JIS News

A Bill to amend the Employment Agencies Regulation Act of 1957, was approved by the House of Representatives yesterday (February 6).
Minister of Labour and Social Security, Derrick Kellier who piloted the Bill, said it sought to revise the fees, fines and penalties under the Act, in order to align them with current economic realities.
“At present, a breach of Sub-section 1 and 2 of Section 4 of the Act makes one liable to a fine not exceeding $400 or a term of imprisonment not exceeding 12 months with or without hard labour, and for a continuing offence, there is a fine not exceeding $20 for each day during which that offence continues,” informed Mr. Kellier.
“It is proposed to increase the fine to a sum not exceeding $1 million or to a term of imprisonment not exceeding 12 months. There will be no fine for a continuing offence. This will be reflected in Section 4, Sub-section 3 of the Act,” he added.
The Minister further explained that the new amendments to the Act would provide for a new Section 16, Sub-section 3.
“This section will provide that Regulations made thereunder may provide for the imposition of penalties on summary conviction in a Resident Magistrate’s Court of a fine not exceeding $1 million or imprisonment for a term not exceeding 12 months or both such fine and imprisonment,” he explained.
Mr. Kellier also added that at present, under Section 17, sub section 1 of the Act for specific offences, a person is liable to a fine not exceeding $200 or to imprisonment with or without hard labour for a term not exceeding six months.
“It is proposed to increase the fine to a sum not exceeding $500,000. The provision in relation to the prison term will remain at not exceeding six months. We are also proposing a new Section 17, sub-section 3, which will give the Minister the power to amend, from time to time, the monetary penalties specified under the Act by way of Ministerial Order,” said Mr. Kellier.
The Minister emphasised that the amendments were vital for the protection of job seekers, to curtail dishonesty in the practice of work placements for a fee, and necessary to ensure observance of the rule of law governing the activities of employment agencies.
He pointed out that the objective of the Employment Agencies Regulation Act of 1957 is to regulate the operations of employment agencies and to also provide for the regulation and licensing of private employment agencies.
The Minister informed the House that there are currently 73 agencies registered with the Ministry of Labour and Social Security. “These agencies have valid licences to operate as private employment agencies and to provide local and overseas job placement services,” he said.
“While there are bonafide private employment agencies duly registered and licensed by the Ministry of Labour and Social Security, others from time to time operate in breach of the law. Members of the public are often exposed to the dishonest practices of these persons, who fleece hard working people out of their money,” said Mr. Kellier.
He said that one of the reasons why these private employment agencies were exploiting persons with regularity was because the fines for breaches of the Act were far two low to be effective deterrents to these malpractices.
Mr. Kellier also noted that another major reason for amending the Act was to ensure that employment agencies did not become an avenue for human trafficking. He added that the integrity of the Government administered Overseas Employment Programme could be placed under threat from the activities of private employment agencies.
“The Jamaican Government is a signatory to several international protocols which are committed to ending human trafficking. We are serious about ensuring that unregulated private employment agencies do not become an avenue for human trafficking,” stressed Mr. Kellier.