Forum: Employers not given accurate info on maids

Domestic workers at an agency in Bukit Timah Shopping Centre.
Domestic workers at an agency in Bukit Timah Shopping Centre.PHOTO: ST FILE

The distress felt by employers and domestic helpers would be reduced if job matching is made from a standpoint of more accurate information (MOM to help employers retain maids for full length of contract, Oct 7).

More often than not, helpers are compelled to agree to any job scope before they arrive, without a deeper consideration of the consequences if the job is beyond their expectations. They may also not be totally forthcoming for fear of being unable to secure a placement.

Unsuspecting employers may end up bearing the consequences.

For example, a domestic helper that I employed for 5 1/2 months was by far one of the better ones I have had - she was a fast learner, reliable, and did her chores cheerfully. Our relationship was reasonably good.

She even shared aspirations of starting an orphanage in her home country, and was visibly excited when we talked about how I could teach the children English and other basic skills.

So I was completely perplexed when she suddenly became incoherent one morning, unable to perform routine duties and walked about seemingly in a daze. To my understanding, there was no trigger for this unexplained behaviour and she was asymptomatic as far as I could assess. However, she seemed genuinely "out of control of her mind".

Both employment agencies from Singapore and her country advised repatriation, which I did at some cost to ensure she got home safely.

We had no contact subsequently, so I was surprised to learn that she had applied to return to Singapore, as I had left my contact details with the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) to provide feedback to potential employers.

It was astonishing that, despite not completing her contract and being repatriated under such circumstances, her basic salary, as stated by the employment agency in her published biodata, had increased from $560 to $600 per month. I understand that this is the standard for "experienced" helpers from her country. Salary notwithstanding, her next employer should be cognisant of her condition, especially if she has young children or elderly persons under her care.

I hope MOM's move to offer accurate information on work experience will reduce such cases and provide a fair system for both employers and domestic helpers.

Susan Lee

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 10, 2019, with the headline 'Employers not given accurate info on maids'. Print Edition | Subscribe