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Facilitating fair work in Asia

Scott Stiles has been passionate about improving opportunities for migrant domestic workers since visiting Hong Kong for an internship in his final year of university. 

“I saw domestic workers were being mistreated, and their vulnerable position being exploited by the existing recruitment agencies,” says Scott. “Agencies were charging both employer and worker for recruitment, without any form of safety net for the worker or guarantee for the employer.” 

Scott set out to change the market for the better and in 2012, with co-founders David Bishop and Tammy Baltz, created the Fair Employment Foundation (Fair). The not-for-profit takes a non-partisan stance in educating both workers and employers on their rights and responsibilities. Through the Fair Hiring Pledge they encourage corporate organisations to support ethical labour practices within their workforce. In the Fair Training Centre, they train domestic workers for success and to overcome the challenges of working overseas. 

Macquarie was one of the inaugural signatories of the Fair Hiring Pledge, and has continued providing support through skilled volunteering, events, and board membership. 

“Macquarie has been with us since the beginning,” says Scott. “Before we launched, an article was published in the paper and Susan Clear from the Macquarie Group Foundation reached out. They’ve been a collaborative partner ever since.” 

Lynnette Sarno, Global Head of Human Resources at Macquarie Group, joined the Fair board in 2017 and Scott says she’s been an invaluable contributor. “As a lawyer and HR expert she was the perfect fit,” says Scott. “She is an amazing clear thinker.” 

Bettina Delos Reyes and Gayle Mallillin from the Macquarie Manila office are also playing important roles in building Macquarie staff engagement. A vital part of the training process is helping Filipino domestic workers prepare for their employer interviews – so they can win a role that is the right fit. 

“We run mock interviews with trainees to simulate the online interview they will have with a future employer,” explains Bettina. “Language can be a challenging barrier for many trainees, so practising in English, then receiving feedback in Filipino helps them relax and gain more confidence while they’re learning.” 

Recently the Macquarie Group Foundation granted two years of funding to contribute to the growing impact that Fair is having on the domestic worker industry. 

“The Philippines is the leading exporter of migrant workers, so it’s close to our hearts to ensure these people are going into good working situations,” says Gayle. 

And since entering the market, Scott says other employment agencies are now becoming more ethical so they can compete with Fair. 

“We started seeing other agencies follow our pricing model – where only the employer, not the worker, pays recruitment fees. Plus, they’re changing their websites to provide more educational information so they can compete with us,” says Scott.  

One of the biggest issues in the industry was with domestic workers paying for recruitment, placing them under the pressure of unmanageable amounts of debt. 

“We never charge fees to domestic helpers. And in doing this our agency works for the interests of everyone,” says Scott. 

Domestic workers start their jobs free from recruitment debt, and employers benefit because they only place workers who are a good match for their family. 

“And Hong Kong benefits because we’re setting a new standard of professionalism for all employment agencies.” 

It’s clear just how significant an impact Fair has had. Since 2014, they had placed 3,000 domestic workers – saving an estimated US$4.5 million in recruitment debt. 

“Our goal is to set the global standard for how migrant recruitment works. And it’s a huge thanks to Macquarie’s commitment – both philanthropically, and with volunteering – that we can continue making a positive impact on peoples’ lives.”

Caption: Macquarie staff and the trainees of Fair Training Center during a site visit.

1 Since inception in 1985.

2 Contribution figures comprise Macquarie Group Foundation matching support for staff donations and fundraising; Foundation donations to commemorate staff attaining 10-year and 25-year anniversaries at Macquarie; Foundation grants to not-for-profit organisations to recognise 12 months of board service by a Macquarie employee; and Macquarie Group and Foundation grants to community organisations since inception in 1985. In the 12 months to 31 March 2019.

Grant funds either paid in full or utilised during the 12 months to 31 March 2019.

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