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POSB e-payment trial to track maids' pay

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New scheme to reduce money disputes between employers and maids

A new e-payment scheme is being tried out here to minimise disputes over money between employers and maids.

POSB is working with more than 20 employment agencies to introduce it this month for a three-month trial period.

Under the initiative by the Centre for Domestic Employees (CDE), employers hiring new maids will be asked to use Internet banking to transfer wage payments every month.

They or employment agents can help the maids set up a bank account.

Mr Yeo Guat Kwang, chairman of the CDE, which is run by the National Trades Union Congress, said that with e-payments, there will be a record of what was paid, what was received and what was remitted.

It will also be a step towards greater transparency of fees in the hiring of domestic workers.

"When the financing arrangements are put down on record, people can start to examine the amount of money, from the agency fees to recruiters, the placement fees by local agents and government charges," he told The Straits Times.

"By making it more transparent, we can subsequently look at how to make it fairer for all parties."

More than half, or 360, of the 700 cases that have come before the CDE, since it began in January last year, are on salary disputes.

Singapore has about 239,700 maids.

Mr Yeo said the CDE will work with agents to help employers who are not used to making e-payments. He also said it will urge the Government to make it mandatory for new maids to use e-payments.

Other initiatives being tested in the pilot project include rolling out a mobile phone app called POSB Jolly for domestic workers. It will let them access their transaction records, send money home to the Philippines, Indonesia or India, and top up prepaid phone cards through SMS banking.

Singapore Accredited Employment Agencies Association president Lim Chee Chong, who is director of Nation Employment, said he sees pay disputes a few times a year, "but every case is one too many".

Twenty agencies from his association, including Nation, have signed up for the project.

He said Nation has been urging employers to use e-payments for the past few years. But some are reluctant, partly because a POSB account requires a minimum $500 to be kept in it to avoid a service fee.

POSB is waiving the minimum sum during the pilot programme.

Association of Employment Agencies (Singapore) president K. Jayaprema said e-payments will help empower maids to manage their own money.

Best Home Employment Agency, a participant in the trial, said it helps new maids set up bank accounts if they have smartphones. In the past week, all 23 with smartphones agreed, said Best Home owner Tay Khoon Beng.

Ms S. Siew, 32, manager in a construction firm, favours bank transfers over cash: "With a standing order to transfer the salary every month, there won't be any disputes because you can easily check the records with the bank or online."

Her maid Riya, 48, a Filipina, said she is likely to use the app to save on remittance fees.

"It's okay to receive my salary through the bank as long as I can withdraw it," she said.