Protect interests of maid employers too

Maids at an agency in Bukit Timah Shopping Centre on Feb 14, 2019.
Maids at an agency in Bukit Timah Shopping Centre on Feb 14, 2019. PHOTO: ST FILE

When my son wanted to employ a foreign domestic worker (FDW), he specified three basic requirements to the recruiting agent - an older worker with a good command of English and the ability to take care of an infant.

He ended up with a 25-year-old, whose biodata falsely stated that she was 29, who had a poor command of English and had never taken care of an infant.

Consequently, her performance left much to be desired. She made the same mistakes repeatedly and my son resorted to scolding her.

A few days ago, she called the Ministry of Manpower (MOM), alleging that my son had hit her with a chair. MOM decided it was a case serious enough for the police to handle. At the police station, the FDW was thoroughly examined but no injury was detected, and the police concluded that she had lied.

She had hoped to use this to be transferred to another employer. The case was closed, and my son was unnecessarily inconvenienced. The FDW got away scot-free, in spite of her false allegation.

My son had two options - one was to allow the agent to find another employer for the FDW. He would get a replacement without having to pay the agent a $1,100 service fee, but in doing so would be playing into the FDW's hands.

Alternatively, he could cancel her work permit and send her home. He would have to pay her airfare, and the service fee to employ a replacement. And I have heard that it is common practice for agents to arrange for the repatriated worker to return and work for another employer within days.

On top of this, an employer who changes FDW three times within 12 months is made to attend MOM's Employers' Orientation Programme.

It appears employers get the raw end of the deal. FDWs are portrayed as vulnerable (and often are), and are protected and empowered by recruiting agents, their home countries' governments, MOM, and non-governmental organisations (NGOs).

During an MOM consultation session on matters relating to FDW employment, I was shocked to hear that an NGO representative felt it was all right for FDWs to get pregnant.

As a result of this protection, FDWs are becoming increasingly brazen in holding employers to ransom.

Employers are often left helpless, with little to no recourse.

It is time for a mindset change among stakeholders. Employers deserve an equitable and fair treatment, and their interests need to be protected.

Lawrence Loh Kiah Muan

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 14, 2019, with the headline 'Protect interests of maid employers too'. Print Edition | Subscribe