Employers will have to provide better insurance coverage for their foreign maids under new rules that kick in on Oct 1.
They will need to buy personal accident insurance policies with coverage of at least $60,000, up from $40,000 now, Minister of State for Manpower Sam Tan said yesterday at a May Day carnival for maids organised by the labour movement.
With the higher coverage, annual insurance premiums are expected to go up by between $7 and $15.
Coverage across insurers will also be standardised to ensure all maids get the same protection throughout their employment in Singapore.
Personal accident protection for maids was last reviewed in 2008. Mr Tan said the NTUC's Centre for Domestic Employees (CDE) - set up last year - had been asking the Government to do another review as domestic helpers' salaries, as well as the cost of living in their home countries, have increased since then.
"The current level of protection... is no longer sufficient in the event that an accident happens and the foreign domestic worker is no longer able to provide for her family," said Mr Tan. Some employers have also asked if more can be done to protect the families of injured maids.
Different insurers now provide different coverage for personal accident insurance. Some spell out a narrower definition of accidents and have more exclusions. This means some workers get compensation for certain accidents while others do not - even though the circumstances and injuries are the same.
From Oct 1, the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) will stipulate that personal accident insurance for maids must cover any sudden, unforeseen and unexpected incident that results in permanent disability or death. Insurers will not be able to impose exclusion clauses other than what the MOM specifies, such as pre-existing conditions and suicide.
Another change to the rules will clarify the period of insurance cover for maids: this must be from the date they arrive in Singapore till the date they return home at the end of their employment contact.
If a maid changes employers, the existing insurance coverage should last until the day the new work permit is issued, said Mr Tan.
To speed up the compensation process, maids and their legal representatives will be able to file claims with insurers, instead of relying on their employers to do so. If they are unable to do so, an MOM-appointed representative can act for them.
Mr Tan said the changes help employers to better protect their maids at a slight increase in premiums, and give maids greater peace of mind. He also thanked maids for their dedication and support, which he said had allowed Singaporean families to better manage their responsibilities at home.
"We trust that these changes will further facilitate a harmonious working relationship between employers and their foreign domestic workers," he added.
CDE chairman Yeo Guat Kwang said the centre was happy with the raised minimum coverage, noting that maids' starting salaries had risen from an average of $300 in 2012 to $550 last year.
The CDE also urged the Government to consider raising the minimum $15,000 medical insurance coverage, he added. This has not changed since 2010.
There are more than 230,000 foreign maids working in Singapore, and rules have been progressively ramped up to better protect them.
Employers will have to buy personal accident insurance policies with the new requirements when they apply for or renew work permits from Oct 1.
Further details of the changes will also be sent to employers and employment agencies, and will be available on the MOM's website.
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