We thank Mr Cheng Choon Fei for his suggestions to help prevent further abuse of foreign domestic workers (Step up efforts to prevent maid abuse, Aug 5).
Our laws provide strong and comprehensive protection to foreign domestic workers (FDWs) working in Singapore and are enforced strictly. Penalties for abusing FDWs will be enhanced up to two times the maximum punishment under the Penal Code. Where an employer is convicted of abusing an FDW, the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) imposes a permanent employment ban on the employer and his or her spouse. Other household members may also be banned, depending on the facts of the case.
While these laws are in place, MOM remains fair to employers who have been punished previously, and is prepared to consider their appeals subsequently. The couple cited by Mr Cheng had been banned from hiring FDWs in 2001. In 2010, the husband appealed to be allowed to hire an FDW to assist in taking care of his wife, who had suffered a stroke. MOM acceded to the appeal on compassionate grounds.
In arriving at the decision to accede to an appeal, MOM will exercise judgment and ensure that the necessary safeguards are in place to protect the well-being of the FDW. For example, the employer is required to provide a compliance bond to hire the FDW. MOM also interviews FDWs deployed to such households, to check on their well-being. Nevertheless, there will be employers who do not learn from their past mistakes, and reoffend. The ministry will continue to take stock of and improve on existing safeguards to protect the well-being of FDWs.
All first-time FDWs are educated on their rights and responsibilities as well as the various channels where they can seek help during the mandatory Settling-In Programme. MOM also conducts random interviews with these FDWs without the presence of their employers to ascertain if they are settling well into the households. Similarly, employers are educated on the severe penalties of ill-treating their FDWs through the Employers' Orientation Programme and regular newsletters.
The public can play a part, too, by reporting suspected abuse cases to MOM on 6438-5122 or the police on 1800-255-0000, http://www.police.gov.sg/iwitness or dial 999 if urgent police assistance is required. All reported information will be kept strictly confidential.
Director, Well-Being Department
Ministry of Manpower