New appraisal system proposed for massage therapists

The new appraisal system will tighten the screening process for new staff and lower the risk of them engaging in illicit activities.
The new appraisal system will tighten the screening process for new staff and lower the risk of them engaging in illicit activities. ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

A new association has been formed with ambitious plans to clean up the massage and spa scene in Singapore.

The Spa Professionals Association of Singapore, which registered as a society with the Ministry of Home Affairs on May 2, plans to introduce an appraisal system for Category I therapists to "weed out bad eggs".

Its president Rolland Ng said that from July, spa operators registered with the association can rate workers on a scale of one to 10, and assess how well a potential hire has fared at his or her previous workplace.

Only spas that have been certified by the Police Licensing & Regulatory Department as Category I massage establishments can join the association. Category I spas have to go through stricter checks than Category II spas, as they can operate at premises such as Housing Board shophouses, shopping centres and hotels. Category II spas cannot operate in Housing Board residential areas, and must be situated away from said residential areas, schools and places of worship.

The new association has 114 licensed Category I spa operators in the mix. There are two other existing bodies representing such establishments - the Spa Association Singapore and Spa & Wellness Association Singapore.

Mr Ng said the appraisal system will tighten the screening process for new staff and lower the risk of them engaging in illicit activities.

"It is not uncommon for workers to work for less than a year before switching to another spa. Sometimes, they might have been fired by management because of bad behaviour, but when they go to a new spa to work, their bosses don't know," he added.

The online appraisal system will be available on the association's website, which will go live in July.

Since the Massage Establishments Act was amended on March 1, massage parlours with CaseTrust accreditation or which conduct their services in plain view had their operating hours restricted from 7am to 10.30pm. Those without the accreditation are allowed to operate only from 10am to 10.30pm.

Mr Ng, who owns S Spa at 22 Havelock Road, rallied spa owners to form the association after a dialogue between some 150 operators and licensing officers from the police on March 26 to discuss the shortened operating hours.

The industry's image has been tarnished by a few bad eggs. Among the recent cases was a masseur at a foot reflexology spa who was on May 14 given nine months' jail and three strokes for outrage of modesty.

Mr Desmond Soh, owner of Kingdom Spa at 893 Bukit Timah Road, believes the appraisal system to be a "very good help" for massage parlours to keep up standards.

"When workers have attitude problems or do something wrong, we will give them a bad review. So other spa bosses will know that they shouldn't be employed."

Mr Ong Deng Li, who owns three spas in the city area, added: "If you don't hire workers with bad reviews... there will be less bad news about the industry."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 21, 2018, with the headline 'New appraisal system proposed for massage therapists'. Print Edition | Subscribe