Employers may find it hard to look after well-being, safety of maids if they live out: MOM

SINGAPORE – Employers may find it more difficult to look after their maids’ well-being and safety, if these workers were to live apart from them, said the Ministry of Manpower (MOM).

Employers will also need to take responsibility for their maids if they break the law or sustain injuries while living separately, it told The Straits Times. It was responding after some ST forum letter writers suggested relooking employment rules to allow maids to live apart from their employers.

Under the Employment of Foreign Manpower (Work Passes) Regulations, migrant domestic workers (MDWs) must stay in the same residence as their employers. Any other residential address must be approved in writing by the controller of work passes.

MOM noted that there have been “only a small number of cases” where MDWs were found to be living separately from their employers.

There were 245,600 MDWs in Singapore as at June last year, according to MOM.

Earlier this month, ST reported that there were more than 50 requests from employers and maids on social media in the past year for live-out arrangements.

Live-out maids, who enjoy the privacy such arrangements bring, can be paid as much as $1,500 a month, which covers their rental, transport and food expenses. This is double what some maids here get every month.

They know it is illegal to live outside their employer’s home – without approval from the authorities – but say it is a secret agreement.

In its reply, MOM said it is aware that “some households may require domestic services, but are unable to accommodate a MDW in their homes due to space constraints or a preference for privacy”.

For such households, the ministry urged them to consider the Household Services Scheme (HSS), which allows employers to engage help for part-time services such as home cleaning, grocery shopping and car washing instead of hiring a MDW.

These workers from approved firms can be deployed to multiple houses on a part-time basis. They live in accommodation provided by their companies.

HSS companies are currently allowed to hire female workers from countries such as India, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Cambodia. This is in addition to the existing approved countries in the service sectors, such as China, Malaysia and north Asian sources, including Taiwan and South Korea.

The scheme – introduced as a pilot programme in 2017 – was made permanent in September last year following an increased demand.

For example, professional cleaning service company Amahs on Wheels charges $380 for four, once-a -week cleaning sessions in four- and five-room Housing Board flats. A pet-sitting session costs $30 per hour on a weekday, or $50 per hour on a weekend, at a minimum of three hours per session.

MOM added that it will continue to monitor demand from households and assess if the scope of services under the HSS can be further expanded.

Meanwhile, Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics (Home), which advocates on behalf of migrant workers, has called for a review of the stay-in rule for MDWs.

It highlighted the demand for live-out arrangements, adding that this can be beneficial for both employers and MDWs.

“Allowing MDWs to live out will give employers and MDWs a chance to choose a living and working environment that best suits them. Employers and MDWs can agree on a salary that will cover the MDW’s accommodation, transport and food needs, as well as the working hours that the MDWs are to abide by,” said Ms Jaya Anil Kumar, research and advocacy manager at Home.

“Such arrangements will give employers and MDWs space from each other, and may make for a healthier working relationship between them.”

Live-out options will allow MDWs to have fixed working hours, and get sufficient rest, she explained, adding that overwork remains one of the top complaints the group has come across.

“Living in the employer’s house may also make MDWs more prone to isolation, thus making them more vulnerable to exploitation and abuse,” added Ms Anil Kumar, who said that Home often encounters MDWs who are made to live in cramped spaces, such as the storeroom and kitchen.

Space constraints are also a concern for Yio Chu Kang MP Yip Hon Weng, a member of the Government Parliamentary Committee for Manpower.

Mr Yip, who is married with five children, said his household does not have a room for a maid. Instead, he engages a firm that hires locals and migrant workers to offer part-time services under the HSS.

On whether a live-out arrangement for maids would work, he noted that it gives employers privacy and offers an opportunity to instill independence in the young ones when the helper is not around.

But he said there are issues that need to be addressed.

“Who will look for her accommodation? Is the higher salary meant for her to pay for her own accommodation? Will she then have to fend for herself and look for her own home?” he added.

Employment agencies ST spoke to said they are not in favour of live-out arrangements.

While acknowledging that such an arrangement may help lead to better relationships between the employer and the domestic worker, Workforce Manpower’s director Michael Khan said the MDWs may end up abusing the system.

“They may moonlight and get involved in other illegal activities,” he added.

Mr William Lau, director of employment agency Maid Avenue, said: “The majority of employers who currently hire live-in helpers mainly do so because they require taking care of their elderly, children or pets.

“What happens if, for example, the maid needs to leave the home at 10pm, but the infant needs taking care of?”

If a live-out arrangement is made legal, most maids would prefer it, said Mr Lau, adding that this would then leave a hole in the market to address the needs of most Singaporeans.

“If they were to stay out, they may also come to their employer’s house every day distracted,” he said.

Employers may find it hard to look after well-being, safety of maids if they live out: MOM Source link Employers may find it hard to look after well-being, safety of maids if they live out: MOM

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