PostHeaderIcon Maid Abuse? Employer Abuse? Agency Abuse? in Singapore

Singapore maid abuse? Employer abuse? Agency abuse? Thought this would make an interesting topic since I finally have some time to write (it’s school holiday for the kids finally!)

Singapore Maid Abuse?

Most of us read about the typical maid abuse cases in the newspapers. The maid may be punched in the face or scorched with boiling water, but have you ever wondered about the unreported cases? While these are not physical abuse per se, they do affect the girls’ well-being to a certain extent.

Just recently, the Philippines has tightened the “release” of girls to work as maids in other countries. From my discussions with the girls and people in the industry, many employers have picked up on this and directly or indirectly “threatened” the girl to send them back if they do not improve on their work or if they did something wrong.

Some girls who were unhappy about their current jobs were also afraid to seek work with new employers for fear of “revenge” by the employers for not staying with them.

While the MOM has regulations about verbal abuse, this kind of “mental” abuse is too “intangible”. As such, quite a number of girls were distressed by the situation but were quite helpless to do anything about it.

Is this maid abuse of some form? All we can do is to appeal to the employers to think about the girl’s family back home waiting for her remittance to feed them. They are as human as we are, so shouldn’t they be given a second chance?

Employer Abuse?

Some cases I remember were: (1) a maid breaking her employer’s baby’s arm or leg; (2) a maid murdering an old lady, and (3) a maid putting bleach into the contact lens solution of her employer. I must add that these are not just abuse, they are criminal acts against the employers!

While these are rare cases, there is always a possibility that it may happen to anyone. This is especially the case if one is extremely temperamental and behaves in an aggressive manner towards the girl. Remember, they are foreign domestic workers, not slaves! They deserve respect too.

Let’s look at it this way… most of the maids do not know anyone here. Most agencies would advise them to do their best and finish their contracts. But, sometimes, something happens that just makes the girl snap. To some of them, the anger of being bullied and the thought of revenge got the better of them, and they chose to do what they did.

As such, I feel that employers should keep one eye closed to certain matters and not “push it”. You really wouldn’t know what is the limit of each maid, and you definitely do not want to find out. It is a balancing act, no doubt, but a necessity, especially if you leave your young children in the girl’s care while the family is out to work.

Agency Abuse?

Sometimes, I feel that the maid agencies in Singapore have the toughest role to play. We are highly regulated by the MOM and at the same time, many employers are “perfectionists” who wants all the maids to work out perfectly - a little bit of problem, they will complain first.

Moreover, some employers really look down on people working in maid agencies, as if we are some form of low life. In actual fact, we are providing a much needed service to the community. How else can many Singaporeans go to work when there is no helper at home to help out with taking care of the children and household chores?

There is a Chinese saying that there is no “cheap” or “expensive” job, but whether you do a good job.

I venture to say that many maid agencies in Singapore are probably doing their best to serve the community. However, people have to understand that many of our foreign domestic workers are new to you and Singapore, and they may not know your way of doing things. As such, please do not “abuse” the agencies if things do not work out your way.

All in all, I feel that all three parties - the maid, the employer and the agency really have to put in an effort to make the stay of the maid in Singapore pleasant while making sure that the employers’ needs are met. As for the agency, I am thankful if a day goes by without complaints from the employers…

 Mail this post

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…

 Mail this post

PostHeaderIcon So, You Are Unhappy with Your Maid Agency?

It’s been a while since I write a post, and I do apologize if I didn’t response to your comments or emails. This is more like a hobby/passion blog, so I only write when I have a little bit of time. After all, like you, I am a full-time home maker and office worker. It’s busy, busy, busy…

I received an email from a reader about her maid agency (which is casetrusted) who cheated on the bio-data and provided poor services to her. The matter was brought up to CASE, and after a mediation session, she was still unable to get her money back. She was then advised by CASE to bring the matter up to the small claims tribunal.

While I do not have the full details to the case - it is always a case by case basis when there are disputes - I will attempt to give some guidelines or ideas as to how anyone with disputes with their maid agency can resolve the issue.

Needless to say, the first thing you must do is “prevention”. While there are many accredited agencies, there are still “bad eggs” in the basket. What really, really counts is the culture of the company. And, it always invariably starts at the top.

This, again, is a very hard thing to judge. But, you can always start by avoiding agencies who have bad feedbacks on the Internet. Again, bear in mind that people tend to “bash” agencies up when things didn’t work out. So, do read what you find with a pinch of salt. Nevertheless, if the agency you have chosen wasn’t “bashed up”, then your chance should be a little bit better.

Invariably, you will find that agencies which were “bashed up” have refused to refund their customers. That is why people spread bad news about them. Generally, people will let matter rest if they get their refund. For me, I have better things to do than to blog bad things about these agencies if they have returned my money to me.

While avoiding bad agencies is a way to start, you should also consider the agencies with outstanding (not just good), but outstanding feedbacks. Like my agency ;-)  My boss’ policy has always been “no unhappy customers”. Even during my course for my MOM certificate, the MOM officer also told us to simply give the money back if your employers are unhappy. This will solve many problems for MOM, the employers and the agencies.

So, you see, it is always the agency boss and the company’s culture that will have an impact on whether you will get your money back. This, I must say is very, very difficult to see when you visit a maid agency even if it is recommended by your friends.

Coming back to my reader’s issue, I am actually quite surprised that she was unable to get her money back because ALL Casetrust agencies have a standard contract whereby the agency has to refund any unused maid’s loan. She should be able to get this portion back.

If she is talking about the agency fee and insurance premium, then those are different matters.

Let’s talk about the insurance premium first. Generally, if you return a maid within a 6 month’s period, there will be some pro-rata refund from the insurance company.

As for the agency fee, it is difficult to say. After all, the agency has already done the work for you even though it is not up to your expectation. It is like having a sales person making your customers unhappy, but you still have to pay him his monthly pay. But, you can always build a case for it and “fight it out” in CASE or small claims tribunal.

It’s been my experience that if our maids do not work out with our clients even after subsequent attempts to counsel them and find replacements, my boss is extremely happy to give a full refund of the agency fee and the unused maid’s loan. The maid insurance is pro-rated from the insurance company. That will solve the problem for everyone. Unfortunately, not all agencies think the same way. (By the way, I am not trying to sell my agency, it’s just a remark.)

What if all else fails? What else can you do to get your money back?

If you have complained to MOM, CASE and bring the matter up to the small claims tribunal, then, I think that you have basically exhausted all avenues. But, if you wish to push the case further, consult a lawyer on the case and see if you can “fight it out” in court or explore other alternatives.

In conclusion, I can only say that you will have to choose your agency carefully, not only in terms of good maids, but also consider whether the agency is likely to refund you. After all, the agency may have good maids, but not all maids may work out for everybody. As such, it is important that the company is not “money hungry” and is willing to give you a full refund. Perhaps, someone religious? But then again, you can read what is happening to charitable organizations in the news…

 Mail this post

PostHeaderIcon The Only Maid Agency I Will Ever Recommend is…

You know the problem of Chinese New Year and working in the maid industry?

I have too many friends and relatives asking me to recommend a good maid agency to them. As you are probably aware, many of them have problems with their maids, much like you do.

But, truth be told, I dare not recommend any agency to anyone, including the agency I work in. This is a trade involving human beings and there is no perfect human beings. So there is really nothing to recommend.

Then, along comes this friend who is a Life Coach, and she started grilling me with some really tough questions.

“If you were to know which is the best maid agency in Singapore, how would it look like?”

I said I don’t know. As far as I am concerned the best maid agency in Singapore would have 100% matching maids for all their clients without any problems. Maybe a robot maid would do that?!

So, she said, “If you were to guess, it’s just guessing, okay, and you really don’t know, just guess, what would be the best maid agency in Singapore? What do you see on their website? What feedback do they get? Etc.?

Well, I guess, the first thing is that they should have lots and lots of positive feedback. People say good things about them and they should have lots and lots of testimonials. And, they do not appear online to be bashed by tons of people like in a blogspot blog.

Then, she went on to say, “What kind of a good experience would you experience with such an agency? Just imagine it, it is not necessary that you have experienced it. Just imagination will do.”

Okay, I imagine that they are friendly, and they write down my requirements of a maid. I also expect them to screen the potential maids such that they meet my requirements closely.

Moreover, I expect them to be honest with me and provide good after sales service. Even if I want my money back, they are very happy to return the money to me.

They are upfront kind of people and tell me the problems of my maid employment process, if any. They must be the kind that is fair and do not discount me as a customer after I have paid them or asked for a replacement.

And, my friend said, “Well done! Is there a maid agency that you are thinking about when you answered my questions? Note, it is thinking about, you don’t have to know any agency like this.”

I said, as if I will know a maid agency like that.

Then, she changed her tactic, and said, “If you were to take a maid for yourself, which maid agency’s service will you try?”

Of course, it would be my own agency because I can twist my supplier’s arms if it doesn’t work out. Heehee!

“No, no,” she said. “Imagine that you cannot twist any arm whatsoever, where would you go?”

That is a tough question. I will go online and do my research and see what turns up, I guess.

“So, what would be your steps? As in step one, what would you do?”

Right, step one, I will visit the list of accredited maid agencies.
These agencies are accredited by the Consumers Association. So, if their service is not up to par, I can complain about them to the Consumers Association and get my money back. Never lose money to unscrupulous money-faced maid agencies is my motto.

Then, I will go through their websites and evaluate them with my checklist above - lots of positive feedback, testimonials, doing a proper matching of my needs, etc. Just click on the agency names in the list of accredited maid agencies and you will see their websites. I think it is a long list.

“That’s great! Only 2 steps to do? And you can find your maid which won’t give you a headache?” asked my friend.

I said that there is no maid that won’t give you a headache. But, at least, make sure that you can get back your money.

Then, she asked her coaching question again, “based on your gut feel, if you were to try only 1 maid agency out of that long list, which would it be? Remember, it is just a feeling and you are just trying out. No commitment whatsoever. So, there is no risk.”

Okay, okay. You’re still trying to push for a maid agency that I will recommend. Fine!

If I were to get a maid for myself without using my own agency, I will try out the service of the maid agency right at the top of the accreditation list. Their name starts with the number “1″. (It is a weird name I must say.)

“Why is that so?”

Before you even asked me these questions, I was actually doing research and poking my nose around when setting up this blog. I have visited many, many agency websites.

The one I recommended seems to have the “mostest” testimonials of all. And, these are not some flimsy testimonials. These are “industrial” strength kind.

Moreover, I have heard some good things about them. As for bad things, none so far.

Now, I hope you are happy with my recommendation.

“Yes, I am happy,” my friend said with a smile.

Life Coach!  #@$%  ;-)

Disclaimer: You use whatever maid agency at your own risk, including my “researched” recommended agency. I am NOT liable for anything. By the way, I’ve never used them before, but, I recommend them based on what I see on their site and what I heard. And, what I heard may be wrong as well. So, you have been duly informed.

 Mail this post

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…

 Mail this post

PostHeaderIcon Singapore Maid Levy

The Singapore maid levy or Foreign Domestic Worker levy is a necessary “evil” to control the influx of foreign workers into Singapore. [Please see update for 2015 further down.]

Generally,  the levy is $265 per month. However, due to the government’s push for working mothers and other social reasons, a concessionary levy of $170 per month is also given.

The collecting agent is the CPF Board which makes some employers confused. The levy has nothing to do with your CPF. Since the CPF Board has an established “collecting system”, they are just tasked with collecting the maid levy.

Here are some conditions you need to satisfy in order to qualify for a concessionary levy:

1. Your child has to be below 12 and is a Singapore citizen; or

2.  Your parent(s) or grandparent(s) is above 65 and is living with you. He/ she must be a citizen; or

3.  You are above 65; or

4.  You or your family members have disabilities.

Other than the above, you are likely to pay the full normal Singapore maid levy of $265.

Singapore Maid Levy Update for 2015:

Many readers have written to ask about the foreign domestic worker (FDW) levy or maid levy. Despite my busy schedule, I think it is only right that I update this post so that it stays current for 2015.

To recap, the normal maid levy is still $265 per month, and the collecting agent is still the CPF Board. The only change for 2015 is that the concessionary maid levy is now $60 per month and starts in June 2015.

There are also some changes to the conditions of enjoying the concessionary rates. The Government has “widen” the net so that more people can enjoy the rates.

There are 3 main schemes:

- Young child or grandchild scheme
-  Aged person scheme
- Persons with disabilities scheme

1. If the employer’s child or grandchild is below 16 years old, is a Singapore citizen and live in the same address, the employer can enjoy the concessionary rate.

2. If the employer live with an elderly family member (in the same address) who is above 65 years old and is a Singapore citizen, the employer can enjoy the concessionary rate.

3. If the employer or her family member has a disability (defined as needing help in at least 1 basic daily activity like showering, moving, dressing, etc), you can get a levy concession.

The general principles are the person you are claiming the concessionary levy for has to be a Singapore citizen and live in the same address. For the elderly family member, concessionary levy may be allowed if the member is a PR but you have to be a citizen.

Under the disability scheme, if the person has moderate disability, you may claim a concessionary maid levy of $120. Please see Agency for Integrated Care for further details.

Hope this helps. Thank you.

 Mail this post

PostHeaderIcon Singapore Maid Agency Review

Actually, I’ve done a Singapore maid agency review already. However, I think I need to make it more complete by providing even more information. There are also questions about using new unaccreditated agencies which I have some thoughts on.

Personally, I have a preference for CASE accreditated agencies because it is accreditated by a third party consumers protection agency which is "government linked".

However, equally recognised are the AEAs accreditated agencies which you can also take into consideration. These are agencies accreditated by the Association of Employment Agencies which is a self governing body of maid agencies.

In addition, here is a list of agencies which have their accreditation revoked by the AEAs. Stay away from them.

Yet another list to check is whether the agencies are accreditated and do they have any demerit points or not.

Here is the MOM list of agencies…

A few points to note about the list:

1. New agencies do not have to be accreditated in their first year of operation. In their second year, they have to be accreditated to continue operations.

2. Demerit points are issued when the agency infringes the rules and regulations of MOM. Any agency with 12 points are placed under MOM’s surveillance. The demerit points are "reset" after 6 months for the particular infringement. However, if there is a severe infringement like maid abuse, illegal worker, etc., the license will be revoked immediately.

3. Many agencies do not have accreditation in this MOM list because they are non maid agencies. They can be HR consultancies, HR placement companies and so on. Do take note.

A question has also been raised about trying the services of new agencies. There are 3 points to note here.

Firstly, the agency may not be new. It can be a way for "old" and "bad" agencies to circumvent the demerit points system. The old agency’s license may be revoked, but the management wanted to get back into business, so they applied for a new license under a new name. However, the MOM will have checks in place to prevent this. So, are these "recalcitrant" agencies worth trying? I think you know the answer to this.

Secondly, an unaccreditated new agency is a "new kid on the block". In other words, there is no track record. My philosophy is this: let them be successful, and once they’ve proven themselves, then put your money in there. I would not let them risk my family’s well-being as they build their business by me taking a risk with them. But, that’s just me. You can always give a new agency a shot.

Thirdly, there are "new" agencies which are actually old, established agencies doing a conversion in corporate structures. You see, a long time ago many agencies are run by individuals in the form of sole proprietors or partnerships. However, over the years, they’ve grown bigger and better. As such, it makes sense for them to corporatize and become a private limited company.

I think this is the only category of "new" agencies which I will go to because they have already proven themselves from growing from a sole proprietor or partnership into a private limited company. They must be doing a good job to be able to progress to the next level of growth.

I hope this helps.

 Mail this post

PostHeaderIcon Singapore Maid Blog

Finally, I’ve got the Singapore maid blog up and running!

I’m quite excited to share some of the information and experience that I’ve had in this industry.

Personally, I’m an executive in this industry for about 7 years and I’m also an employer of about 5 maids over a period of 6 years. So, I’m able to share with you my thoughts, feelings and different point of views on various matters. Most importantly, I hope this information is useful to you, my reader.

In case you’re thinking that this is a commercial blog, it is not. It is a "passion" blog - it is simply a place for me to express my opinions and have a "voice" on the Internet.

I’ll be covering various topics like how to choose the right maid, singapore maid agency reviews, details on the employment process, singapore maid levy and so on.

While it is common for people to rant or complain about various agencies online, I have no intention in taking part in this because this is not a "complaints" blog. It is an "information" blog.

So, please do not post any "complaint" comments here. If you must, complain to the MOM or CASE.

Neither would I be recommending any agencies because this is a people business. People do change over time, and people are the hardest creature on earth to fathom. (Even young children - see how they throw out one old doll after another!)

So how can I be sure that any good agencies that I recommend to you would work out? I don’t. I can only tell you the factors to watch for to increase the likelihood of success when employing a maid.

Without further ado, here’s my writeup on Singapore maid agency recommendations.

With this first post, I hope you’ll enjoy the blog posts that are coming soon.

Thank you for reading.

 Mail this post
World Famous Dog Breeds