SINGAPORE - A woman was fined $34,500 for withholding her maid's salaries, and getting the maid to work in a location she was not allowed to.
Singaporean Tang Lee Sung, 39, had employed an Indonesian maid from November 2011 to May 2013, and had agreed to pay her a salary of $420 a month, the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) said in a statement.
But Tang failed to pay her maid a total of $5,778 in salary arrears.
Tang's mother had also taken the maid to a rented house in Johor Baru almost every day to care for some cats.
This was a breach of one of the conditions on the maid's work permit, which allows a domestic worker to perform household and domestic duties at the residential address stated in her work permit card.
During the two-day trial, Tang said her mother had a salary safekeeping arrangement with the maid. Tang and her mother had refused to pay the maid at the end of her employment period as they felt the maid did not perform her tasks satisfactorily.
Tang alleged that the domestic worker had damaged their properties and mistreated her mother's cats.
But the prosecution stated that Tang had no grounds to withhold her maid's salary. The safekeeping arrangement between the domestic worker and Tang's mother cannot override Tang's statutory obligation as an employer.
According to MOM regulations, employers have to pay their domestic workers' salaries not later than seven days after the last day of the salary period, which cannot exceed one month.
Tang was convicted on 19 charges of defaulting in salary payments, and one charge of illegal deployment. The court also ordered that she make good the salary arrears due to the maid.
Mr Kevin Teoh, divisional director of MOM's foreign manpower management division, said: "It is reprehensible that an employer could think that it is justifiable to deny a worker her hard-earned salary."
He added that the ministry takes a serious view of employers who wilfully withhold the payment of their workers' salaries, and will take strong enforcement actions against them.
Employers who fail to pay their domestic workers may face a fine of up to $10,000 and a jail term of up to 12 months. For illegally deploying a domestic worker, employers may be fined $10,000.
In the statement, the Manpower Ministry advised employers to refrain from safekeeping the salaries of their domestic workers. Employers should pay their maids salaries in full, keep a record of the monthly salaries paid, and obtain written acknowledgement from their domestic workers.