Revamp how maids are employed

Currently, we have a lose-lose situation when it comes to the employment of maids.

Some agencies do not ensure that the maids they have are good ones. Employers must go through a lot of hassle to hire maids. And maids have little control over their jobs in Singapore.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) has to deal with many maid employers unaccustomed to or unhappy with the regulations and administrative work.

I suggest changing this to a win-win situation.

Make agencies the employers of maids, and households the clients of the agencies.

In this system, agencies become accountable for what their workers do and will invest resources to screen problem hires and to better train maids. They can also get rapid feedback from clients regarding their workers.

Agency clients need to only sign a contract and pay a monthly fee to the agency - bypassing all the administrative work, such as levies and insurance.

If a maid is unwell or unavailable, the agency can send a replacement.

Employers will no longer need to deal with the MOM, saving themselves and the Government lots of effort and resources.

Maids would also benefit from improvements in work conditions.

They can have the option of living in a hostel. They can be covered by the Employment Act, enjoying basic rights such as public holidays and a minimum amount of paid leave each year. The risks of abuse, unauthorised salary deductions and being denied medical attention can also be greatly reduced.

I urge the Government to seriously consider my suggestion and revamp how maids are employed.

Eric Chen Yixiong

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 14, 2016, with the headline 'Revamp how maids are employed'. Print Edition | Subscribe