Agency fined $78k after posting insensitive ads of maids online

An employment agency posted insensitive advertisements online, portraying maids who had been hired as being "sold".

SRC Recruitment was the first firm to plead guilty to posting insensitive advertisements, breaching regulations laid out by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) in its Employment Agency Licence Conditions.

SRC Recruitment was fined $78,000 yesterday after pleading guilty in March to 45 charges, including posting the advertisements that cast foreign domestic workers (FDWs) in an undignified light. Another 99 charges were taken into consideration during sentencing.

The company had also been given notice that its licence would be revoked, the ministry said in a statement yesterday.

The advertisements, which appeared on online marketplace Carousell, gave the impression that maids were commodities that could be bought.

For instance, the posts contained a price column and when a maid was selected, the advertisement would indicate below her photograph that she had been "sold".

Employment agencies (EAs) have to operate according to alerts that MOM sends out regularly to them.

 
 
 
 

Its prosecutor Vala Muthupalaniappan said the alerts stress the need for agencies to refrain from "insensitive advertising" that casts FDWs in an "undignified light".

The ministry sent out the alerts on three occasions: July 16, 2014; Nov 18, 2016; and Feb 2 last year.

In mid-August last year, the agency's employee Erleena Mohd Ali, 41, set up a Carousell account under the profile name "maid.recruitment" which was linked to her work e-mail address.

"The purpose of setting up the account was to post the biodata of the available Indonesian FDWs for potential employers to view,'' Ms Vala said.

Erleena sought and got the permission of the company's key appointment holder Koh Seng Yeow to post on Carousell. Her posts cast the maids "in a manner akin to commodity that could be bought and sold", Ms Vala said.

She was fined $20,000 last year and no longer works for the firm.

The court heard that SRC Recruitment had also failed to ensure its full name and licence number were displayed on its Carousell posts.

The requirement is a necessary safeguard against unlicensed employment agencies, said Ms Vala.

Yesterday, Commissioner for Employment Agencies Kevin Teoh said the ministry does not condone any offensive and insensitive advertising methods that portray FDWs in a negative light.

"We remind all EAs of the need to uphold professional standards when discharging their duties,'' he said, or they risk losing their licence.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 01, 2019, with the headline 'Agency fined $78k after posting insensitive ads of maids online'. Print Edition | Subscribe