charged at Shatin Magistrates' Courts yesterday with two counts of being an employer of a person who is not lawfully employable. Though she allegedly inspected the identity documents provided by one of the illegal workers during the recruitment interview, she had not taken all practicable steps to further check the job seeker's identity in order to ascertain whether he was lawfully employable prior to employment. Meanwhile, she also did not discharge the duty as an employer to inspect the identity documents of the other illegal worker. After the trial, she was sentenced to three months' imprisonment.

The ImmD spokesman reiterated that it is a serious offence to employ people who are not lawfully employable. The maximum penalty is imprisonment for three years and a fine of $350,000. The High Court has laid down sentencing guidelines that the employer of an illegal worker should be given an immediate custodial sentence. According to the court sentencing, employers must take all practicable steps to determine whether a person is lawfully employable prior to employment. Apart from inspecting a prospective employee's identity card, the employer has the explicit duty to make enquiries regarding the person and ensure that the answers would not cast any reasonable doubt concerning the lawful employability of the person. The court will not accept failure to do so as a defence in proceedings. It is also an offence if an employer fails to inspect the job seeker's valid travel document if the job seeker does not have a Hong Kong permanent identity card. The maximum penalty for failing to inspect such a document is imprisonment for one year and a fine of $150,000.