Archive for the ‘singapore maid agency’ Category

PostHeaderIcon Is it a good idea to recruit your own maid from the source country?

I got an interesting question from a reader. Here’s the specific comment:

Hi there,

I am sure you are aware of the blog “[removed by admin]”.

You would have noticed it is anti government policies and anti maid agencies. Comments by the blogger are one sided instead of being objective. Apparently she lacked indept knowledge of the maid industry. There is a section on employing maids without going through agencies. It appeared that the blogger had committed an offence by directly or indirectly engage in activities related to or connected with recruitment or helping in the recruitment process without a valid employment agency license from MOM. The blog also encouraged employers to DIY by getting maids directly from foreign supplying countries such as the Philippines and Indonesia without realizing there are strict rules in these countries to protect its citizens from human trafficking. Needless to say, that blog in non-creditable compared to your blog. What are your views?

Here are my thoughts. And, I think the above reader has a very good point, and it is very important that you give this a serious thought.

1. It is never a good idea to travel to the source country to recruit your own maid. Here’s why: you are not a licensed employment agency in the source country and it is illegal for you to recruit anybody under the countries’ human trafficking laws. Even if you are licensed in Singapore, it does not mean you can go recruiting anywhere you want. There was a recent sad case for one of our fellow agencies who got into trouble due to this. Don’t try this. You will definitely get yourself into a lot of trouble in the source country - be it the Philippines, Indonesia, India, Myanmar, etc.

2. If you want to recruit someone from overseas that you know or was recommended to you by another helper, get an agency here to do a direct hire for you. Don’t do all the paperwork yourself. Here’s why: you may be able to get some piecemeal information from the Internet, but you’ll never know what is really happening on the ground. Your helper maybe held up at the airport due to certain important documents not transmitted, etc.

Secondly, if you do this too frequently, you may be deemed to be “acting” as an employment agency without a licence in Singapore. This is a grey area because the definition of an employment agency is really broad under the new framework. While I don’t think it would be an issue, why risk an investigation by MOM?

3. If you know an agency overseas, you may wish to try to get them to give you details of the helper so that you can make an application  here yourself. Again, just like in point 2, there may be hiccups you simply wouldn’t know unless you’re on the ground doing the work. Moreover, an agency would have resources to assist in the case if there are any issues in the application. Most importantly, DO NOT travel to the home country to shortlist the girls even if the licensed agency invited you over. You never know what the enforcement agencies over there will do.

4. If you’re getting an agency to do the work for you here in Singapore, make sure that your agency is duly licensed by MOM. Check the MOM EA Directory to make sure they are legal. MOM will penalize employers who use illegal agencies and it doesn’t matter that you say you’re being cheated by the agency. It is your responsibility to check.

It is not because that I work in the industry that I encourage readers not to do their own application. You can try, but be prepared for unforeseen circumstances.

In my opinion, certain work is based left to the professionals. You wouldn’t want to do a surgery on anyone if you’re not a surgeon do you?

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PostHeaderIcon How to Find a Good Maid in Singapore and New EA Rules and Regulations

Due to the changes in Employment Agency Rules and Regulations with regard to maid agencies in Singapore, I’ve not been able to update the blog - too busy ensuring compliance to the changes. My apologies for not being able to reply to your comments and questions sooner. I’ve compiled many of your questions and answers under Singapore Maid Agencies Complaints, Advice, Levy, etc. Do take a look.

I’m going to write this article as if you’re looking for a maid. The MOM has provided more tools to aid employers in their search for the “perfect” maid or Foreign Domestic Worker (FDW) as a result of the new EA rules and regulations.

A few things to note before we cover how to search for a good maid using the MOM EA Directory. A disclaimer: using the tools doesn’t mean you’ll definitely find the “perfect” maid. It just makes your chance a little better. It is also not a recommendation for any agency.

With that, do note that the MOM has restricted the fee the maid has to pay the agency to 2 months for 2 years of service to the employer. Also note that the Indonesian Embassy has enforced a minimum pay of S$450/month and 4 days off/month and the Philippines Embassy has enforced a minimum pay of USD400/month and 4 days off/month. However, with effect from 1 January 2013, all new maids contracted shall be given 4 days off in accordance to MOM rules, and any day-off cancelled shall be compensated at monthly salary/26 days x days-off cancelled or replaced with a rest day in the same month. The MOM did not dictate any minimum monthly salary.

What does all this mean to you, the employer? It means you will have to bear the “maid’s loan”. You can no longer deduct the salary against the maid’s loan like in the past. The difference shall be paid to the agency as the agent’s fee and it is in the range of $1,300 - $1,600 or more, depending on the agency. The rest will be covered by the maid paying 2 months’ salary to the agency.

In addition, you will have to deal with your maid (actually, I prefer the term “helper”, and I shall use helper from here onwards) going on days off. If you cancel the day off, you will either have to compensate the girl at monthly salary/26 calendar days x number of days-off cancelled or give her a replacement day-off in the month in which the day-off was cancelled. Failing to do so will subject you to a maximum fine of $5,000 and a maximum jail term of 6 months. This is serious. You must comply.

While MOM does not dictate the minimum wage of the girls, the embassies of the girls’ home countries have done so. Do you, as the employer, have to comply with that? The answer is preferably. This is because the embassies of Indonesia and the Philippines are enforcing their rules and they are blacklisting maid agencies and employers who do not comply with them. If you need the help of helpers from these countries, you are better off complying with their rules. This is especially so if you are getting new helpers from these countries.

Moreover, under the new regulations, there is no need for maid agencies to be accredited. They will come directly under the purview of the Commissioner of EA. In my opinion, going to agencies which remain accredited to the Consumers Association of Singapore is a “safer bet” because you can still complain to CASE if you have an issue with the agency.

Given the above, you have more to lose if you do not find a good helper in the first round. With this in mind, the MOM has come up with a EA Directory where all licensed agencies are listed. As a side note, anyone going to an unlicensed agency is also liable to a fine and jail term. So, before going to any agency, it is always a good idea to check whether they are listed in the MOM EA Directory.

Click here to visit the MOM EA Directory (opens in new window). Now, we are going to use the MOM EA Directory to search for a “good” maid agency and hopefully, end up with a “good” maid.

1. Name of Employment Agency - leave blank (we are trying to search all agencies which fit certain criteria)

2. Employment Agency Licence Number - leave blank (we are trying to search all agencies which fit certain criteria)

3. Type of workers that EA places - click on Foreign domestic workers (FDW) because we are searching for maid agencies

4. Select district(s) - put a tick in all the boxes (again, we are searching all agencies based on certain criteria)

5. Advanced Search - click on Show (this is where we click on the criteria we want)

Advanced Search

We are using the following criteria because if you choose a few very restrictive criteria, you will either not have a single agency or enough agencies to choose from. I will explain why we choose certain figures.

1. Years since licence was issued - click on >5 years. If an agency can survive more than 5 years, they should be doing something right. Again, we are trying not to be too restrictive or your choices will be greatly reduced.

2. FDW Placement Volume - click on > 200. FDW Placement Volume is a moving 12 months average of the number of FDWs placed out by the agency. Any agency with > 200 placements is considered “major” by the MOM and has to place a higher security deposit with the MOM. This ensures that the agency is “serious” about their work. Again, if you choose too high a figure, it will greatly restrict your choices. You can try and see what you get.

3. Show only EAs with no demerit points - click on Yes. Needless to say, you only want agencies with no demerit points. These agencies are complying with MOM regulations.

4. FDW Retention success rate - click on >50. This is by far the most important criterion. But, you will have to read it together with #2 FDW Placement Volume. FDW Retention success rate means the percentage of helpers who remained employed with the same employer for 12 months or more. If an agency has a 50% retention rate, every 1 in 2 helpers is likely to work with the employer for 12 months or more. Again, a greater than 50% retention rate is actually quite outstanding in the industry. But, the placement volume has to be big enough to be significant. >200 would be a good measure to start off with since MOM deems that as a a criterion for an agency to place a higher security deposit.

5. FDW Transfer rate - click on 0-10. FDW Transfer rate refers to the percentage of helpers which the agency has placed out for 3 times or more. In other words, the same helper was transferred from 1 employer to another for 3 times or more. Basically, it may be an indication of whether the agency is trying to “bank roll” the maid and multiply out their profits on the same maid on different employers. Ideally, it should be zero (but less than 1 or even 2 is fine, so that you have more choices) because a “bad” helper shouldn’t be passed around from 1 employer to another just to multiply profits. But, then again, it may not be the girl’s fault. We don’t know for sure. You can read more about this maid agency scam (opens in new window) - scroll down to read 3. Customer multiplier effect to save yourself from this problem.

Then, click <Submit>. On the results page, click on View max 50 records per page. This will show all the agencies meeting the above criteria in 1 page. From here, you may wish to Google the agency’s name and do further research on them. See whether they have testimonials, etc. It would be a good idea to visit 3-5 agencies so that you can make a comparison about their people and their service.

Please note that you can “play around” with the above criteria and see what you can get out of it. But, I think the above criteria should be pretty useful to start off with.

In my opinion, it is also a good idea to do 1 more step. And, that is to see if they are accredited by the Consumers Association of Singapore for Good Business Practice. At least, if things don’t work out, you can complain about them to CASE. CASE has a mediation centre which will help you recover your money from the errant agencies, especially if they are accredited by CASE. Most agencies will return the money if they are CASE accredited because they wouldn’t want to lose their accreditation and reputation.

Click here to see CASE accredited maid agencies (new window opens). Then at Accreditation Type, click on CaseTrust for Employment Agencies.

By doing the above, it means that you are looking at maid agencies that have met the above criteria. It doesn’t mean that your helper will work out for you. Your chance will probably be better. And if your agency is CASE accredited, you are better protected should things turn sour.

So that you have more choices, be aware that not all agencies will have new Indonesian or new Filipino helpers. Some agencies may cater to the Indian market or Expat market or Malay market. It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t give them a try. You may be surprised by the result. If they are good in that market, they are probably good for any market.

Also note that some agencies may only have transfer maids. These are experienced helpers who are already in Singapore looking to change employer and many have completed their initial contract. As far as I know, these transfer maids DO NOT incur the $1,300 to $1,600 agency fee as the new maids do. The agency fee should be about $500-$800, depending on agency. Hence, you can save a significant amount of money by employing transfer maids instead of new maids. You can click on Transfer Maids (new window opens) to read more about them and see if they are suitable for your family.

With this, I hope you can find the good helper that you need. Thank you for reading.

You may also wish to read Singapore Maid Agency Recommendations for more information.

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PostHeaderIcon Singapore Maid Agency Recommendation - an update

I was asked about the outcome of my post “The Only Maid Agency I Will Ever Recommend is…” It was a post in February 2010.

Since CNY, I did not meet up with my friend who was supposedly looking for a maid. She sort of “forced” me to recommend a maid agency to try. Quite frankly, I don’t like to recommend any agency simply because not all maids will work out for all employers.

But, in that post, I was “arm twisted” to recommend one for her to try. That agency was so-called recommended because they really have a lot of testimonials from happy customers.

I was not sure whether she even tried that agency. Nevertheless, I called her up so that I can update my blog. I got a little bit of time today.

She told me not to put anything personal down, and I agreed. One reader asked which agency it was because there were two starting with the number “1″ in the CASE recommended list, and how to get to the website for more information.

Click on this link to go to CASE list, and then click on the first agency with the name “121″. The link there brings you to their website for more information.

(Disclaimer: you use any agency at your own risk. This article and the February article are NOT recommendations for that agency. I just report what I see and know. You decide your own action.)

So coming back…

Actually, I was quite surprised that my friend actually approached that agency because she did not indicate that she was looking for a maid during CNY. I asked why she never use my agency. She said she likes to keep certain things P and C from friends. I can understand that.

Anyway, I asked her whether the maid is working out for her or not.

She said one word. “Yes!”

She was very happy with her maid. In fact, she recommended her friend to that agency and it was working out for her friend as well.

I told her that they were lucky twice over. Normally, the friend who was recommended the agency won’t work out.

She said that that agency is really professional and is the most upfront agency she had ever used. She called them up expecting them to reject servicing her because that agency specializes in maid recruitment for expatriate families in Singapore.

The staff was upfront that they don’t have new Indonesian maids because for expatriates, they need experienced maids who can speak English. Moreover, these experienced maids prefer to have Sundays off, and may not be suitable if no days-off are offerred.

My friend was somewhat disappointed, but she decided to give it a try because that agency has many testimonials from happy customers. She also thought that it may be worth while to give days off to attract a good experienced maid.

The staff asked her about her needs and arranged “live” interviews for her to meet the girls face to face. My friend liked this part because she can actually see the person she was going to employ and can judge whether she likes that person or not. It is indeed different from employing new Indon maids where you talk to them over the webcam only.

She found that the agency really made an effort to match her needs as closely as possible according to their matching system. 1 or 2 maids were a little off, but overall, she was pleased with the quality of the girls she met.

I asked her what she didn’t like about the agency. She said it was sometimes difficult to get them on the phone. Maybe they were too busy. But, ultimately, they will try to call her back when she left voice messages.

What other bad things to say about the agency? She said the office is a bit small and it can be quite crowded because there can be a few employers and maids in the office when she dropped by.

Another negative point was that her friend complained to her that the agency forgot a form for her to sign and she had to go back to sign.

I asked her what she likes or finds different about the agency. She said the staff are not sales type of people, they just say things as they are. They are also very thorough on explaining the forms and procedures. Most importantly, she said, according to her woman instinct, she felt that the agency is honest.

I asked her how many stars does she give them, assuming 5 stars is the highest rating. She said 3.5 stars.

I asked why. She said 5 stars is impossible because that means perfect. 4.5 stars is too high because the real test is when the maid does not work out - does the maid agency service you as well as a new customer and not “hide” from you. Her maid is working out well.

Then, why not 4 stars? She said no agency can have all the maids work out for all employers, and so she felt that 3.5 stars is good enough for a maid agency.

And so, I rest my case…

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PostHeaderIcon Maid Insurance - Shocking Changes

With effect from 1 January 2010, the medical insurance coverage of domestic helpers, FDWs or maids will be increased to $15,000, instead of the usual $5,000 coverage.

Needless to say, the insurance premium would also increase to reflect the higher cost of insurance. Across the board, the general increase is in the region of $50 to $100.

This is pretty much in line with the reduction in government assistance for foreign workers in general in terms of medical expenses. At the same time, this also helps reduce the risk of employers of maids. Why do I say so?

In my line of work, I’ve come across some unfortunate cases whereby the employers had to bear substantial cost, in the region of $20,000 to $50,000 depending on what happened to the girl.

One case, in particular, was really unfortunate. A helper had severe stomach pain and was diagnosed with ****. (To protect the privacy of my clients, I will not be revealing any details and I may modify some of the facts. However, the key points and facts will remain as they are.)

But, what was shocking was that the girl had to undergo a major operation and she had to be hospitalised for a significant period of time. The medical bill was estimated to be in the region of $35,000.

To make matters worse, the illness was diagnosed to be a pre-existing medical condition. As such, it was not covered under the insurance plan.

As a side note, so that you understand why a pre-existing medical condition is generally excluded automatically - the rationale is that no insurer will take on anyone, for instance, with cancer. Nor, would anyone with cancer, declare that he has cancer because no insurer will take him up.

So as to reduce the general cost of insurance, the pre-existing medical condition exclusion is instituted across the board for practically all insurance types, including maid insurance. This is because, if the insurer knows that the incumbent has cancer, they will either increase the insurance premium significantly or not take on the case at all.

So, coming back to the case. Basically, my client had to bear all the medical cost of the maid since it is one of the MOM conditions of employment for the maid.

Needless to say, if the case wasn’t that of a pre-existing condition, there will be a coverage of $5,000 under the old insurance scheme. With the new scheme, the coverage will be $15,000.

At least, my client will be covered for $15,000 under the new scheme.

However, there are also insurance plans with higher coverage which she could have opted for under the new insurance plans which may well cover all her exposure to her maid being sick.

All in all, the new insurance scheme seeks to reduce the risk of employers of maids. However, it also increases the cost of employing a maid. Unfortunately, if the maid has a pre-existing medical condition, no amount of insurance can help.

Perhaps, to reduce their risk significantly, employers should consider having their maids undergo a full body checkup before employment and not the current partial checkup. Now, that may be something to think about if a few hundred dollars of expenses maybe able to prevent tens of thousands of dollars of heartache later on…

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