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Employer Fined $32,000 for Defaulting Domestic Worker's Salaries

  1. On 14 April 2015, a 39-year-old Singaporean woman, Tang Lee Sung (董丽珊,“Tang”), was convicted after trial in the State Courts of 19 counts for failing to pay $5,778 in salaries to her foreign domestic worker (FDW) within seven days after the last day of each monthly salary period between 11 November 2011 and 12 May 2013. Tang was also convicted of illegally deploying her FDW to work at a location other than the residential address stated in her Work Permit card.
  2. The District Judge sentenced Tang to a total fine of $34,500 - $32,000 for defaulting on the payment of the FDW’s salaries, and $2,500 for the illegal deployment offence.

    Case Details
  3. From 11 November 2011 to 12 May 2013, Tang employed an Indonesian FDW and agreed to pay her a monthly salary of $420, as reflected in her work pass application to the Ministry of Manpower (MOM). According to the Work Permit conditions listed within the Employment of Foreign Manpower (Work Passes) Regulations, an employer is required to pay his or her FDW’s salary not later than seven days after the last day of the salary period. The salary period cannot exceed one month. In the present case, Tang failed to pay the FDW a total of $5,778 in salary arrears.
  4. During the period of employment, Tang had also allowed her mother to bring the FDW to Johor Bahru, Malaysia, to take care of her mother’s cats at a rented house almost daily. This amounted to a breach of one of the Work Permit conditions which permits an FDW to only perform household and domestic duties at the residential address as stated in her Work Permit card.

    The Trial in Court
  5. During the two-day trial, Tang testified that her mother had a salary “safe-keeping” arrangement with the FDW. Tang and her mother refused to pay the FDW her salaries at the end of her employment as they felt that the worker did not perform her tasks satisfactorily. Tang, alleged that the FDW had caused damage to their properties and mistreated her mother’s cats.
  6. However, the prosecution succeeded in stating its case that the said offences under the Employment of Foreign Manpower Act (EFMA) had clearly been committed. Prosecution had shown that Tang had no grounds to withhold the salary of the FDW, and that, whatever safekeeping arrangement between the parties was at best a contractual agreement and could not override the statutory obligation of Tang, as the employer. The prosecution also proved that Tang had contravened one of the Work Permit conditions by allowing her FDW to work in Johor Bahru.
  7. At the close of the trial, the District Judge found Tang guilty and convicted her of all 19 charges of defaulting in salary payments and one charge of illegal deployment. The accused was also ordered by the Court to make good the entire salary arrears due to the FDW.

    MOM Takes Tough Stand against Employers’ Failure to Pay Salaries on Time
  8. Commenting on the case, Mr Kevin Teoh (张庆兴), Divisional Director of MOM’s Foreign Manpower Management Division (人力部外来人力管理署署长) said, “It is reprehensible that an employer could think that it is justifiable to deny a worker her hard-earned salary. The Ministry takes a serious view of employers who wilfully withhold the payment of their workers’ salaries and strong enforcement action will be taken.”

    Employers Must Pay FDWs’ Salaries Promptly
  9. FDW employers are reminded that they must ensure prompt payment of salaries to their FDWs. The payment should be within seven days after the last day of each salary period. Each salary period cannot exceed one month. FDWs are to work at the residential address as stated in their Work Permit cards. Failure to pay salaries is punishable by a fine of up to $10,000, or imprisonment for a term of up to 12 months, or both. For illegally deploying an FDW, a financial penalty of up to $10,000 can be imposed.
  10. If there is an agreement between the employer and the FDW to safe keep her salary, the salary must be paid in full promptly upon request by the FDW. Failure to do so is tantamount to withholding of salary and is against the law. The FDW can also unilaterally rescind the safekeeping agreement at any time. In spite of this, MOM sometimes receives requests for assistance with the recovery of the FDW’s salary. For employers’ peace of mind and to avoid disputes and complaints, employers are advised to refrain from safekeeping the salaries of their FDWs. Employers should pay salaries in full, maintain a record of the monthly salaries paid to their FDWs and obtain written acknowledgement from their domestic workers.