Reasons for 'running away' run deep

Calling for tighter screening of maids by checking police reports to find out if the woman has absconded from her previous employer does not address the problem that may have caused her to leave her employer's residence, nor does it confirm wrongdoing on her part ("Tighter screening of maids needed" by Ms Lim Wan Keng; last Thursday).

Domestic workers incur large debts through placement costs, and make enormous sacrifices for their families when they embark on domestic work abroad.

Leaving is not a decision taken lightly, nor is the employment an opportunity relinquished easily.

This job earns them money to provide for their families, as adequately paying jobs do not exist in their own country.

We should always consider the reasons why a worker leaves her employer.

Lack of adequate food, insufficient or withheld salaries, long working hours with little rest, the inability to communicate with family and friends, Sundays off exchanged for more pay (often because the worker had no real choice except to agree), and verbal and physical abuse are the reasons most commonly given when domestic workers leave their employer's home to seek the assistance of Transient Workers Count Too (TWC2).

Sometimes, we find that the employer then retaliates by finding a way to blame the worker for the breakdown of relations, such as filing a police report stating that she has absconded or accusing her of stealing things from the employer's home.

The domestic worker is most likely to seek help from the Manpower Ministry or non-governmental organisations when she leaves the employer's home, which allows both sides to be heard.

If a police report is made, it will be handled by the police if necessary.

TWC2 encourages employers of domestic workers to create a pleasant and dignified working environment for domestic workers, so that they feel they are valued and appreciated as workers and as individuals.

Debbie Fordyce (Ms)
Executive Committee Member
Transient Workers Count Too

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 29, 2015, with the headline 'Reasons for 'running away' run deep'. Print Edition | Subscribe