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Agency owner given maximum S$5,000 fine for bringing in underage maid

SINGAPORE — The sole proprietor of an employment agency was fined the maximum of S$5,000 on Thursday (July 12), after she admitted to bringing in a 13-year-old girl from Myanmar to work as a foreign domestic worker in July 2017.

Domestic helpers doing their revision with language and recipe books at an agency.

Domestic helpers doing their revision with language and recipe books at an agency.

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SINGAPORE — The sole proprietor of an employment agency was fined the maximum of S$5,000 on Thursday (July 12), after she admitted to bringing in a 13-year-old girl from Myanmar to work as a foreign domestic worker in July 2017.

The girl's passport stated that she was 23 years old, the minimum age set by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) for foreign domestic workers.

However, Khor Siew Tiang, 35, who owns Vista Employment Services, did not conduct any interviews with the teenager to verify her age.

She relied on information provided in the girl's passport and biodata, despite earlier MOM alerts that it was not sufficient to merely refer to the documents.

Khor's agency was the second offender in two months to be convicted for bringing in an underage maid. Last month, Casa Employment Services was also fined S$5,000 after pleading guilty to bringing in a 14-year-old Burmese maid.

Similarly, Casa Employment relied solely on information provided by their own overseas agent, without conducting its own checks to verify the maid's age.

The two underage maids have been sent back to Myanmar and barred from seeking employment in Singapore.

In the last three years, the MOM has taken enforcement action against at least 98 employment agencies for failing to ensure that the foreign domestic workers whom they place met the age requirement.

On Thursday, the court further heard that Khor usually interviewed foreign domestic workers from Indonesia through Skype before processing their applications, as she knew Bahasa Indonesia.

However, she did not do the same for the teenager to find out more about her family history or work experience, as she could not converse in or understand the Burmese language.

When the girl reported to MOM's service centre for fingerprinting and photo imaging, it was revealed that her agent had applied for her passport.

The girl knew that the date of birth on her passport was inaccurate, but was told by her agent that the minimum required age to work in Singapore as a domestic worker was 23 years old.

Khor's lawyer Nicholas Ngoh, who asked for a S$2,000 to S$4,000 fine, noted that her employment agency licence has been suspended.

"She has now lost her sole means of employment, where she has at least 12 years' experience," he told the court.

He also argued that his client thought the maid was taller than most Myanmar women.

For her offence under the Employment Agencies Act, Khor could have been fined up to S$5,000 and/or jailed up to six months. The Manpower Ministry can also revoke her employment agency's licence and forfeit the security deposit.

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