By: B Goode
Over the years, Singapore have seen more domestic helpers (henceforth to be called maids because it means the same thing ffs) passing through this island than migratory birds. And yet whilst there are special laws for birds and animals, there are none for maids.
We can argue that this is because offences by or against maids are already covered by other statutes such as Miscellaneous Acts or the Penal Code. However, as some rulings had shown, this is clearly not enough.
For example, if an employer was found guilty of abusing his maid, what would stop him from employing another? I am not sure if there is any MOM regulation to do just that but the Courts should be given such powers.
The Courts could ban a drunk driver from driving but could not ban a drunk and abusive employer from employing another maid. This is clearly not right.
It is high time that Singapore enact special laws for the maids with the following totally, totally serious suggestions:
- Maid License
Those who want to employ a maid must apply for a maid license. They must undergo and pass a maid course before they are issued with a license. Depending on whether the government is desperate for the money, the license could either be issued free or for the usual nominal fee to cover admin charges of $88.88 (GST not included).
And whilst they are at it, potential employers should also be screened to check if they were sexual offenders.
- Maid Vocational Certificate
Any maid who wants to work in Singapore must also undergo a vocational course and must possess the relevant certificate/s. Work permit holders in the construction sector for example, are required to possess the relevant vocational certs; electrical, general, mechanical, welding etc. Why not maids? There should be various vocational certs for general housekeeping, baby-sitting, elder-caring, car washing etc and they should be employed based on the certs that they possessed.
The vocational course should also teach them the basic language and cultural and social norms in Singapore. Such as where to get the best laksa. And they should have at least two names. I mean, if their mothers don’t even know who their fathers are….
And it should also teach them their legal rights and recourse.
There’s no better way for the government to bolster their coffers than to impo
(Editor’s note: We have decided to censor this part so as not to give the government any ideas)
- Contract and Job Scope
In Singapore, employees are required to be given jobscopes by the employers. So why not maids? MOM should come out with a standard contract for maids like what they have done to other work permit holders. The contract should state the working hours and the overtime pay should the maids be required to work over and above the stated hours. It should also state the number of leave per year, MCs and such. Presently, there is no such structure in place causing the maids to be at the beck and call of the employers 24×7. No wonder some maids would want to poison us.
Consequently, the contract should also state the employers’ rights vis-à-vis the maids’ transgression. For example, if the maids were found to be malingering or having sexy times with their boyfriends at the stairwell leaving their crying charges hungry and unattended in the house, the contract must stipulate the range of available options opened to the employers.
- Special Powers For The Courts
Although presently our Judges are given an array of powers to deal with maid abuse; piggybacking on existing statutes, it is not adequate simply because of the very nature of the job.
The maids are staying with the employers and therefore are at the mercy of the employers. Due to this, they could be subjected to physical and psychological blackmails.
“You don’t tell your Maam that I have asked you to massage my back or I will send you back”
“Now go lower”
Therefore, maid abused should not be treated like any other abuse. It should be based on this fact as well. And the courts should be given the powers to ban offenders from employing another maid.
There are many more suggestions that I could come out with but fortunately, my jobscope stipulates that I only need to give 5 bullet points.
We should treat maids like how we want our employers to treat us. If we are unwilling to be on stand-by 24×7, why are we expecting our maids to do just that? If we are entitled to, say 14 days paid leave a year, why aren’t we giving our maids the same? If we are unable to multi-task or unwilling to do something that is not in our job-scope, why are we expecting our maids to be superwomen?
Treat others well and they will treat you better – Zeus