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MOM offered assistance to foreign worker who lodged report

MOM offered assistance to foreign worker who lodged report
  • Lianhe Zaobao (11 February 2019): No recourse for foreign worker who was unfairly treated

1. In his letter (“No Recourse for Foreign Worker who was Unfairly Treated”, 11 Feb 2019), Mr Zeng Weixian alleged that the Ministry of Manpower did not offer assistance to a foreign worker in distress. 
2. Mr Zeng’s account is inaccurate. MOM tried to contact Mr Zeng on 20 Feb 2019 for more details on the case, but he had refused to speak with us. 

3. The foreign worker had approached MOM for assistance on 29 Jan 2019 to obtain a full refund of her employment agency fees paid to a Singapore employment agency. The claim that she was advised she could only claim half the fees is false. The MOM investigation officer informed her that MOM would be investigating the case, including her claim for full refund of agency fees. 

4. She was initially issued a Special Pass in order to facilitate investigation against the employment agent and the employer. As a Special Pass holder, she was offered lodging and upkeep, but she declined, and informed us that she was residing with a volunteer of an NGO. She was also asked if she would like to take up a job under the Temporary Job Scheme. She said she wanted a job with shorter working hours and was not in a hurry to get a job. 

5. As a result of the Ministry’s intervention, the foreign worker has received refund of her agency fees and has returned home due to personal circumstances. Nonetheless, investigation against the employer and employment agency is on-going.

Jeanette Har (Ms)
Director, Well-Being Department
Ministry of Manpower

Letter: No recourse for foreign worker who was unfairly treated - Lianhe Zaobao, 11 February 2019

Translated Article:

Having been an employment agent for the past seven years, I am unable to agree with the unreasonable practices of some employers and employment agencies (EAs), as well as how MOM carry out its works.

Not long ago, I met a female worker from China who arrived in Singapore on 4 Jan 2019 and who commenced work on 5 Jan. As she felt unwell, she requested to take leave. However, on 8 Jan, her employer cancelled her S Pass application, saying she was absent from work without valid reason. The worker paid $5,000 to a Singaporean EA to come to work in Singapore. The EA also used the same reason and refused to refund any agency fees.

From the employment terms letter produced by the worker, it seems that the employer had made a false declaration of the salary to apply for an S Pass. Moreover, the worker only had primary school education, contrary to the high school education as stated in the employment letter. This apparently was an attempt to falsify educational qualifications to apply for S Pass.
I went to check on the status of the S Pass application of this worker on the MOM website and “Withdraw” was indicated. This meant that the employer had made arrangement for the worker to commence working when the S Pass had not been “Issued”. According to the law, one cannot work before a S Pass has been issued.

Based on the evidence above, I instructed the worker to report the matter to MOM, hoping she could recover some of her agency fees. However, MOM’s response was a disappointing one. Under MOM’s regulations, an EA only needs to refund 50% of the agency fees if a worker has been terminated (sic). This apparently is a money making loop hole for EAs and employers. The fee for the work pass application is $60 and a medical examination costs $40. Despite such low costs, the EA collected $5,000 in agency fees. It only needed to refund half the amount based on MOM’s regulations, and stands to profit $2,500. 

The worker tried to inform the MOM investigator that her S Pass had not been issued and thus she should not be made to work. But her employer had arranged work for her, and dismissed her based on failing to report for work without valid reason, and then cancelled her work pass application. But the MOM investigator disregard this portion, and insisted that the EA only needed to refund half the amount based on regulations. 

The worker had to file a police report. The EA made many excuses to delay the matter, claiming he would be on holiday in China till 20 February. The worker had no source of income and had to worry about food and lodging. She had wanted to quickly settle this matter and head home for the Chinese New Year, but the matter remained unresolved.