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Flexibility of early contract termination applies to both employers and FDWs

  • The Straits Times (27 February 2014): Flexibility of early contract termination applies to both employers and FDWs
  • The Straits Times (24 February 2014): Employers of maids also need protection

Flexibility of early contract termination applies to both employers and FDWs
- The Straits Times, 27 February 2014

  1. We refer to Ms Choo Sing Nian’s letter (“Employers of maids also need protection”; 24 Feb).
  2. We appreciate the pains that employers go through when needing to replace a valued employee, whether of foreign domestic workers (FDW) or local hires. These difficulties are compounded in a domestic setting, particularly when working couples depend on their FDWs to look after their children or their elderly family members.
  3. However, we wish to clarify that the termination of an employment contract is not a breach of contract if sufficient notice or pay-in-lieu of notice is given. Given that either contracting party may need to terminate the contract early for unanticipated reasons, employment contracts typically provide for such flexibility through termination clauses. This flexibility is important for both employers and employees. Some employers and employees have exercised this termination clause before contract expiry and it is not in breach of the contract.
  4. While there may be unforeseen circumstances by either party that result in the need to terminate a contract early, we encourage potential FDW employers to select both their employment agency and potential hires with care. Employers can access information on all employment agencies’ track records and the employment history of all FDWs who have worked in Singapore on the Ministry of Manpower’s website and Work Permit Online Application system, respectively. Employment agencies are also required to provide prospective employers with the FDW’s employment history.

Employers of maids also need protection
- The Straits Times, 24 February 2014

LAST June, I hired a domestic helper from Indonesia to look after my 80-year-old disabled father.

For the past eight months, we were happy with her and were told by the maid agency that she had no complaints about us.

However, two weeks ago, she suddenly requested to call home.

After a chat with her "friend", she said she had to return home as one of her children was sick.

Given her insistence, we had to let her go even though it was in breach of her contract.

I was left facing the problem of finding a replacement maid and, among other issues, having to fork out another few thousand dollars to pay for the new maid's agency loan.

I fully agree that the welfare of foreign domestic workers must be protected and kudos to the Government for doing a lot to protect the maids' interests.

But what about the employers' interests? Currently, there is no law to protect the employers when a maid breaches a contract through no fault of the employer.

A contract is signed between the agency, maid and employer, yet what purpose does it serve when a maid can just give seven days' notice to quit, citing any reason and without any penalty against the maid nor the agency?

The employer still has to bear all the costs, including paying the agency's fee and insurance, each time a new maid is hired within the two-year contract.

What can the Government or authorities do to protect maid employers in such situations?