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$5,000 security bond not forfeited if maids get pregnant

  • The Straits Times (25 June 2011) : $5,000 security bond not forfeited if maids get pregnant 
  • The Straits Times (24 June 2011) : Extend day-off benefit to all workers in Singapore
  • The Straits Times (24 June 2011) : Spare a thought for working mums
  • The Straits Times Online (24 June 2011) : Most maid employers are compassionate, so...
  • The Straits Times Online (24 June 2011) : Maids are not less human than us
  • The Straits Times Online (24 June 2011) : An argument that holds no water
  • The Straits Times (22 June 2011) : Ease maid employers' burden of responsibility

$5,000 security bond not forfeited if maids get pregnant
- The Straits Times, 25 June 2011

The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) would like to clarify some questions about the security bond posted by employers of foreign domestic workers (FDWs).

2.   The security bond is aimed at ensuring that employers remain responsible for the proper upkeep and maintenance, as well as prompt salary payment to foreign workers. It also prevents illegal deployment and ensures the timely repatriation of foreign workers. The security bond applies to employers of both foreign domestic and non-domestic workers. These conditions are made known upfront when employers apply for a Work Permit on behalf of their foreign workers.

3.   From 2005 to 2010, MOM forfeited an average of 65 (less than 0.04%) security bonds for FDWs each year. As of December 2010, there were 201,000 FDWs working in Singapore.

4.   MOM understands employers' concerns that they should not be held responsible when their FDWs violate the Work Permit conditions on their own accord, especially outside designated work hours or on their rest days. Therefore, since January 2010, MOM has removed employers’ liability if the FDW gets pregnant or breaches other Work Permit conditions that relate to her own behaviour. It is untrue that the $5,000 security bond will be forfeited for pregnancy.

5.   Even in the extreme case where the FDW absconds and the employer is unable to repatriate her, only half of the security bond will be forfeited, so long as the employer has made reasonable efforts to locate the FDW. The forfeited security bond is used to cover repatriation and other related costs once the worker is found, so that it does not exact a cost on taxpayers in Singapore. This includes the cost of providing food and temporary accommodation, as well as arranging for her repatriation to her home country. This is also the case for non-domestic foreign workers.

6.   MOM is studying the suggestion for the Government to legislate a weekly rest day for FDWs, with compensation in-lieu when the FDW and employer mutually agree that the rest day be foregone. We will need to consult with all stakeholders, including employers, employment agencies, domestic workers and non-governmental organizations. MOM would like to reassure employers that all views and feedback would be considered. Further, should there be any changes, sufficient notice will be provided. Members of the public can email their views and suggestions to mom_fmmd@mom.gov.sg.


Extend day-off benefit to all workers in Singapore
- The Straits Times, 24 June 2011


Caritas Singapore warmly welcomes the suggestion by Minister of State for Community Development, Youth and Sports Halimah Yacob to legislate a weekly day off for domestic helpers ('Consider law to give maids a day off every week: Halimah'; Monday).

Caritas Singapore is an umbrella body with 23 affiliate member organisations whose work touches the lives of more than 50,000 beneficiaries, including foreign workers and domestic helpers.

We strongly support the suggestion by Madam Halimah and hope that the Ministry of Manpower will consider implementing a day off each week not just for foreign domestic helpers but for all workers in Singapore.

Such a move will be in line with one of the key elements that was adopted at the recent International Labour Organisation Convention on Decent Work for Domestic Workers.

We believe that this would go a long way in protecting domestic workers and their basic rights and dignity, which include limits to hours of work, a minimum wage, and a decent place for rest.

Spare a thought for working mums
- The Straits Times, 24 June 2011

I refer to Minister of State for Community Development, Youth and Sports Halimah Yacob's call for legislating a weekly day off for domestic helpers ('Consider law to give maids a day off every week: Halimah'; Monday).

I urge Madam Halimah to look at the issue from the perspective of an ordinary, Singaporean working mother.

As a mother of a preschooler and an infant, having a domestic helper is probably the best solution for me as I would like to make full use of my hard-earned degree, remain in the competitive workforce and contribute to the nation's economic growth while supporting the Government's call to have more babies. Without a domestic helper to look after the children, one of the parents will have to stay at home.

Amid soaring inflation, rocketing housing prices and a dipping total fertility rate, is it appropriate to consider a weekly day off for domestic helpers at this juncture? If the Government would like to hear more babies cry, the answer is a clear no.

Moreover, does having a weekly day off ease the stress and overworking problems faced by domestic helpers? They may have to complete their chores before or after their day off. Essentially, they are left with less time to do the same chores. In this case, a weekly day off seems to worsen the problem.

Instead, inculcating a different mindset that looks at domestic helpers as part of the family may help. When the domestic helper is regarded as part of the family, she feels more comfortable and less likely to be stressed. Do we overwork our family members? No.

With many Singaporean households relying on domestic helpers to keep the house running, any change in the existing legislation is going to affect a large number of people.

It is not assumptive to conclude that a weekly day off for domestic helpers will have a negative impact on the fertility rate and the number of mothers in the workforce.

Most maid employers are compassionate, so...
- The Straits Times Online, 24 June 2011

I refer to Minister of State for Community Development, Youth and Sports Halimah Yacob's call for legislation entitling maids to take a day off every week ("Consider law to give maids a day off every week: Halimah"; Monday).

There is no need for legislation as different households have different needs. Let the present arrangement between maids and employers stay.

The majority of Singapore employers are basically kind and compassionate towards their maids. If not given a day off a week, maids are normally compensated either in cash or kind. I feel if the system is not broken (or problematic) why fix it.

Let me relate the story of my maid, who was engaged to look after my aged mother-in-law in September 2009. In April last year, my mother-in-law died. My wife and I decided to keep the maid until her contract ends this August.

In a two-person household, in an HDB executive apartment, where both husband and wife go to work, there is not much work to do daily. Just some general cleaning, a bit of washing, ironing and cooking one meal a day. In a day, the hours of rest are more than that of work. She spends most of her free time reading.

My wife and I decided to keep the maid for one and a half years (without a real need for her) until her contract expires out of compassion and kindness.

So, in my view, let the employers and their maids settle the day off issue among themselves. 

Maids are not less human than us 
- The Straits Times Online, 24 June 2011

I disagree with Mr Yum Shoen Liang's stand that domestic workers are not like other workers ("Maids can't be compared with other workers"; yesterday).

By his assertions, everyone whose nature of job is different from a stereotypical concept of a worker should not be considered a worker. At the heart of the issue is why are we treating domestic workers differently? Are they less human than us? Do they deserve less rights than a typical worker?

Mr Yum asserts that he observed acts of irresponsibility by domestic workers. How does this relate to giving or withholding a day off for them? I think that a mandated day off would give the domestic workers a better chance at discharging their responsibilities well.

Mr Yum believes he is taking good care of his domestic worker by giving her sufficient rest. However, not everyone does the same. In the lopsided power relationship between the domestic worker and her employer, the domestic worker often has little voice.

A mandated day off serves to rectify this situation.

An argument that holds no water
- The Straits Times Online, 24 June 2011

Some maids may indeed overspend on their free days, and become unhappy with their pay ("More days off may not be in maids' interest", by Mr Sng Choon Kwee; yesterday). However, that does not make them any different from the rest of us.

Many of us work months to save up for a vacation, or a dream home, or children's education. Many of us have problems saving for other long-term expenses. The majority of people are not happy with what they are paid, and definitely would wish to be paid more. However, no one is calling for weekends and holidays to be abolished for the rest of the labour force.

Hence, it is not our prerogative to deprive maids of their rest time in order to save their money. Being adults, that decision is theirs.

The idea that we have to control their free time for their own best interest is condescending and patriarchal at best. They should be allowed to manage their money and free time as they wish.

Ease maid employers' burden of responsibility
- The Straits Times (22 June 2011)
 

I welcome Minister of State for Community Development, Youth and Sports Halimah Yacob's call for legislation entitling maids to a day off every week ('Consider law to give maids a day off every week: Halimah'; Monday).

However, we do need to recognise that much of the employers' reluctance to give maids days off stems from the Ministry of Manpower's (MOM) policies that place the burden of responsibility on the employer should the maid, for example, get pregnant or run away.

This is something MOM should review if it is committed to higher labour standards and protecting vulnerable workers. Employers should not be held responsible for a maid's activities outside of designated work hours.

Domestic helpers provide a service for which they are paid. For many families who struggle with their household responsibilities, such services are essential but costly. At the same time, there must be a balance between getting our money's worth and recognising that maids are human beings, not commodities that exist solely to make our lives more convenient.

Madam Halimah suggested that if a weekly day off is not feasible, they could be financially compensated in lieu of that. I think this is a fair option which gives flexibility to employers, while recognising the right of the individual to have time off work.

There are employers who treat their maids with respect and have worked out mutually satisfactory arrangements for both parties. Enforcing one day off a week simply ensures that employers who would otherwise not ensure their maids have sufficient rest from work are legally obliged to do so. Such legislation simply protects a vulnerable group of individuals who often suffer in silence.

Many of us would consider even one day off a week outrageous.