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Employer-Maid Relationship

Article by Ms Jean Tan

Director, Corporate Communications

Ministry of Manpower

We strongly encourage employers and their maids to set out in individual contracts the specific terms of employment - based on mutual agreement - to better meet the needs of both parties, and to avoid any misunderstanding and dispute.

These private contractual agreements provide core employment terms such as salary, rest day, medical benefits and a description of duties. So far, many maids have been able to work out such mutually acceptable employment contracts with the help of their employment agents and, in some cases their embassies.

If a maid encounters an employment problem such as not being paid a salary or given sufficient rest, food or proper accommodation, or is aggrieved by a breach of the employment contract by her employer, she can approach her embassy for help or lodge a complaint with the ministry. The employment dispute will be dealt with promptly and fairly.

The assumption is that if we cover maids in our labour laws, then all abuses will stop. We would like to point out that physical abuses committed by a small minority of employers of maids are not related to whether their basic employment terms are regulated by labour laws.

These are offences which are best dealt with under the appropriate Penal Code provisions. Recognising that maids were particularly vulnerable, the Government acted to provide them with greater protection under the Penal Code.

In 1998, penalties were increased by 50 per cent for offences of physical abuse committed against maids by employers under the Penal Code. Any employment agency that abuses a maid will have its licence revoked.

The ministry will also permanently blacklist convicted employers and family members, preventing them from ever hiring another maid. Last year, the ministry banned 48 maid employers from hiring maids permanently. Such measures have helped to check maid abuse, from 157 cases in 1997 to 43 last year and 19 for January-June this year.

Employer and maid education has been the focus of the ministry's policies and efforts to eradicate maid abuse. We will continue to educate Singaporean employers on their responsibility and to inculcate in them a sense of respect for their maids. 

In this regard, the ministry will introduce a mandatory enhancement programme for maid employers, in particular, first-time employers.

This measure will enhance on-going educational efforts such as publications and videos targeted at maids and their employers that encourage good employment practices, harmonious working relationships and mutual respect.



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6 August 2003

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