Thursday, 17 April 2014

Some bosses 'reluctant' to give maids weekly day off

Some maids also forgo rest to work for more cash, say agents
By Joanna Seow, The Straits Times, 16 Apr 2014

ONLY about a third of maids here get their weekly day off and both they and employers are responsible for the poor record.

Since January last year, bosses are required to give maids a weekly day off or payment in lieu. But most bosses are reluctant to give the day off, especially if they have had constant help at home, said employment agents.

They are supported, in some cases, by maids who prefer to be compensated for work rather than resting because they want to earn more money.

"Most employers get a maid not as a luxury but because they need the service for their family, for example, to take care of aged family members," said Ms Carene Chin, managing director of maid agency Homekeeper.

Mr Jack Khoo, owner of WorldAsia Employment Agency, said seven in 10 employers ask him whether they can withhold giving the day off. "But when we tell them it's a rule, they'll comply," he said.

Some employers use the $5,000 security bond as an excuse, saying that if the maid goes out and misbehaves, they will lose the money, said Best Home Employment Agency owner Tay Khoon Beng.

"But it's not a good reason, because certain aspects of the rules have been relaxed," he added.

The Manpower Ministry said in Parliament on Monday that of 2,000 maids surveyed who had come to Singapore to work for the first time last year, 37 per cent were receiving a weekly day off, and 61 per cent received at least one day off per month.

The low figure may also be because maids themselves request to work and get extra cash instead of taking the day off. This is especially prevalent in their first year of work as they want to pay off the placement fee, agents said.

"Most of them are very happy to get compensation in lieu and not go out at all, especially when they are still clearing their loan," said Madam Netty Chu, who owns Great Helpers.

Some agents remain optimistic about the trend, especially as basic salaries are on the rise.

"There is a change - a lot of employers would rather not pay more, and would rather their maids go out," said Madam Chu.

Mr Tay said the 37 per cent was a good score after only a year. "Maybe by next year, it will shoot up," he added.

As contracts last for two years, by next January, all maids will be on new contracts that have to abide by the new rule.

Employer Michelle Teo, an executive assistant, said she gives her maid a weekly day off. "After a few days of hard work, it's time for her to take a break and go out. I trust her and I don't ask her who she mixes with," she said.

Maids on their days off can enjoy new facilities such as a clubhouse set up by the Foreign Domestic Worker Association for Social Support and Training.

Its executive director, Mr William Chew, said about 200 maids have signed up for memberships so far.

The space in Tanjong Pagar will house facilities such as computer labs and a library. A soft launch is slated for next month.


Most employers get a maid not as a luxury but because they need the service for their family, for example, to take care of aged family members.

- Ms Carene Chin, managing director of maid agency Homekeeper

No end to maid horror stories, after all these years
By Jalelah Abu Baker, My Paper, 15 Apr 2014

MADE to sleep in the kitchen on just a mattress, getting slapped and pushed, and forced to eat leftover food.

Foreign domestic workers have been there, done that.

In Parliament yesterday, Acting Minister for Manpower Tan Chuan-Jin revealed that the ministry assisted fewer than 500 foreign domestic workers last year, mostly for salary disputes and illegal deployment.

But the problems go deeper.

One 40-year-old Indonesian maid was accused by her former employer of stealing a box.

"She didn't give me food for two days, and pushed me. She was screaming at me, until she found the box," she told My Paper. She was puzzled because, as far as she knew, the box was empty.

Her employer later apologised. The maid stayed on with the family for two years because she was close to the two children she took care of.

Mr Martin Silva, managing consultant of Happy Maids Happy Home, recalled another case in which a maid was made to sleep in the same room as 12 men from China who were renting it.

Slapping, pushing and other forms of physical abuse are also common, he said.

The three cases involving maids who allegedly killed their employers in recent months have cast a negative spotlight on domestic workers.

But there can be nightmare employers too, said Mr Silva.

"When employers look for a maid, they get to see her history. But we don't know anything about the employers," he said.

On the flip side, there are maids who take advantage of their freedom and care shown by their employers.

One such employer, Mrs H. Q. Wang, found to her horror that her domestic worker of two years had worn not only her clothes, but also her underwear, and taken photographs of herself in them and uploaded these photos on Facebook.

There have also been instances of maids stealing money and abusing children.

Employers may choose to change their maids for a fee, and there is redress available to maids as well.

Ms Valli Pillai, a case worker from Home, a group that helps migrant workers, said that she has about 10 maids approaching her for help every week.

Ms Valli said she most commonly encounters cases where employers do not pay their maids.

She also frequently deals with maids who have been physically abused.

While some employment agencies help maids deal with their problems, some are more interested in getting the maids to continue working so they can pay off their loans, she said.

The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) also provides help through its helpline, which domestic workers are made to memorise.

MOM also keeps in touch with first-time maids.

Members of the public with information on suspected infringements or offences involving foreign domestic workers may call 6438-5122.

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