Employing Maids & Domestic Workers
The paperwork and process involved in hiring domestic workers in Singapore - whether offering a job to a foreign worker or transferring employment contracts - details on forms, insurance, bonds and other issues required by MOM...
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).
- Singaporeans and permanent residents only may employ a domestic worker
- Dependant Pass holders may also apply, although details of the spouse's employment pass will be required
- Foreigners who are on a social visit, such as on holiday or short-term visit to Singapore, are not allowed to employ a domestic worker
There are strict procedures laid down by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) that must be followed when employing domestic labour:
- A foreign domestic worker must be between 23 and 50 years old when first entering Singapore and may work up to the age of 60
- The worker must have 8 years' minimum formal education - certificates will be required as evidence
- The worker must be from an approved source country/territory. These countries/territories include Bangladesh, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Macau, Malaysia, The Republic of the Union of Myanmar, Pakistan, Philippines, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, and Thailand
- The worker must pass a MOM-stipulated test and attend the compulsory Safety Awareness Course (SAC) within three working days of arrival in Singapore before a work permit can be granted
- A first-time foreign domestic worker can enter Singapore only after the employer has furnished a security deposit or Banker's/Insurance Guarantee from the Work Pass Division (WPD), and purchased a Personal Accident Insurance
- A foreign domestic worker must undergo a medical within 14 days of arrival, after which a medical is required every six months. The paperwork will be issued to the employer
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.
- Registration can be made on the SingPass website
A password will be set up to allow transactions with various government online services.
To Employ Domestic Workers Through an Agency
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.
To Employ Domestic Workers Without Using an Agency
Full details on employing a foreign domestic worker are available on the MOM website.
- For introductory information before making an application: Click here
- For further information: Click here
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.
Fees and Payments
- A small administrative fee is charged for every work permit application submitted
- The employer must pay the government levy for a domestic worker. The levy is adjusted from time to time in order to control the demand for such workers. See the MOM website for current rates
- An insurance bond is required. The bond can be arranged through a bank, or through the Government NTUC Insurance agency's web services: Click here
- Non-Malaysian domestic workers also need a bond for their embassy, usually required when renewing passports which are only valid for five years and when they leave the country. This can be organised in the same way, through a bank or through the Government NTUC agency. Philippine workers also require a separate performance bond
- Personal accident insurance must be purchased
- Contact the NTUC for Maid Insurance
Tel: 6336 9311 / 6788 5255
- Medical cover for the worker must also be taken out
Change of Employer
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.
- For information from the MOM website: Click here
- The application form to transfer a domestic worker can be downloaded from the MOM website: Click here
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.
- New employer's request letter for a change of transfer date
- Current employer's consent letter to change the original scheduled transfer date to another date (new date must be clearly indicated)
- Work Pass Division
Fax: 6317 1329
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.
Terms of Employment
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:
- Pay between S$400 and S$600 per calendar month
- Grant at least one month paid leave plus return air ticket to the country of origin every two years
- Note: while the domestic worker is on holiday and out of Singapore, Central Provident Fund (CPF) contributions are refundable. A refund form can be downloaded or completed online on the CPF website: Click here
- It is common practice to add a “13th month” or bonus to their salary
- All food, lodging and medical care must be funded by the employer
- The domestic worker must not work in any other capacity. It is illegal to ask a domestic worker to carry out another form of employment
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.
Further Information and Links
With Contributions by Graham Spencer - Maids R Us
131 Tanglin Road, 02-03 Tudor Court, Singapore 247924
Tel: +65 9186 6527