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Employer fined $34,000 for failing to ensure safety of two Foreign Domestic Workers

  1. On 8 August 2018, a 46-year-old employer, Willow Phua Brest (“the accused”) was fined $34,000 for failing to provide a safe working environment for her two foreign domestic workers (“FDWs”). In addition, she was fined $12,000 for illegally employing them as a scaffolder and a maintenance worker respectively without valid work passes, bringing the total fine to $46,000.
  2. The accused pleaded guilty in the State Courts on 7 August 2018 to four charges of breaching the Work Permit Conditions1 , and to a charge of illegal employment under the Employment of Foreign Manpower Act. Five other similar charges were taken into consideration for the purpose of sentencing.

    Employer Disregarded FDWs’ Personal Safety
  3. The accused lived in a two-storey bungalow at Cluny Park. Investigations by the Ministry of Manpower (“MOM”) revealed that between 11 and 16 October 2017, the accused permitted her two FDWs, on four different occasions, to clean the outward-facing side of the windows, which did not have grilles installed. The FDWs stood on a two-storey L-shaped scaffold (seven metres in height) which was erected outside the bungalow’s main building to clean the window exteriors.
  4. By permitting the FDWs to perform such dangerous acts, which should have been undertaken by service providers, the accused had endangered the lives of her two FDWs. She failed to provide a safe working environment for her two FDWs, and did not take necessary measures to ensure their work safety.
  5. In addition, the accused had illegally employed the two FDWs to work as a scaffolder and a maintenance worker respectively between 20 and 27 October 2017 without valid work passes, when both were only allowed to work as FDWs performing household chores.
  6. The accused told one FDW to help her erect a scaffold, which did not have proper guard rails to prevent falls, and to carry out maintenance works at the back wall of the bungalow (Photo 3). Though the FDW raised concerns that it was dangerous to climb onto the scaffold to work, the accused persuaded her to undertake the tasks.
  7. MOM has since stopped the FDWs from working for the accused. MOM has placed one of the FDWs under the Temporary Job Scheme and she is now working for a new employer. The other FDW has returned home. 
  8. Commenting on the case, Ms Jeanette Har, Director of Well-Being at MOM’s Foreign Manpower Management Division, said, “Lives and limbs are at stake here. This is an egregious case. The risks are real and obvious but the employer was oblivious to them. We will take stern actions against employers who do not take their responsibilities seriously, especially so when it comes to the safety of their FDWs.”

    Employers Have to Supervise FDWs Closely and Ensure their Safety
  9. An FDW employer has a legal obligation to provide safe working conditions, and ensure that the FDW carries out her task in accordance with safe work practices as stipulated by MOM. This includes supervising the FDW to ensure that the FDW practises workplace safety and is not placed in situations which endanger her life.
  10. For failing to ensure work safety of FDWs, an offender can be fined up to $10,000 or imprisoned for up to 12 months or to both, per charge. For illegal employment, one can be fined up to $30,000 or imprisoned for up to 12 months or to both. MOM will also bar offenders from hiring FDWs in future.
  11. MOM urges FDWs who need help on work safety and/or well-being issues to call the MOM FDW Helpline at 1800 339 5505, or the Centre for Domestic Employees (CDE) at 1800 2255 233. In addition, anyone with information on suspected offences involving FDWs can write in to MOM at mom_fmmd@mom.gov.sg or call 6438 5122 to report the matter.

FOOTNOTE

  1. Under Fourth Schedule, Part I of the Employment of Foreign Manpower (Work Passes) Regulations 2012, Condition 2 of the Conditions to be Complied with by Employer of Foreign Employee who is Domestic Worker issued with Work Permit reads, “The employer shall provide safe working conditions and take such measures as are necessary to ensure the safety and health of the foreign employee at work.”