The costs and responsibilities of hiring a maid in Singapore

The costs and responsibilities of hiring a maid in Singapore

Most Singaporeans count on foreign domestic workers, or more commonly known as maids, to help with the housekeeping.

As with any employers, you are responsible for their well-being. If something goes wrong, most people assume the maid agency will handle it, and they won’t have to deal with the issue.

This is an attitude that has landed more than one employer in trouble. Before hiring a Foreign Domestic Worker (FDW), take note of what you’re responsible for:

Maid insurance is mandatory

Most Singaporeans don’t think about maid insurance, because the agency handles it for them. Whether you know it or not, a part of the payments you’ve made to the agent, in some way, goes toward paying for your maid’s insurance.

By law, minimum coverage for your maid includes:

  • A Personal Accident plan with a sum assured of $60,000 per year
     
  • Medical insurance coverage of $15,000 or higher
     
  • Coverage for the maid’s security bond

While most maid agencies are careful to ensure these terms are met, never make assumptions. Some agencies are less organised than others, and mix-ups (such as lapsed policies) do happen. Always be clear on which insurer is covering your maid, and seek proof of the policy.

Even better, you can consider buying maid insurance by yourself. Some policies even provide freebies like subsidised costs for medical check-ups or coverage for your maid’s belongings. These additional forms of coverage are not usually included, in basic insurance packages.

There is a security bond on your maid (unless she’s Malaysian)

There is a $5,000 security bond when employing a FDW (except for Malaysians). In addition, for Filipino domestic workers, you need a security bond of $7,000, which must be presented to the Philippines Embassy.

You could end up paying money for a broken security bond, under situations such as:

  • You or your maid violate any of the conditions of the Work Permit or security bond
     
  • You don't pay your maid’s salary on time
     
  • You don’t send your maid home when her Work Permit is expired, revoked or cancelled

If your maid goes missing, half of the security bond ($2,500) will be forfeited, assuming you’ve made reasonable effort to find her, and filed a police report.

Remember the earlier point about maid insurance? This is when it’ll come in handy. Depending on who your insurer is, they will pay for the broken bond, either in full or partially, as long as the employer is clear of any breach of the contract.

Third party liability

If your maid goes out and destroys someone else’s property, intentionally or otherwise, you could end up being liable for it.

An example would be if your maid damages school property while picking up your children, or if she scratches the neighbour’s car while washing yours.

Note that the most basic forms of maid insurance don’t cover this, so it’s a good idea to get a more comprehensive policy. Don’t count on everyone being understanding toward accidents.

You are required to pay for your maid’s flight home, except for home leave

When it comes to home leave, you’re not usually obligated to pay for your maid’s flight home. An exception is if you had a prior agreement to do so, and put it into her employment contract.

However, you are required to pay for sending your maid home, if you terminate her services or cancel her work permit.

If you refuse to do so, and she is still in Singapore after the work permit expires, you’re might end up paying for the broken security bond.

Does your maid insurance cover the security bond? This is highly unlikely, because most maid insurance policies will only cover if the breach is not due to the employer’s fault.

You must compensate your maid if you take away her weekly rest day

FDWs in Singapore are entitled to one weekly rest day. This is also mandatory.

However, you can make alternative arrangements. If your maid agrees to work on her day off, you should provide either one day’s additional salary, or grant her another day off (within the month) to compensate.

But remember that your maid is not obligated to agree.

You can be held liable if you create an unsafe work environment

You’ll have to attend the Employers’ Orientation Programme (EOP) to be able to hire a maid. The course will brief you on what constitutes an unsafe work environment. Examples include:

  • Asking your maid to climb on window ledges to clean exterior windows
     
  • Leaving your maid at risk of dangerous pets, such as by refusing to muzzle your biting dog
     
  • Asking your maid to try and fix the electrical wiring when she’s unqualified, thus risking electrocution

Most of these details will be covered in the orientation course.

Food and accommodation

You’ll be held liable if your maid is malnourished, or has less than three solid meals a day.

Besides this, you’re also responsible for providing adequate accommodations. Beyond basics like ventilation, furniture, and shelter, your maid should be provided with a separate room.

If a separate room is not possible, you must find some alternative that provides adequate space and privacy, and does not involve sleeping in the same room as a male adult or teenager.

If you fail to meet these conditions, you’ll bear any subsequent costs when your maid is removed from your employment.