Debate over private clubs' barring of maids

Mr Bloodworth outside the Singapore Cricket Club, which he criticised for not stating its policies more explicitly.
Mr Bloodworth outside the Singapore Cricket Club, which he criticised for not stating its policies more explicitly. PHOTO: FACEBOOK/NICHOLAS BLOODWORTH

Netizens divided over incident at S'pore Cricket Club restaurant

A maid was barred from having dinner at the Singapore Cricket Club (SCC) last Friday, sparking a discussion on the policies of private clubs here, some of which do not allow domestic helpers on their premises.

On Monday, freelance actor Nicholas Bloodworth recounted in a Facebook post how his family, along with his brother's maid, Mary, had gone to a restaurant in the SCC last Friday for dinner, only to be told by a staff member that "they don't allow maids here".

According to Mr Bloodworth, 33, the staff member said maids were prohibited not just from the eatery but also the entire SCC premises. He said the staff member told him Mary had to wait in the carpark.

Mr Bloodworth claimed that when the staff member was asked how he would know Mary was not a family member, he said: "I will know."

Mr Bloodworth added that his father, a club member, had asked to sign Mary in as a guest but this was not allowed. Eventually, the family had a quick meal in the restaurant and packed some food for Mary.

Though Mary took the incident in her stride, Mr Bloodworth, who is not an SCC member, said he was "furious" over what happened and that his father was "particularly upset".

Calling the policy "good, old-timey discrimination", he said: "It was not fair for Mary, who works hard and makes sacrifices like everyone else, to be deprived of having dinner with the family."

Netizens were divided on the issue. While some criticised the action of the staff member, several others felt the club was justified in barring Mary, with a few noting that SCC's by-laws state that maids are not allowed on the premises.

A check of SCC's by-laws revealed a clause which states: "No domestic help providers or chauffeurs may be brought into the Club premises or use any of the facilities provided in the Club."

Acknowledging this, Mr Bloodworth told The Straits Times on Tuesday that his issue was not with the by-laws per se but rather with such information not being clearly stated on the club's website. "Who's going to read by-laws? I'm okay if you have such rules... but if I check your website and they're not stated there... that's not right," he said.

He said he intends to "never step into that club again".

In response to Mr Bloodworth's Facebook post, a spokesman for SCC said yesterday that club rules and by-laws are mandated by members and available on its public domain website. "It is our members' obligation to be fully aware of and to comply with them, and to make sure their guests are aware of them," the spokesman added.

SCC is not the only club here with such policies. The by-laws of The Tanglin Club explicitly state that domestic helpers are not permitted on club premises.

The same goes for The British Club, except when maids are attending a function organised by the club for them. A spokesman for The British Club said the policy was put in place "quite some time ago", as some members were not comfortable having maids around. The spokesman added that it can get crowded on weekends, and the policy can help to alleviate this issue.

Other clubs have a slightly more relaxed policy. The Hollandse Club's by-laws state that maids are allowed on its premises in certain cases. For instance, maids are allowed in if they are accompanied by members during special private events, if they are attending classes specifically organised for them at the club, or if they are accompanying members' children under certain guidelines.

The American Club generally requires maids to be signed in and accompanied by members at all times, except under special circumstances. Other clubs, like The China Club Singapore, have no such policies.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 29, 2018, with the headline 'Debate over private clubs' barring of maids'. Print Edition | Subscribe