Bringing boyfriends home, stealing, and hitting the children are the top three complaints employers make about their maids, major agencies here told The Straits Times.
These complaints are lodged with the Ministry of Manpower (MOM), which receives an average of about 200 complaints a month, a spokesman said yesterday, in response to queries.
The figure represents less than 0.1 per cent of the 214,500 maids here as of December, MOM said.
The ministry has been collecting feedback on maids since 2010 to help employers make more informed hiring decisions.
Complaints against a maid may be flagged to prospective employers when they apply for a work pass for a maid on the MOM online work permit system.
They have to sign a letter to confirm that they know of the complaint if they decide to hire the maid.
Prospective employers will not be told the nature of the complaint, but can call the maid's previous boss for details. About half of them leave phone numbers.
Agents say most maids with a complaint against them are not hired here again. Orange Employment agency owner Shirley Ng said: "They won't get a second chance to work in Singapore."
Best Home Employment agency owner Tay Khoon Beng added: "Most employers won't even call the previous employer to find out more. They just say no."
Foreign worker activist Jolovan Wham of the Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics said the feedback system is "unfair".
"Some of the complaints, such as having a boyfriend, are unreasonable as they have no bearing on the ability of the worker to perform her tasks," he said.
But some said they welcome feedback on their maid, and added that it was up to them to make a call.
Businesswoman Fiona Lee, 47, decided to hire her Filipino maid though she was accused by her previous employer of pinching her child.
"She explained that it was not true, and I decided to take the risk. In the end, she met my expectation, which is to take care of my daughter well," she said.
Mr Karl Tan, owner of maid agency Inter-Mares Management Services, said it is only fair that employers speak to the maids to find out their side of the story.
Nation Employment managing director Gary Chin said a poor track record does not mean a maid will stay a bad worker.
"It may be because she needs more time to adapt. We have seen many maids who were transferred a few times but do well later," he said.