Singapore Family Keeps Maid Hostage For Not ‘Paying Back’ For COVID-19 Tests

Sarmistha Neogy
·6-min read

Horrific incidents of maid abuse in Singapore have often left us all in shock. From crimes involving physical torture, to emotional abuse, to even murder, there isn’t much that has been left to the imagination. And despite MOM laying down strict guidelines for their safety, sadly, the issue of maid abuse in Singapore continues to go unchecked.

A similar concern was shared by a woman on a popular online forum who shared that her friend recently went to work in Singapore as a maid, but has literally been kept hostage. She shared that her employers are refusing to let her go.

Feeling helpless, she asked: “What can be done to help her friend out from this situation?”

“Family not letting her go…I wanted to know if that is even legal”

maid abuse singapore
maid abuse singapore

Screengrab: Reddit

The woman started her post by sharing that her friend went to Singapore to work as a maid. But due to Covid, she had to undergo tests and quarantine herself. All of this cost the employers $2,000.

The woman mentioned that her friend was found to be COVID-19 positive. But it was after she returned to work, is when the real torture started.

“She had to quarantine for 3 weeks in total before she started working. After she started working, she is being treated very badly,” the concerned friend shared.

The maid wasn’t given off on Sundays. Also, the tiny bathroom which they have allowed her to use didn’t have hot water facility. “When she asked about it she was told to get hot water from the kitchen using the bucket they use to mop the floors,” the friend added.

“Now, there has been a family emergency, for which she needs to get back to India. But the host family is not letting her go unless she pays back the $2000 they spent on her,” she pointed.

The friend then asked, “I wanted to know if that is even legal. What can she do or who can we contact if there is an organization that would help people in these situations.”

Her legitimate concern for her friend started a viral discussion online. While most agreed to get the maid some help, some citizens said that this situation was an inconvenience to the employers.

FDW not responsible for paying COVID-19 testing fees

maid abuse singapore
maid abuse singapore

Incidents of maid abuse have been rampant in Singapore. Image courtesy: Pixabay

Some shared that the foreign domestic worker (FDW) is not responsible for bearing SHN/covid testing fees. The Foreign domestic worker employment agencies and employers will have to share the cost that comes from stay-home notices for new helpers.

These charges also includes where to house the new arrivals during the 14-day period, according to CNA.

Contact MOM

There were many who suggested taking professional help either by reporting it to Ministry of Manpower (MOM) or the police. MOM has clearly listed FAQs on entry approvals and SHN requirements for FDWs.

Holding on to a passport is illegal

A citizen mentioned that withholding the passport of FDW is illegal. Employers do not posses the right to do so and they should also not force their workers to give them their passport.

Contact maid agency

Another citizen suggested, “I think the point of contact should be the maid agency, not Reddit. We will not know her contract. As far as our helper, we paid for the quarantine and all, but that is not something the helper has to pay us back.”

To which the friend who started the debate replied, “The maid agency was the first we contacted, but it is no help. They’re siding with the host family, telling her she can’t leave until she pays back the $2000. They are and not working on trying to find any viable solution.”

Get help from NGO

Yet another citizen suggested contacting NGOs who might come to the rescue. “There is also another NGO, Centre for Domestic Employees, that you can reach out to,” she said.

Another citizen suggested, “Try contacting HOME. They are an NGO dealing with migrant worker issues in Singapore.”

Feel bad for the family!

While most responding citizens supported the maid, a citizen came out in support of the employers. She wrote, “A lot of people spoke up for The Maid but I kinda feel bad for the family from a human angle.

  1. They paid 2k for quarantine and had to reincur the same and the same (imagine if the next maid also does the same)

  2. Most people who hire maid have a need. So they are going to be at the inconvenience. It like they kinda paid for The Maid to enjoy a staycation in Singapore.

Any family who went through the process of a long wait, spend significant money, will feel equally put upon when faced with this situation. Laws are laws and rules are rules. Just kinda suck to be the family who needs the help and out of pocket.”

While this report has left a few people divided, the numbers of maid abuse in Singapore do not lie.

How To Stop And Report Maid Abuse In Singapore: Know The Rules

If you know someone who may be a victim of maid abuse in Singapore, you can call FDW Helpline at 1800 339 5505. A MOM officer will assist you to take the case forward.

But do remember, on account of the coronavirus pandemic, there are certain changes in rules. Before you hire an FDW, here’s what you need to remember.

Increased Insurance cover

From 1 January 2021, all incoming FDWs will need to have insurance coverage against COVID-19. As per MOM’s guidelines, your FDW must have insurance that ‘covers at least $10,000 for medical expenses if the FDW develops COVID-19 symptoms or tests positive within 14 days of arrival in Singapore.’

Agencies and employers to bear the cost

Maid agencies, employers to bear the cost of COVID-19 stay-home notices for a new foreign domestic worker. So it is illegal to ask the FDW to bear the cost of the fees that you had to pay on account of COVID-19 tests.

Singapore waives of levies

maid abuse in singapore
maid abuse in singapore

Image courtesy: iStock

Earlier this month, Singapore said it would waive levies on foreign workers, including maids, during their stay-home notice periods from January to September 2021 to help employers manage the increased costs associated with the COVID-19 safety measures

Keeping in mind the rising maid abuse Singapore cases, the Ministry has also encouraged citizens to sign an employment contract with the FDW.

As an employer, you are encouraged to cover all of the following:

  • Salary

  • Placement loan

  • Number of rest days per month

  • Compensation in lieu of rest day

  • Notice period

  • Compensation in lieu of termination notice

You can get your employment agency to draft an employment contract for you and your FDW.

Circumstances under which contract can be terminated

Early termination is allowed to maintain flexibility for you and your FDW, as circumstances may change. Either you or your FDW can terminate the employment contract by giving the notice period stated in the employment contract. The notice period can also be waived by mutual consent.

We understand that hiring a maid is an expensive affair. The cost has further increased during the pandemic. But, it is important to treat your domestic help with love and respect. Their treatment can’t be equated with the amount of money you have spent on them. Don’t forget at the end of the day, they are also humans.


Recommended Maid Agencies in Singapore

How Much Does It Cost To Hire A Maid In Singapore In 2021?

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