Domestic worker scandals that turn into transnational political conflicts happen more often than they should. While these are very rare in Singapore, there have still been a few bad actors that remind us that there is still room for improvement in the domestic worker industry. While many steps have been taken to ensure more cooperative relationships between employers and their FDW's, including increasing the penalty for maid abuse, there are still things that employers can do to further this effort. Below are some tips and reminders to keep your relationship with your FDW peaceful.
Strictly Follow the Ministry of Manpower's Guidelines
The easiest way to prevent a detrimental employment relationship with a foreign domestic worker (FDW) and its legal ramifications is to simply follow the guidelines provided by the Ministry of Manpower step by step (similar to how you would complete a math problem or follow instructions on putting together a piece of furniture) regarding rest days, diet, insurance and training. While you may think that is asking a lot, you should remember that this is a person who is taking over your household responsibilities and is realistically working around the clock. As an employer, you are obligated to take care of your employee.
- Accommodation: Must provide adequate shelter, amenities and privacy
- Food: Must provide 3 meals a day (i.e. Lunch: rice, vegetables, meat and fruit)
- Medical Care: Responsible for medical needs and provide her with insurance
- Safe Work Conditions: Make sure she completed MOM's training and works safely
- Integration/Communication: Be patient and tolerant, integrate her into your family
Be wary of shady maid agencies
There are a myriad of maid agencies in Singapore and it can be difficult to find one that is reputable and trains their FDW's properly. That said, there are a number of ways you can find an agency that is reputable, operates with legal workers and will hopefully give you an FDW who can build a long and fruitful working relationship with you. First, you can go on the MOM's website to find a list of accredited agencies in Singapore. Second, you can search online, read forums and comparison sites that discuss which maid agencies are the best, provide certain services or have a high retention rate (this shows that the FDW stayed with her employer for over a year). Maid agencies who are not reputable and promise suspisciously cheap prices often will end up costing you more in the long run as they may operate with illegal or underage workers, provide no after-sales support or provide workers who are poorly trained and heavily indebted to the agency. If you are interested in learning more, we've also prepared a guide on how to find the best foreign domestic worker.
Taking time off to train your domestic worker properly can pay off in the long-run
If you can afford to do so, you should train your domestic worker as thoroughly as you can and go over the legal wording of both the employment contract and the policy wording of your insurance plan. If you are nervous about your worker committing illegal acts, you can show her news articles that correlate to that activity and what can happen if she engages in them. For instance, your FDW may be tempted to borrow from a loan shark. Why? If she is desperate for more money, her options are slim since foreigners need to earn at least S$40,000 to S$60,000 annually to qualify for a personal loan in Singapore. In this case, you can show her articles about what happens when FDW's borrow from loan sharks, and perhaps even arrange a small loan with her directly out of your pocket if she requires emergency funds. If there is a communication breach, you can also try to translate the article using Google Translate or the default translation functionality of your browser.
Showing proof and examples of things you don't want her to do will help her understand why she should not do certain things, as well as provide a clear visual example of things to avoid. It also shows that you are not restricting her free will, but rather trying to ensure her safety. You should let her feel comfortable coming to you for help but also let her know about restrictions to the relationship.
Training your FDW includes not only teaching her how to do her daily tasks, but also providing the time to explain the culture and save room for any questions that she has. Of course, there can be bad apples in any circumstance, but it is still better to attempt a cordial relationship than a dictatorial one. Most importantly, you should keep your anger and emotions in check when you feel frustrated. Humans do not react well to humiliation or public punishment. By losing your temper, you are not going to make her do her duties any better. Setting a good framework and explaining expectations early on can help prevent misunderstandings further down the road and decrease the risk of unfortunate accidents and runaways.
If you need help, turn to your maid insurance
Maid insurance is quite handy despite being one more cost to an already expensive endeavour of hiring a FDW. However, because it is required by the MOM, you might as well make the most of it by finding a policy that provides comprehensive coverage for both you and your FDW. The risks of employing an FDW are high for both the employer and the employee so having a form of protection against those risks can ease some of the stress of having an unknown stranger living with you full-time.
The good news is that there are maid insurance plans out there that are both affordable and provide plenty of coverage. This includes benefits like medical coverage for your family, coverage for items stolen by your maid and coverage for legal fees. If something happens to your domestic worker (not caused intentionally by you) or to your family member, you should call your insurer immediately and let them know of the event. Not only will this help mitigate expensive financial bills relating to lawsuits or hospital stays, but it will also connect you with someone who may guide you through the process of handling such an event. Knowing that you have a solid buffer of financial protection reduces the stress of living paycheque to paycheque, which will in turn reduce the potential of emotional outbursts.