Manpower Ministry starts new house visits scheme to check on welfare of maids

SINGAPORE – Maids in Singapore are getting more support to ensure employers are treating them right, with house visits by officers appointed by the Manpower Ministry (MOM) who will check in on them.

Under the new initiative, which started on April 5, officers will meet maids and employers at their homes. During the visit, they will highlight safe working conditions and the channels where maids can get help if they need it.

They will also check on the living and working conditions of the maid during the visit. MOM, in a statement on Monday (April 26), said it aims to visit about 200 homes a month.

The move comes after a spate of high-profile cases of domestic helpers being badly abused, sometimes leading to their death.

In February, housewife Gaiyathiri Murugayan admitted to starving and torturing a Myanmar maid Piang Ngaih Don, 24, leading to her death.

In November last year, a woman repeatedly abused an Indonesian maid employed by her family. The maid then fled by climbing down 15 storeys from a balcony. The woman was sentenced to 10 months and two weeks’ jail.

A MOM spokesman said the officers it appoints are trained to look out for non-verbal cues that could point to violations or unfair working conditions the ministry would then follow up on.

In the event of abuse, the police will be alerted.

Along with the household visits, MOM will be working with the Centre for Domestic Employees (CDE) to expand in-person interviews with first-time maids, where they can raise their concerns and issues.

Speaking at a media briefing at the MOM Services Centre in Bendemeer Road on Monday (April 26), MOM representatives and CDE said the home visits and interviews would strengthen the ecosystem of support for maids.

Mr Tan Shu Xiang, director of engagement at MOM’s Foreign Manpower Management Division, said: “It’s important that we take good care of our migrant domestic workers while they are working in Singapore. And this requires all our stakeholders, the employers, employment agencies, MOM, our community partners like CDE, to work closely together so as to create a strong system of support.

“MOM is looking into reviewing all the safeguards against abuse and we’re looking into a comprehensive set of measures. Even as the review is in progress, we have introduced the house visits so we can make sure we support our migrant domestic workers.”

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Speaking about the expansion of in-person interviews with first-time maids in Singapore, CDE chairman Yeo Guat Kwang said: “We have enough staff to conduct the in-person interviews in the native language of the migrant domestic workers so that we are able to make them feel at ease and give them a conducive environment to share with us any issues that they face.”

Since 2017, CDE has been conducting in-person interviews with randomly selected first-time maids in Singapore on behalf of MOM. The interviews are typically conducted three to six months after the maids start work.

While interviews were conducted by video call due the Covid-19 pandemic, CDE will resume in-person interviews at its office from May, expanding them to cover all first-time maids in Singapore by the end of the year. It aims to interview 2,000 maids a month.

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