Being a mum can be really overwhelming. Particularly if you’re in a foreign country, away from your parents and parents-in-law who can provide much needed support when required.
Further, your husband or yourself is almost always busy at work. Or, one or either of you has to travel overseas and be away from your children for days, weeks and even months. It is really not easy to juggle so many chores – bringing the children to school, buying food from the supermarket, cooking, washing the clothes, keeping the house clean and so on.
You can even say that life in this foreign land is tough. And…Lonely.
However, all is not lost. In Singapore, you can employ a live-in domestic helper or maid to help you out in your household chores and taking care of your children. The helper can help you to bring your children to school, buy food from the supermarket, cook, wash the clothes and keep the house clean and so on.
Imagine having someone to help you on so many things. This will significantly increase the quality of your children’s lives and your life.
But, how do you ensure that the live-in domestic helper is a correct match for your children and you? What are the laws and regulations you must take note of? What should you watch for when getting a maid agency to help you find the correct helper?
As this subject matter can be quite complex, it is impossible for this article to cover everything. However, we will cover some of the important points and mistakes you should watch out for.
There are mainly 2 ways to find and employ a live-in helper or maid. One way is to do it yourself. The other way is to engage the service of a maid agency.
Find and Employ Live-in Domestic Helper by Yourself
Step #1: Visit MOM.gov.sg, the website of the Singapore Ministry of Manpower (“MOM”) and read through the relevant details on the procedure of how to employ a live-in helper. The website will provide all the most updated relevant details that you need much better than any third party websites or articles because that is the official information from the Singapore Government.
This is important especially if you are doing it yourself. Do not rely on outdated or misleading information from elsewhere. This is to ensure complete and correct compliance with Singapore laws since the laws are strict here in Singapore.
If you have never employed a maid before, you are required to attend a course. This can be done online or offline. Take note that the term used for maid on the MOM website is FDW or Foreign Domestic Worker.
Take note that there is a $300 maid levy payable to the Singapore Government on a monthly basis effective 1 April 2019.
Step #2: Ask around from friends for recommendations of suitable live-in domestic helpers or maids who are looking to transfer to a new employer. There are also websites and facebook groups that provide free information on helpers looking for a new employer. Generally, the monthly salary of experienced helpers is around S$650 or higher.
Here are a few things (not a complete list) to watch for when looking for a helper on your own.
- It is important that you have the relevant legal documents prepared and terms and conditions agreed upon between you and the helper so that there are no disagreements later on.
You will have to check the MOM.gov.sg website to ensure that the agreement complies with Singapore laws. For instance, the helper has to be given 1 day-off for every 7 days of work, or else she has to be compensated. There are computations and other terms to watch for as well. It is beyond the scope of this article to cover every rules and regulations and legal requirements.
2. Here are some questions you may want to ask the helpers when interviewing them. This is not a complete list.
- Why are you leaving your current employer?
- What is your current monthly pay? What is your expected pay?
- What is your work experience?
- What are your strengths and weaknesses?
- Ask questions specific to the tasks you want them to do. For example, how to take care of a baby, and so on.
- The fact is that helpers that you find via friends, websites or facebook groups are probably total strangers to you. As such, your evaluation process will take longer. It is also a good idea to interview a greater number of candidates. Further, you may not have access to her employment history which a MOM licensed maid agency can provide.
- There is another risk of do-it-yourself employing of helpers. That is since your new helper finds a job with you for free, she may not “treasure” your job. She may not put in the effort to make sure she keeps her job with you since she has not paid anything to get her job with you, and she has nothing to lose. It does not mean that your helper will not work out. It is just a risk that you should know and manage it well.
- What should you do if you have a disagreement or you are unhappy with your helper? You will have to talk to your helper nicely and try to resolve the issues between yourselves. Generally, the MOM does not interfere in work related issues unless there is a contravention of the law. As your case is do-it-yourself, generally, no maid agencies will assist unless you are their client.
Step #3: After finding the suitable helper, purchase the relevant maid insurance package (get advice from the insurer on the package coverage) and submit the form. Upon approval of the insurance, do the WP Online submission procedure and then later, the WP Online e-issuance procedure. The most updated information on these can be found on MOM.gov.sg
Find and Employ Live-in Domestic Helper Using a Maid Agency
If you find that do-it-yourself is challenging, it may be worthwhile investing a little bit of money to engage the service of a professional maid agency. A professional maid agency will take care of almost everything above that you are supposed to do – you must still do the course yourself. You just enjoy their service.
You may have heard many stories about unscrupulous maid agencies that don’t do good work or some who keep giving “bad” maids and try to make more money out of the employers and the maids.
The fact is there are very few maid agencies Accredited for Good Business Practice by the Consumers Association of Singapore (“CASE”).
In fact, as at the writing of this article there are only 9 such Good Business Practice Accredited maid agencies out of about 1,907 maid agencies.
121 Personnel Services Pte Ltd (MOM Lic No. 01C4854) is 1 of the 9 Good Business Practice Accredited maid agencies. Their certification number is CT/3144.
[Information from CASETrust and MOM EA Directory as at 28 May 2019]
And, 121 Personnel Services Pte Ltd is probably the only Good Business Practice Accredited maid agency that specialises in transfer maids (ie the category of maids that expatriates in Singapore generally employ).
Besides being accredited for good business practice by the Consumers Association of Singapore, what are the other criteria you need to evaluate the maid agencies on?
- The maid agency must have a lot of real verifiable testimonials from happy employers. Take note that you should be able to click on the testimonials to view the original scans of the emails or letters that show that these are genuine testimonials from real happy employers.
- Ensure that the maid agency is genuinely licensed by the Singapore Ministry of Manpower because using the service of an unlicensed agency can get you into legal trouble. You can check whether an agency is legitimate from the MOM website under the Employment Agencies (“EA”) directory. 121 Personnel Services Pte Ltd is duly licensed by the MOM and has 17 years of experience in helping expatriates find the right helpers.
- Licensed maid agencies are allowed to charge the domestic helpers or maids up to two months of their monthly salary for helping them find a job.
This gives the maid an incentive to do her best when she works with you because she has paid money to find work with you. Moreover, since you and the maid have paid the maid agency, the maid agency is obliged to help you and the maid resolve any unhappiness or issues that you may have. You can get help from the maid agency and you are not alone if you have issues with the maid.
- Ensure that the maid agency uses the 121 Match-Point© System to match the experiences, skillsets and preferences of the maid to your requirements. You see, some maids may like to cook but may not like to take care of dogs. Some may like to chit-chat with you but you may not like to talk.
The purpose of the 121 Match-Point© System is to increase the “clicking” factor between the maid and you and your family. This is something like when you meet someone new and you can easily be friends with her. Imagine how disruptive it is to your life if you have to keep finding a new maid again and again. The 121 Match-Point© System is to prevent this as far as possible.
- Is there a FREE Guarantee of at least 6 months to re-match you with a new domestic helper or maid if your first maid did not work out? If the time period is too short, you don’t have enough time to evaluate her work. Some maid agencies may even charge you if you want a new maid to take over the position of the original maid.
- Is there a Family Satisfaction Program by the maid agency? You see, sometimes, your maid who work out fine in the beginning may undergo change. She may not work out later on. The Family Satisfaction Program is to protect you if that does happen. You simply pick up the phone and talk to their Customer Service Officers and they will help you solve the problem even if you have employed the maid 5 years ago! This is what a Family Satisfaction Program does for you.
- Is there a Complete Your Contract Reward System by the maid agency? To encourage the domestic helper to work hard and put in the effort to work for you, a good maid agency will have a Complete Your Contract Reward System for the helper. That is to say, if the helper completes her 2 years work contract with you, the maid agency will give her a reward, and the maid agency will bear the cost of the reward. A maid agency willing to “lose money” for the benefit of its employers is indeed an admirable one. You won’t find many like that.
What You Must Do Next…
As a mum, your responsibilities and duties are extremely important to your children and your loved ones. As such, anyone you may employ to help take care of your family and live together in your home has to be carefully shortlisted and matched to your family’s needs.
Whether you do-it-yourself to find a maid or engage the service of a maid agency, it is extremely important that you follow the criteria above and avoid any costly mistakes.