The law in Singapore states that maids can do only household and domestic work, but it does not spell out the specific tasks.
The reason: It is not practical to give in detail every task for every household as the needs vary vastly across households. It would also be "over-prescriptive", Minister of State for Manpower Sam Tan said in Parliament yesterday.
Non-Constituency MP Daniel Goh had asked the Manpower Ministry to consider defining the duties and job scopes of maids.
Mr Tan noted that more people are employing maids to help care for children, and sick or elderly family members. So, it is in these employers' interests to ensure their maids have the skills to perform caregiving tasks that require special training, for instance tube feeding, "in the light of the dangers involved if the caregiver is not trained", he added.
The issue of maids' duties came under the spotlight earlier this year after Indonesian Kusrini Caslan Arja, 37, dropped the suction cap of a tube down the throat of a four-year-old boy with disabilities. She was using the tube to remove phlegm from his windpipe.The boy bled when she tried, unsuccessfully, to pull it out.
Yesterday, Mr Tan said that employers should ensure their maids are properly trained and comfortable with performing a task before entrusting them with it.
Dr Goh also asked about specialised training for domestic workers.
The Health Ministry and Agency for Integrated Care work with service providers on training courses for caregivers, said Mr Tan.
The ministry also offers a Caregivers' Training Grant for people - including maids - taking care of seniors and people with disabilities.
Foreign workers were also the subject of a separate question by Mr Patrick Tay (West Coast GRC), who asked about induction programmes to help foreigners integrate.
On arrival, all new work permit holders receive a guidebook on Singapore laws, employment regulations and social norms, said Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Josephine Teo, who oversees population matters.
In addition, all new foreign maids attend a settling-in programme, while new foreign workers for the construction, marine, process and metalworking sectors attend safety orientation courses.
Both programmes cover aspects of Singapore's laws and its norms.
Each year, two-thirds of all new work permit holders attend these programmes which are compulsory for workers in those sectors, said Mrs Teo, who is also Second Minister for Manpower.