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Oral Answer by Mr Zaqy Mohamad Minister of State for Manpower to Parliamentary Question on foreign workers agency fees

NOTICE PAPER NO. 1323 OF 2018 FOR THE SITTING ON 10 SEP 2018

QUESTION NO. 2205 FOR ORAL ANSWER

MP: Mr Christopher De Souza

To ask the Minister for Manpower (a) what enforcement actions have been taken against agencies who charge foreign workers more than the maximum cap for agency fees; (b) how have these enforcement actions benefited the relevant employees; (c) what can be done to prevent a person from incurring overly burdensome debts to come to Singapore to work; and (d) what can be done to ensure that deductions from employees' salaries made by employers are legitimate.

Answer

  1. Employment Agencies (EAs) operating in Singapore are not allowed to collect fees exceeding one month of the worker’s salary for each year of contracted service here, capped at two months’ salary.
  2. Between 2015 to 2017, MOM took action against 23 errant EAs for violating this rule. Three were prosecuted and had their licences revoked while the remaining were given written warnings or had composition fines imposed on them. MOM also helped the workers who were in Singapore to recover their excess agency fees in full. 
  3. While the Ministry has prohibited the EAs in Singapore from charging workers beyond the stipulated fee cap, it is beyond our jurisdiction to regulate agents in the workers’ home countries. However, whenever MOM investigations reveal suspicious or irregular fee practices, we do not hesitate to share pertinent information with the foreign embassies to enlist their help to combat any malpractices in their respective countries.
  4. When applying for Work Permits, employers are required to declare key salary terms, in particular the basic and fixed monthly salary, and salary deductions, to prospective foreign workers. These terms are stated in the In-Principle Approval (IPA) letters, which are available in the workers’ native languages, and must be sent to the workers prior to their departure for Singapore.
  5. Employers are not allowed to increase salary deductions from what was stated in the IPA, unless they have obtained the workers’ written agreement and notified MOM of the revisions. In addition, these deductions must comply with the maximum deductions allowable under the Employment Act. Foreign workers who have had their salaries deducted without their written consent, or beyond what is allowable under the law, should report this to MOM as early as possible. This point will be made clear through the Settling-in Programme which will be gradually rolled out to all new non-Malaysian foreign workers in Singapore starting with those in the Construction sector from October 2018.