SINGAPORE - The Manpower Ministry (MOM) took action against 23 employment agencies from 2015 to 2017 for overcharging foreign workers in agency fees, said Minister of State for Manpower Zaqy Mohamad on Monday (Sept 10).
Three agencies were prosecuted and had their licences revoked, while the rest were given written warnings or fined, he told Parliament.
Agencies in Singapore are not allowed to collect fees that amount to more than one month of the worker's salary for each year of contracted service here, capped at two months' pay, Mr Zaqy added in his reply to Mr Christopher de Souza (Holland-Bukit Timah GRC).
"MOM also helped the workers who were in Singapore to recover their excess agency fees in full," he said.
While it is beyond the ministry's jurisdiction to regulate agents in the workers' home countries, if investigations uncover suspicious or irregular fee practices, the MOM shares relevant information with the relevant embassy "to enlist their help to combat any malpractices in their respective countries", Mr Zaqy added.
On the issue of unauthorised deductions of foreign workers' salaries, Mr Zaqy added that when applying for work permits, employers are required to declare salary terms, such as workers' basic and fixed monthly salary, as well as salary deductions, to their prospective employees.
Employers are not allowed to increase salary deductions from what was stated in workers' in-principle approval letters, unless they have obtained the workers' written agreement and notified the MOM of the revisions. Deductions must also comply with the maximum amount allowed under the Employment Act, added Mr Zaqy, as he urged workers to report errant employers.
New non-Malaysian foreign workers in Singapore, starting with those in the construction sector in October, will be informed of these rules through a settling-in programme.
Parliament was also informed that from January to July this year, the MOM received six complaints against unauthorised deductions. The ministry imposed financial penalties against four errant employers, while investigations are ongoing for the other two.
Mr Zaqy also told the House that in the last two years, the MOM received more than 500 complaints against employers for not issuing itemised payslips. Following inspections, another 1,200 employers were asked to rectify their practices.
Meanwhile, the pool of Foreign Worker Ambassadors - for workers to provide peer support to one another - grew from about 300 in November 2014 to 2,600 in September this year (2018).