Make electronic payments by maids' bosses 'mandatory'

File photo of a Centre for Domestic Employees (CDE) employee (left) speaking to a domestic worker at the centre.
File photo of a Centre for Domestic Employees (CDE) employee (left) speaking to a domestic worker at the centre.PHOTO: ST FILE

In the year since it opened, the Centre for Domestic Employees (CDE) has handled more than 500 cases, with salary disputes, request for transfers and physical abuse being the three most common issues.

While more than 80 per cent of all the cases have been resolved, the centre said it wants to push for mandatory electronic payments by employers, so maids have more ownership of their money.

CDE chairman Yeo Guat Kwang said yesterday that salary disputes arise because there is no standardised system for paying these workers. He was speaking on the sidelines of an event at the Singapore Flyer to thank the centre's volunteers and to share CDE's report card for the past year.

Currently, some employers pay their maids in cash. In some cases, the employer would "act as bankers" and collect loan repayments from maids on behalf of maid agencies, Mr Yeo noted.

But when employers fall into financial difficulties, they end up paying the maids and agencies late, or not at all. The CDE, which is run by the National Trades Union Congress, will push for electronic payments to be applied to all domestic workers, he said.

There are about 237,000 foreign domestic workers in Singapore.

The centre, which has sheltered 110 workers since it opened on Jan 24 last year, will open a second shelter in a yet undisclosed location in June, which can house up to 100 maids. It also has plans for programmes such as counselling, retraining and temporary job placements for those staying for longer periods.Those involved in abuse cases may stay at the shelter for six months or so.

To help employers and employees understand each other better, and reduce cases of miscommunication, the centre yesterday launched a series of books which portray, through comics, the various cultural misunderstandings that may arise. The books, which come in four different bilingual versions, including English-Bahasa Indonesia and English-Tagalog, are available at the CDE's office and website.

The centre will also launch a survey next month of 2,000 employers and employees to understand how best to tackle the issues faced by both sides.

Welcoming CDE's push for cashless payments, the president of the Association of Employment Agencies (Singapore), Ms K. Jayaprema, said this will enable the worker, employer and the authorities to track independent records that can prove whether payments were made correctly and on time.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 23, 2017, with the headline 'Make electronic payments by maids' bosses 'mandatory''. Print Edition | Subscribe