Step up efforts to prevent maid abuse

A domestic maid pushing an elderly man on a wheelchair.
A domestic maid pushing an elderly man on a wheelchair.PHOTO: ST FILE

The case of the employer who was jailed for 11 years for maid abuse begs the question: Why was she and her husband allowed to hire a maid despite being convicted in 2001 of abuse of another maid (Abuse by couple left maid, 39, disfigured and traumatised, Aug 2)?

Shouldn't the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) blacklist the couple and ban them from hiring?

Is there existing legislation on this and if not, MOM should set a precedent to prohibit past offenders from hiring a maid again.

Employers with a bad attitude and temper would likely continue their abuse and we should stop them for the safety and protection of vulnerable maids.

Imposing stringent psychological and suitability tests for potential employers, though time-consuming and resource-intensive, is a simpler way to prevent maid abuse.

MOM can also impose a compulsory interview for the maid with an agency or the authorities once every six months. During the interview, the maid should have the freedom to speak privately without supervision from her employer.

Such an arrangement would give any abused maid an opportunity to seek help. An annual impromptu home visit and inspection by MOM to monitor a maid's living conditions would also help.

We need to improve on our public awareness campaigns about domestic workers' rights and provide a complaints mechanism geared to the needs of these maids, including hotlines with staff who can speak their language.

We need to improve on our public awareness campaigns about domestic workers' rights and provide a complaints mechanism geared to the needs of these maids, including hotlines with staff who can speak their language.

As foreigners, maids don't have many friends to turn to for help. Community centres for maids to gather during their days off is a good start.

If a case does surface, maids should be compensated while the police investigate the abuse, because the maid will become jobless when released from her employers' care.

Worse, the maid must remain in Singapore until investigations are completed, which leaves her without money to send home.

Cheng Choon Fei

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 05, 2019, with the headline 'Step up efforts to prevent maid abuse'. Print Edition | Subscribe