Maids can opt in for free bank account when applying for work permits in bid to prevent salary disputes

The Centre for Domestic Employees said it wants maids to set up bank accounts in Singapore even before they arrive in the country, in a bid to prevent salary disputes. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - The Centre for Domestic Employees wants maids to set up bank accounts in Singapore - even before they arrive here to work - in a move to stamp out salary disputes in future.

The centre's chairman, Mr Yeo Guat Kwang, said that a bank account keeps an electronic record of salary transfers, making it easier for maids and employers to keep track of payments.

"We want to be more active in solving salary disputes," Mr Yeo told reporters on the sidelines of a May Day celebration event for maids held at Kovan on Sunday (May 6).

Starting Sept 1, maids applying for a work permit in Singapore can opt in to set up their POSB bank accounts as well. No minimum sum is required.

The bank card that they will receive after they arrive can also be used as an ez-link card. It is also a membership card that gives them better rates at some remittance firms, among other benefits, Mr Yeo said.

To attract more sign-ups, the centre will throw in a free SIM card when maids opt in for the service. More details will be released in time, said Mr Yeo, who is also assistant director-general at the Labour Movement.

Maids who are already working here can apply for the service at the centre's offices at City Plaza, Peninsula Plaza and Union Square, Mr Yeo said.

Domestic workers enjoying themselves at the May Day Domestic Workers Celebration at Hougang bus interchange on May 6, 2018. ST PHOTO: NG SOR LUAN

As of January this year, the centre has helped maids claim $113,668 from employers since it started operations in 2016.

Last year, it clawed back $52,543 from employers who failed to pay their maids, or kept their salaries for "safekeeping".

In 2017, the centre recorded 607 cases of help rendered, up from 517 the year before. Of these, salary disputes were the most common issue raised.

"Currently, maids only come to us after the disputes have happened. By that time, they are in a very pitiful state," Mr Yeo said.

"When we step in, sometimes it's too late and they are getting ready to be sent back."

Mr Tay Khoon Beng who runs Best Home Employment Agency said that having a bank account ready when maids arrive is a good move. "But employers must also buy into the monthly Giro (salary) payments," he said.

Indonesian Iswati, 32, who goes only by one name, said that the service is very convenient. "It's very good... Next time, maids won't face so many problems here," added Ms Iswati, who has been a maid here for six years.

Some 2,000 maids attended Sunday's event which offered song and dance performances. Maids could get free massages, hair cuts and sticker tattoos at the event which kickstarts a month-long celebration organised by the labour movement.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.