Tuesday, 9 May 2017

Better insurance coverage for maids from 1 Oct 2017

Foreign domestic workers to be better insured against accidents under new rules starting Oct 1
Premiums likely to rise by between $7 and $15; coverage across insurers will be standardised
By Nur Asyiqin Mohamad Salleh, The Straits Times, 8 May 2017

Employers will have to provide better insurance coverage for their foreign maids under new rules that kick in on Oct 1.

They will need to buy personal accident insurance policies with coverage of at least $60,000, up from $40,000 now, Minister of State for Manpower Sam Tan said yesterday at a May Day carnival for maids organised by the labour movement.

With the higher coverage, annual insurance premiums are expected to go up by between $7 and $15.

Coverage across insurers will also be standardised to ensure all maids get the same protection throughout their employment in Singapore.

Personal accident protection for maids was last reviewed in 2008. Mr Tan said the NTUC's Centre for Domestic Employees (CDE) - set up last year - had been asking the Government to do another review as domestic helpers' salaries, as well as the cost of living in their home countries, have increased since then.

"The current level of protection... is no longer sufficient in the event that an accident happens and the foreign domestic worker is no longer able to provide for her family," said Mr Tan. Some employers have also asked if more can be done to protect the families of injured maids.

Different insurers now provide different coverage for personal accident insurance. Some spell out a narrower definition of accidents and have more exclusions. This means some workers get compensation for certain accidents while others do not - even though the circumstances and injuries are the same.

From Oct 1, the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) will stipulate that personal accident insurance for maids must cover any sudden, unforeseen and unexpected incident that results in permanent disability or death. Insurers will not be able to impose exclusion clauses other than what the MOM specifies, such as pre-existing conditions and suicide.

Another change to the rules will clarify the period of insurance cover for maids: this must be from the date they arrive in Singapore till the date they return home at the end of their employment contact.

If a maid changes employers, the existing insurance coverage should last until the day the new work permit is issued, said Mr Tan.

To speed up the compensation process, maids and their legal representatives will be able to file claims with insurers, instead of relying on their employers to do so. If they are unable to do so, an MOM-appointed representative can act for them.

Mr Tan said the changes help employers to better protect their maids at a slight increase in premiums, and give maids greater peace of mind. He also thanked maids for their dedication and support, which he said had allowed Singaporean families to better manage their responsibilities at home.

"We trust that these changes will further facilitate a harmonious working relationship between employers and their foreign domestic workers," he added.

CDE chairman Yeo Guat Kwang said the centre was happy with the raised minimum coverage, noting that maids' starting salaries had risen from an average of $300 in 2012 to $550 last year.

The CDE also urged the Government to consider raising the minimum $15,000 medical insurance coverage, he added. This has not changed since 2010.

There are more than 230,000 foreign maids working in Singapore, and rules have been progressively ramped up to better protect them.

Employers will have to buy personal accident insurance policies with the new requirements when they apply for or renew work permits from Oct 1.

Further details of the changes will also be sent to employers and employment agencies, and will be available on the MOM's website.

Maids, employers cheer boost to accident coverage
By Nur Asyiqin Mohamad Salleh, The Straits Times, 8 May 2017

Indonesian maid Dewie, just 1.4m tall, has to tiptoe on a chair to reach the ceiling fan in her employer's living room whenever she cleans it.

A close shave two months ago has her cheering now the increase in minimum accident insurance coverage for maids, which will go up from $40,000 to $60,000 on Oct 1.

Ms Dewie, who is 29 and goes by one name, had lost her balance then and toppled backwards onto the armrest of a sofa - narrowly avoiding a hardback chair nearby.

She shudders to think what would have happened if she had broken her back.

"I try my best to be careful, but accidents can happen. So it's good to have more money for my family. It can help them if I'm gone," said Ms Dewie, who was at the labour movement's inaugural May Day celebration for maids yesterday.

Employers interviewed by The Straits Times said the enhanced insurance would ease their concerns.

"If my maid was hurt, I would also worry about how her family would cope," said sales manager Sarah Goh, 48, whose maid is from the Philippines.

She was pleased to hear that insurance coverage will be standardised, so maids are not short-changed when insurers decide not to cover certain accidents.

With the changes, annual premiums are expected to go up by between $7 and $15, but Ms Goh said the "small amount can go a long way in helping my maid and her family".

Organisations working with maids also cheered the improved protection, but noted that it would help only in cases of death or permanent incapacity.

The Centre for Domestic Employees (CDE) hopes to see a review of medical insurance next.

CDE chairman Yeo Guat Kwang said that while the centre has handled only a handful of "compensation" cases since its launch last year, "we can't just wait for the number to grow".

Insurance will help maids, their families, and their employers better cope with the unexpected, he said.

Minister of State for Manpower Sam Tan said at the May Day celebration that his ministry was reviewing the medical insurance policy for maids and would announce its findings "at the right time".

Meanwhile, non-governmental organisation Transient Workers Count Too (TWC2) urged that the Work Injury Compensation Act be extended to maids so they can be entitled to benefits such as medical expenses and paid medical leave.

Under the Act, the compensation limits for death and permanent incapacity are also higher, said TWC2 president Noorashikin Abdul Rahman.

But in 2008, then Minister of State for Manpower Gan Kim Yong had explained that it would be better for maids to be covered under insurance instead of the Act because the nature of their work "makes it difficult to determine whether the injury is sustained as part of the work or otherwise".


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