Tasks maids can or cannot do are quite clear

We refer to the article "Draw up a list of chores that maids shouldn't have to do" (March 30).

The role of foreign domestic workers (FDWs) in Singapore is clearly defined in our laws. The Employment of Foreign Manpower Regulations states that FDWs can only perform household and domestic duties.

Employers cannot use FDWs to help out in businesses. Examples cited in the report are clear violations - FDWs walking dogs as pet boarders, working in restaurants, or as temple medium assistants.

Errant employers will be taken to task. Last year, MOM took action against more than 70 employers for illegal employment or deployment offences.

Many employers hire FDWs to assist in caring for children, or sick or elderly family members. This practice is growing and acceptable.

As the report shows, it is not unreasonable for FDWs to perform caregiving roles if family members are expected to do the same.

Families have the responsibility to ensure that their FDWs are adequately trained.

The Ministry of Health (MOH) even provides grants to support families to train their FDWs.

However, FDWs cannot perform clinical duties that can be administered only by registered healthcare professionals, such as inserting nasogastric tubes. Such clinical duties are regulated by MOH.

In the mandatory Settling-In Programme and Employers' Orientation Programme, FDWs and employers are broadly told of duties to expect.

However, it is impractical to detail every task as these vary with households.

Employers with specific tasks, such as occasional tutoring or rehabilitative massage, should make these known during the hiring process. When in doubt, FDWs should approach their employment agencies or MOM.

The report inaccurately alludes to MOM's unwillingness to regulate this sector because it gives precedence to employers. MOM strives to balance the interests of both FDWs and employers. Where the FDW's safety is at risk, as in the case of window cleaning in high-rise buildings, we have intervened.

Furthermore, FDWs have multiple avenues of help, such as MOM's FDW helpline and the Centre for Domestic Employees.

The report also claims that employers can terminate their FDW's employment contract at will and that they take this decision lightly.

In fact, FDWs have this same contractual right to resign but most employers and FDWs make great effort to manage their employment relationships to avoid disruptions and additional expenses.

Most families and FDWs enjoy good relationships of mutual dependency, support and respect. Ultimately, fruitful employment relationships depend on give and take by both parties.

Lee Pak Sing
Divisional Director
Workplace Policy and Strategy Division
Ministry of Manpower

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 06, 2017, with the headline 'Tasks maids can or cannot do are quite clear'. Print Edition | Subscribe