New rule makes transfer of domestic helpers easier

This article is more than 12 months old

Employers will soon be able to transfer domestic helpers more easily to other households if they no longer need their services.

This move to keep more maids in Singapore comes as nearly no new foreign domestic workers are entering the country due to Covid-19 travel restrictions worldwide.

From Wednesday, employment agencies will be able to help clients cancel their helper's work permit even if she does not yet have a new employer, the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) said in an alert to employment agencies last Friday.

Agents will then take over the management of the maid during the transition period before she finds a new employer.

But they will have only the duration of her 14-day Special Pass - which will be issued when her work permit is cancelled - to find her a new employer, after which they must repatriate her if unsuccessful.

Employment agents said the new rule incentivises an employer to transfer the helper instead of sending her home, as the employer can save on the air ticket.

Employment agencies that want to take on the added responsibilities while facilitating the transfer of maids should register with MOM by May 31. They will be listed on the ministry's website.

In the e-mail alert seen by The Straits Times, MOM advised agencies to source for helpers already in Singapore and facilitate their transfers between employers. MOM added that during a helper's transition period, agents will be subject to additional licence conditions under the Employment Agencies Act.

They will have to provide acceptable accommodation, as well as upkeep and maintenance - which includes adequate food and medical treatment. They will also have to buy and maintain medical insurance coverage of at least $15,000 for the helper and pay for her repatriation if a new employer is not found before her Special Pass expires.

Ms K. Jayaprema, president of the Association of Employment Agencies (Singapore), cautioned that agents may factor into their fees the higher costs of having to pay for the upkeep of the helper and her flight home.

"Employers should also be aware that entry approvals for new helpers are not coming through, and it will probably be hard to find a replacement," she said.