Hiring migrant domestic workers (MDWs) is no longer a luxury for many Singaporean households but a necessity. After all, these workers provide services that allow their employers to focus on their careers, enjoy their free time, and enrich their familial and social relationships. Many of these domestic helpers even take on emotional labor on top of their household duties as they care for the young and ageing members of the family, thus making them indispensable to their employers’ daily lives.
Perhaps you’ve been contemplating hiring a domestic helper Singapore families aspire to have, but you’re unsure whether it’s the ideal route for you, especially because you’re not confident about meeting certain legal imperatives of hiring a maid. If that’s the case, this short guide will discuss some of the essential requirements and legal obligations when hiring a full-time helper that can help you make an informed decision. Remember, while employing a maid offers numerous advantages, it also entails serious responsibilities beyond merely providing a regular salary. As such, you should ensure you’re ready for the challenge before taking the plunge.
Eligibility and Requirements to Hire an MDW
Hiring a live-in domestic helper is a serious commitment. That’s why you should meet specific requirements before you can qualify as an MDW employer. For starters, to be able to hire a helper, you should be at least 21 years old, you should not be an undischarged bankrupt, and you should have the mental capacity to fully understand and implement your responsibilities. The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) will also take into account your care-giving needs and financial capacity. And while the MOM doesn’t specify an exact household income or monthly salary needed to hire a full-time helper, the financial requirement is assessed based on the realistic overall cost of employing and maintaining an MDW, which includes the helper’s salary, levy, insurance, food, and many other expenses.
You should also attend an Employer Orientation Programmer (EOP) at least two working days before submitting the Work Permit application if you’re hiring an MDW for the first time. This three-hour programmer can help you understand your role and responsibilities as an employer of an MDW. Although the EOP can be taken online, you may want to attend the classroom set-up, as the case studies and personal experiences discussed in class can give you a more realistic perspective of what it’s like to hire and live with a full-time helper.
After submitting the application and receiving an in-principle approval, you must complete several steps before the MOM issues the work permit. These steps include purchasing a security bond worth SGD 5,000 for every non-Malaysian helper you employ, as well as medical and personal accident insurance plans for your domestic worker, among others.
Work Permit Conditions
When you employ an MDW, you’re mandated by law to abide by the Work Permit conditions. Aside from paying your helper’s monthly salary, medical treatment, and cost of upkeep, below are some other obligations you must fulfil as an employer of a full-time domestic worker:
- Ensure that your helper only works for you and no one else.
- Make sure that your MDW only carries out household work.
- Purchase and maintain medical insurance for your helper, covering in-patient care and surgery expenses.
- Buy and maintain a Primary Care Plan to cover your MDW’s out-patient primary care costs.
- Send your helper to regular (every six months) medical examinations by a Singapore-registered physician.
- Pay the monthly foreign worker levy.
Providing your helper with a good salary is one of the best ways to encourage hard work and loyalty, and to maintain a healthy and cordial employer-worker relationship. That’s why it’s crucial to think long and hard before deciding on an appropriate salary to offer, especially since there’s no set minimum wage for helpers in Singapore.
Once you and your helper have agreed on a specific amount and salary period, which shouldn’t exceed one month, you’re under obligation to pay your domestic worker promptly and regularly. That means you must pay her every month, no later than seven days after the last day of the salary period.
Besides paying your helper’s salary on time, you should always pay her in full. You can’t withhold her salary, ask her to put up a bond when vacationing home to guarantee her return, or make deductions from her salary to offset the costs of lodging, food, or similar expenses.
Rest Days and Well-being Policies
When you employ an MDW, she’ll be your responsibility. Aside from paying her salary, existing laws mandate you to ensure her good health and overall well-being. This includes providing your helper with the following:
- Rest days. Domestic workers are entitled to one rest day per week, which can be taken as one full day or over two half days. If your helper has agreed to receive compensation in lieu of rest days, you’re still obliged by MOM to provide at least one rest day each month.
- Proper accommodation. You should ensure that your helper’s accommodation has enough space, ventilation, privacy, and protection against harsh environmental elements like intense sunlight or strong winds. You must also provide her with basic amenities, like a mattress, a pillow, a blanket, and toiletries.
- Adequate food. Aside from providing your domestic worker three meals per day, you may also want to be sensitive to her food requirements. For instance, don’t force her to eat specific foods that she may be uncomfortable with because of her culture or religious beliefs.
- Safe working environment. It’s your duty as an employer to ensure your helper’s safety. That’s why you should train her well from the beginning so that she’ll learn to perform her household duties safely. For example, if you live in a high-rise building, you may want to teach your domestic helper the best and safest ways to hang the laundry and clean the windows to reduce the risk of falling accidents.
- Respect and humane treatment. Lastly, always treat your helper with respect and dignity. Exert time and effort to help her adjust and blend well into your family and avoid all forms of abuse and ill-treatment.
As you may have realized, hiring a domestic helper in Singapore is a serious undertaking that requires careful consideration and compliance with specific government mandates. As such, you may want to spend some time assessing your situation and weighing all available options before committing to the responsibilities of being an MDW employer.