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Employment of a domestic worker (commonly referred to in Singapore as a maid) is often organised through a maid agency.
Alternatively, the prospective employer can find a domestic worker who needs to change employer and arrange for their employment to be transferred. Employers leaving Singapore often advertise, on behalf of their domestic help, for a new employer on notice boards at many of the food supermarkets. The existing employer will have to make a formal transfer through procedures laid down by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM).
There are strict procedures laid down by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) that must be followed when employing domestic labour:
A prospective employer is able to check the prospective employee's work record using a Singpass on the MOM website to see how many employers the worker has had, and how long they stayed with each employer.
SingPass stands for Singapore Personal Access. Singapore citizens and permanent residents, valid Employment & Dependant Pass holders, valid S-Pass holders and eligible valid work permit holders may apply for a SingPass.
A password will be set up to allow transactions with various government online services.
The advantage of using an agency to find a domestic worker in Singapore is that the agency handles all of the necessary paperwork and formalities. They can organise the transfer of a domestic worker from another employer or arrange to bring a new worker from overseas.
Agencies also offer help in finding a suitable candidate, and some guarantee a replacement (without charge) if the worker proves unsuitable.
Another method of fulfilling the legal requirements commonly used by many Singaporeans is to contact NTUC Insurance, a government body, through its web service.
The Ministry of Manpower’s website provides a directory of employment agencies, listing licensed agencies, unlicensed agencies and agencies that are under surveillance or with a revoked licence.
Full details on employing a foreign domestic worker are available on the MOM website.
The Employers' Orientation Programme (EOP) is a training course for all new employers of domestic workers, and has to be completed before hiring a domestic worker. Employers can choose to do the EOP in a classroom setting or online. Full details of the programme can be found on the MOM website.
Prospective employers must apply for a work permit for their domestic worker. The application forms to transfer a domestic worker or to bring a new domestic worker into Singapore can be downloaded from the MOM website.
If the domestic worker is working in Singapore for the first time the employer must obtain an In-Principle Approval (IPA) letter or "Letter of Notification to bring Foreign Domestic Worker (FDW) into Singapore".
Forms can be completed online provided that the applicant has a SingPass otherwise they can be submitted at any SingPost post office or MOM-appointed collecting agent.
If the employer is currently overseas, they need to provide a residential address in Singapore when applying for the work permit. If the work permit application is successful, an IPA will be sent to this address.
A work permit is usually issued for two years subject to the validity of the foreign domestic worker's passport and can be renewed for a further two years. A notice is usually sent out by the Ministry of Manpower six weeks prior to expiry.
The government will send a notice every six months to the employer, requiring the domestic worker to undertake a medical examination.
Employers may send a domestic worker on training courses such as first aid, computer literacy or cookery.
An employer may employ two maids but must request approval from the Ministry of Manpower.
The Government holds the employer responsible for the domestic worker's actions. For example, should the domestic worker leave the job of their own choice and fail to leave the country, or if they fall pregnant while in employment, they will be deported and the employer could be fined.
Note: The employer should check that the domestic worker’s passport validity is longer than ten months.
There is a set process to be followed by both the old and new employer when domestic workers are transferred. The application form to transfer a domestic worker can be downloaded from the MOM website.
The effective transfer date for a foreign domestic worker is usually seven days from the work permit application's approval date. To request a change of the transfer date, both the new and current employers have to agree on a new transfer date and consent to the change.
If there is a need for employers to defer the transfer date and the new transfer date falls within seven calendar days from the original scheduled date, the new employer can request a work permit issuance via WP Online on the MOM website. However, if the employers need to defer the transfer date beyond the seven calendar days from the original scheduled date, the new employer is required to fax the necessary documents to the Work Pass Division before they can request a work permit issuance via WP Online.
The new employer receives a reply by fax from the Work Pass Division. The current employer of the domestic worker is required to pay the Foreign Worker's Levy until the day before the work permit is issued under the new employer's name.
Maids with work permits issued or renewed from 1 January 2013 are entitled to one rest day per week or compensation paid in lieu if agreed to work on their rest day. There is no minimum wage for a domestic helper and no guidelines for holidays. However, expect to:
Note: Some domestic workers will have little knowledge of washing machines or other equipment and may require demonstrations of how to operate these. Their command of English may be poor and they may need a friend to translate for them.
It is advisable to have a written contract stating the domestic worker's duties. All payments should be recorded.
Medical cover for serious illness or for emergency/accident treatment (treated at hospital and signed off by a doctor) is covered in the mandatory medical insurance that is taken out by the employer for the domestic helper and is valid for two years. If hospital treatment is required, the employer should settle the costs and make a claim to the insurance company using the original receipts. There is a basic medical cover per annum but this can be increased by paying an additional one-off premium.