The ONLY 3 Maid Agencies I Dare to Recommend... BUT...
Many of my readers have asked me to recommend good maid agencies to them. I am really hesitant to do so because I know Murphy's Law all too well. I've had placed FDWs or maids, expecting things to work out just fine, but I was surprised at the complaints coming back to me so quickly.
I also have readers losing a lot of sleep and money over unscrupulous maid agencies who "tortured" them with all sorts of nonsense. Really, my heart goes out to you.
I think the best way I can help you is to think through how I can best protect your interest if things were to go wrong in employing a maid. So, I came up with a checklist on how to evaluate the maid agencies and how you can best protect yourself if things were to go wrong.
1. Make sure you can get your money back if things were to go wrong, which it may just will
To me, this is the most important thing. Never, ever lose money to unscrupulous maid agencies. Ever!
The fact is MOM is a regulatory body. It makes sure that the agencies play by the rules. It is not their job to get your money back. For this, you will have to go to the Consumers Association of Singapore for help. There are other places to get help like the Small Claims Tribunal, the legal profession, etc, but CASE accredited maid agencies are already "checked out" by CASE to hold themselves to a higher standard than other agencies.
So yes, use only CASE accredited maid agencies (choose Case Trust for Employment Agencies). If things don't work out, you can go to CASE to get your money back. But, only do so if the agency is making things difficult for you. This is easier compared to non-CASE maid agencies where you don't have CASE to fall back on.
Sadly, only 21 maid agencies are accredited by CASE compared to 1,167 employment agencies in the MOM database (this include agencies other than maid agencies, such as head hunters, etc.). [Based on 13 May 2015 database]
With this criterion alone, we "lost" the rest of the agencies - 1,146 of them! This is good, because you only want to deal with agencies who dare to have CASE evaluate them on a regular basis and that they are not cheating consumers with under-handed means. Think of it this way, if you're really serious about your work, you're not afraid of the Consumers Association checking you out.
2. Make sure the maid agency has verifiable testimonials from real employers
Here's another sad fact. I've had one reader told me that she had trouble making a claim against a CASE accredited maid agency. While I don't have the details, it may be due to the contractual terms and conditions that were causing the problem.
My idea here is to make sure that you don't lose any money if things go wrong. We're not even talking about getting a good maid yet!
So, in shortlisting the good maid agencies, I would like to see scans of real testimonials. Not what they type on the website. I want to see real letters, emails, notes, etc. from real employers praising the agency. It's a tall order, I know. But, how do you know they are really good otherwise? Even if they are CASE accredited maid agency.
It is my opinion that good agencies will be happy to refund your money if things don't work out - whether they are CASE accredited or not doesn't matter. They are not out to make money per se. It is about doing an honest business. So, if they have many good testimonials, they are probably "more honest" than most.
Out of the 3 recommended agencies, only #1 has "real live" scans. As for the other two - one has no testimonials while the other has type-written testimonials (with 2 from 2 unknown persons - I don't know how you get testimonials from an unknown person). (This is as of 13 May 2015.) I checked these from their websites.
If the agencies don't have websites, I've excluded them since I cannot check the testimonials, and in my opinion, if you're a serious agency, in this time and age, you should have a website.
3. Make sure the maid agency is really serious about their work
In my opinion, there are only 2 ways to evaluate this using publicly available information in the EA Directory from MOM.
Firstly, there are many freelancer-type or "try try" type one-man shows out there. Such agencies will have very low volume of transactions. As such, we will use MOM's guideline of 200 transactions per year to deem an agency as a serious player. These agencies also have to meet a higher security bond of S$40,000 (with no demerit points) to S$60,000 (with demerit points). That is to say, if they did something very wrong, the agencies will lose S$40,000 to S$60,000. If they stand to lose a lot of money, they should be serious about their work.
Secondly, we should exclude "new" agencies from this list. Any agencies less than 5 years old are not included. Since most businesses die in their first year, any agencies that survive 5 years should be serious about their work.
4. Make sure they really want you to get a good maid
If you have read about the unscrupulous methods of bad maid agencies, you will know the "evil" things they do to good, honest people like you and me.
Here are a few things to watch for. Firstly, the maid agency is really serious about matching the right FDW or maid to you. They must ask you some questions about your needs and preferably, they must also ask the maid about their needs as well. In this way, both of you will get what you want, and the working relationship should work out fine. Forget the agencies that throw you a stack of bio-data and ask you to search through - they're not serious about their work.
So, test the agency out. Call them up and see whether they ask what you are looking for in a FDW or maid. If they say just come down and look at the bio-data, you know they are trying their luck. If they ask you what you're looking for and they say they will get back to you if they have the "correct" girl, you know they are pros serious about their work.
Secondly, their retention rate should be more than 50%, the higher the better. Retention rate is defined by the MOM as the percentage of FDW who stays 1 year or more with the same employer. The industry average as at 13 May 2015 is 44.96%, which means that you're better off flipping a coin!
With this criterion alone, I "lost" the rest of the CASE accredited maid agencies. Even the third placed agency has slightly less than 50%! It is really very difficult to hit more than 50%. In case you're wondering, my boss' agency's retention rate is also less than 50%.
5. What Type of Maid Should I Employ?
There are mainly 2 types of FDWs, apart from segregating them by nationalities. They are new maids and transfer maids. Another type is direct hire which is a maid you already know and you're bringing her in from overseas. I'm not covering this here.
New maids are maids new to Singapore, and they are flying in from their home country to Singapore for the first time to work. The processing time for these girls can be quite long depending on what is happening in their home country and the embassies.
My recommended maid type is transfer maid because they are already working in Singapore and they are looking to change employment. Make sure you ask for their employment history and meet them for face-to-face interviews. Contrary to what "new maid" agencies want you to believe, transfer maid are not "unwanted" maid. They can be pretty good if you find the right one. While they may want to have Sundays off and holidays off, in my opinion, it is worthwhile giving them rest because you'll get a better worker in return. Come on, you need rest, so do the girls. They are just as human as you are. Don't be a slave driver. Do some good in this world.
Compared to new, transfer maids can be "scrutinised" in person and you definitely can judge the person better this way.
Another thing to watch for is the pricing. If they are charging $1,000 or more (everything inclusive and depending on package), they are probably over-charging you for the transfer maid. A new maid can set you back $2,500 or more. So yes, transfer maid is probably a better choice in terms of the one-time cost and the work experience they have.
Also, make sure the transfer maid do not have any outstanding loans owing to any maid agencies. This is going to be very messy. Stay out of it! Enough said.
6. My Top 3 Maid Agencies...
Before I list out my research, I've to make a disclaimer. You use these agencies at your own risk, and I cannot be responsible for anything. You may get the best maid or the worst maid from them. I wish you all the best nonetheless.
First, a short recap. Notice that I never focus on getting the best maid. I focus on getting your money back when things go wrong. To get this part right, you need an honest agency. Points #1 and #2 should offer you a certain level of protection.
Then, I focus on getting a good maid for you. Points #3, #4 and #5 should help you with this. If you get the right agency, you won't lose any money. And hopefully, they can help you find the right maid.
Okay, these are my top 3 maid agencies... . You can go to the CASE accredited maid agencies (choose Case Trust for Employment Agencies) for the links to their websites. You can also Google for their websites.
I am not linking directly to their websites because I am really not into recommending any agencies to anyone. But since many of my readers asked, I did my own research and they are what I think are the best for my readers. Remember, it's about not losing money first (I've received too many heart-breaking stories from readers on bad maid agencies "stealing" their money). Getting a good maid is the bonus.
Below are the screenshots I managed to get from the MOM EA Directory: (as at 13 May 2015)
Note: Transfer Rate simply means the number of FDWs that are transferred to more than 3 employers within 1 year. Not a very important number.
Their Retention Rate of 60.83% is really, really outstanding given their significant volume (10.83% higher than our 50% target). The testimonials on their website can be verified and there are many, many testimonials.They are accredited for Good Business Practice by CASE.
Note: Although a distant #2 with lower volume and lower retention rate. They offer a good alternative. But, they are still accredited for Good Business Practice and their retention rate is still 1.79% higher than 50%! No testimonials on their website though.
Note: Their Retention Rate is slightly less than 50%. That goes to show how tough it is to get more than 50% and yet be accredited by the Consumers Association of Singapore for Good Business Practice. They have type-written testimonials on their website (I can't verify the authenticity of the testimonials though). And just to clarify, the rest of the CASE accredited agencies have less than 50% retention rate and so I've excluded them in this listing. Unfortunately, my boss' agency's retention rate is also less than 50%.
With this, I wish you all the best in your maid search. I sincerely hope that this article has been a great help to you.