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MOM careful about allegations of maid abuse

  • The Straits Times (21 September 2011) : MOM careful about allegations of maid abuse
  • The Straits Times (15 September 2011) : Be fair to employers too

  • MOM careful about allegations of maid abuse
    - The Straits Times, 21 September 2011

    In response to Mdm Lim Ee Ping's letter (ST Forum, 15 September 2011), the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) would like to clarify that our policies and protocols seek to be objective and balance the interests of employers and foreign domestic workers (FDWs) alike.

    2. MOM takes allegations by FDWs on well-being issues seriously, especially if they concern physical abuse. In such instances, the employer would not be allowed to employ a new FDW while investigations are ongoing. MOM does not assume guilt on the employer in the first instance, though we always take a precautionary approach to ensure the well-being and safety of the FDW, given her vulnerability – as Mdm Lim agreed with.

    3. If the FDW is subsequently found guilty of false allegations or declarations, she can be prosecuted under the Employment of Foreign Manpower Act. Between January and June 2011, 10 FDWs were convicted for making false declarations. Out of which, five were fined between $4,000 and $5,000, and five were jailed between two to four weeks.

    4. MOM had spoken to all parties concerned in Mdm Lim's case, and we have since communicated the investigation outcome to her. MOM would also like to assure Mdm Lim that the second FDW currently employed by her family can continue to work in the household. We did not inform her that the family was at risk of losing their second FDW. We note that Mdm Lim and her mother, who is the registered FDW employer, had agreed that the FDW could seek a change of employer.

    Be fair to employers too
    - The Straits Times, 15 September 2011

    My first experience with allegations of maid abuse has convinced me that the Ministry of Manpower should review its policies and protocols, to take fairness and consideration for employers into account.

    I am a working mother and my husband works abroad. So I moved in with my elderly parents as I have two children aged six and two. We hired two maids because it was unfair to hire a single maid to cope with the workload of two families. On Sept 1, one maid ran away while we were abroad.

    When we returned, the ministry called us for an interview because the runaway maid had alleged that we abused her. While we could not replace the maid, the interviewing officer said it was important that we agree to transfer her as she needed money. The officer advised that we were also at risk of losing our other maid.

    Why does the ministry regard a runaway maid's problem to be more pressing than the agony and strain she causes her employer? The ministry's protocol unfairly favours the maid.

    There is no evidence of physical abuse; and before the maid decided to run away, she had put on at least 5kg since we employed her in July last year, which is odd for someone alleging mistreatment.

    While I accept that a maid is potentially more vulnerable as she is a foreigner, it should not be automatically assumed she is the victim. Isn't it fairer to suspend the rights of all parties until the case is resolved?

    Why is the employer penalised while the maid is allowed a transfer? What happens if, after transfer, the maid is proven to have lied? How am I recompensed and is it fair to the second employer?

    My family has been employing maids for almost 30 years, since I was three. Surely, ministry records will show we have had no history of maid abuse. If the current maid cannot cope with the work alone and decides to quit, which government agency will help me?

    Are working mothers given enough leave and subsidies to cope with such emergencies? Will solving such emergencies come at the expense of my job?

    My husband is 38 years old, and I am 33. I have a postgraduate diploma in education and he holds a doctorate. We belong to the very demographic the Government is targeting for a higher birth rate.