Employers taken to task for not giving maids safe work conditions

Some 60 people implicated over past five years in cases involving window cleaning; penalties depend on severity

PHOTOS: KHIN MAUNG MYINT, IDAYU MURNI, SHIN MIN FILE, STOMP
2006: Block 159 Yung Loh Road, in Jurong. PHOTOS: KHIN MAUNG MYINT, IDAYU MURNI, SHIN MIN FILE, STOMP
PHOTOS: KHIN MAUNG MYINT, IDAYU MURNI, SHIN MIN FILE, STOMP
2010: Amber Park condominium in Katong.
PHOTOS: KHIN MAUNG MYINT, IDAYU MURNI, SHIN MIN FILE, STOMP
2016: Eighth-floor unit of Block 539 Serangoon North Avenue 4.
PHOTOS: KHIN MAUNG MYINT, IDAYU MURNI, SHIN MIN FILE, STOMP
2019: Kheam Hock Road condominium.

The authorities here took about 60 people to task from 2016 to last year for failing to provide safe working conditions for their maids when they cleaned windows.

The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) said those implicated included employers and their household members. It added that they were warned, issued with composition fines or prosecuted, depending on the severity of the case.

The ministry was responding to queries from The Straits Times on a 26-year-old Indonesian maid who died in hospital after being found at the bottom of a block of flats near Hougang MRT station on March 29.

The police said they received a call for assistance at Block 464 Upper Serangoon Road at 4.53pm that day.

The woman was unconscious when she was taken by the Singapore Civil Defence Force to Sengkang General Hospital, where she later died.

She is believed to have been cleaning windows when she fell.

The MOM said it is investigating the incident.

"MOM expresses our deepest condolences to the deceased's family. The Centre for Domestic Employees is in touch with her family members and employer to provide assistance," said a spokesman for the ministry yesterday.

The ministry added that it takes a serious view of cases of employers who fail to provide safe working conditions for migrant domestic workers.

"We educate both employers and migrant domestic workers, and have stipulated safety conditions that have to be in place for cleaning windows in a high-rise setting," it said.

Domestic worker advocacy groups said that though measures have been put in place to stop maids from being placed in such dangerous positions, both maids and employers can do more.

Ms Jaya Anil Kumar, a case worker from the Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics, said: "Since the ban on cleaning windows in a dangerous manner was included in the Employment of Foreign Manpower Act regulations, there have been fewer reported instances in the news of such cases.

"However, such instances should not be happening at all. Domestic workers should be given a safe working environment, and they should not be undertaking tasks that put their safety and their lives at risk."

Mr Shamsul Kamar, executive director at the Centre for Domestic Employees, said: "We believe that domestic workers have been amply briefed on how to work safely during their compulsory settling-in programme.

"We encourage them to speak to their employers when they are unable to carry out a household cleaning duty if it is in an unsafe environment."

In 2006, a housewife was convicted of a negligent act which resulted in her Indonesian maid falling to her death from an eighth-floor apartment in 2004.

It was then the first case of its kind in Singapore.

  • Additional reporting by Ang Qing

Past cases

2006 - Block 159 Yung Loh Road, in Jurong.

2010 - Amber Park condominium in Katong.

2016 - Eighth-floor unit of Block 539 Serangoon North Avenue 4.

2019 - Kheam Hock Road condominium.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 09, 2021, with the headline 'Employers taken to task for not giving maids safe work conditions'. Subscribe