The Straits Times
SINGAPORE - Tightened measures to discourage employers from changing maids frequently kicked in on Friday.
The Ministry of Manpower has decreased the number of helpers a household can go through in a year until interviews are held to assess the situation before any further applications are made. The changes were announced in a circular to maid agencies, in order to better understand the reasons behind the frequent changes and to identify employers who need help "maintaining a positive working relationship" with their maids.
Recent MOM figures cited in a Straits Times article last month showed that fewer than half the maids in Singapore complete a year of service before they are transferred or sent home - and the trend is worsening.
Employers applying for a fifth maid within a year and whose previous four were all employed for less than three months each will now be interviewed by MOM before their work permit application is approved. New maids of such employers will also be interviewed within three months of starting work to see how they are coping with their new bosses and life in Singapore. Previously, only employers making their sixth or greater application within a year would have to be interviewed.
MOM will also talk to new maids of people changing helpers for a fourth time within a year and whose previous three domestic workers were all employed for less than three months each.
Such employers must attend an orientation programme - previously only mandatory for an employer changing maids for the fifth time in a year.
Advisory letters will now also be issued to employers changing maids for the third time in a year, and whose two previous maids were both not employed more than three months each.
Agencies welcomed the move, saying it would encourage households to be patient and improve retention rates, which have been lowered by factors such as unduly strict employers and the lower quality of maids coming here.
Most of the 208,400 maids in Singapore are from Indonesia and the Philippines. "For a while, the rules have been in place, but we continue to have retention problems, so this can hopefully make headway," said Nation Employment managing director Gary Chin. He also added that the cause of tension between employers and maids was "very subjective" and might not necessarily be due to difficult employers.
"You can have difficult maids or difficult employers, it depends on which side of the story you're listening to," he said.
Agents added that encouraging employers to stay with maids for at least three months would help new domestic workers adjust to working conditions here.
"The key thing is to educate employers not to set expectations that are too high. The quality of maids today is not as high as a decade ago," said Comfort Employment's director Benny Liew.
Less than 0.5 per cent of employers have changed maids more than four times within a year.
"If they can bite the bullet for at least a few months, they can avoid making impulsive decisions and changing their maids very early on," Mr Liew added.
Employer Crystal Ong, 28, said the new measures offer a "fair deal". The hair salon owner said: "It's like other jobs having a probational period. When they first come, you don't really know whether the character of the maid will fit us. Three months is sufficient time to get to really know if the maid is suitable."