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MOM conducting house visits, more interviews of first-time maids to ensure their well-being

SINGAPORE — In a bid to step up its monitoring of the well-being of foreign domestic workers, the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) has begun conducting random house visits to check on their working and living environments.

MOM conducting house visits, more interviews of first-time maids to ensure their well-being

Officers from the Ministry of Manpower conducting a house visit to speak to a foreign domestic worker and check on her well-being.

  • MOM plans to conduct 200 random house visits a month to check in on foreign domestic workers
  • Employers will be informed of such visits in advance
  • The ministry plans to interview all newly-arrived foreign domestic workers
  • Previously, interviewees were randomly selected

 

SINGAPORE — In a bid to step up its monitoring of the well-being of foreign domestic workers, the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) has begun conducting random house visits to check on their working and living environments.

The ministry also said on Monday (April 26) that it will be resuming in-person interviews of first-time foreign domestic workers next month, and these interviews will be expanded to include all first-time foreign domestic workers by the end of the year. 

Currently, first-time workers are randomly selected for these interviews.

MOM’s director of engagement for the foreign manpower management division said the ministry is currently reviewing how it can prevent foreign domestic workers from being abused.

But even as the reviews are underway, Mr Tan Shu Xiang said the ministry has started house visits and expanded the scope of their interviews so that it can provide better support to foreign domestic workers and let them know who they can seek help from should they need to.   

“It's important that we take good care of our migrant domestic workers while they are working in Singapore,” said Mr Tan, adding that this will also require the cooperation of employers, employment agencies and the ministry’s community partners. 

Mr Tan said MOM intends to carry out 200 random house visits per month to check in on the working and living environments of foreign domestic workers, though this number might be scaled up in the future.   

Employers will be notified about one week in advance of such visits, and if they refuse, he said MOM will require the employer to accompany their foreign domestic workers to the ministry’s office for an interview instead. 

Since April 5, MOM has already conducted 100 such house visits, and a vast majority of the foreign domestic workers interviewed were found to have few issues with their employment, said Mr Tan.

There were, however, instances they encountered in which a foreign domestic worker said they were getting insufficient rest, or had been harshly scolded by their employers. 

In such cases, Mr Tan said MOM will step in to mediate. 

Mr Li Junjie, MOM’s senior assistant director of enforcement planning, said while employers will not be stopped from listening in during these house visits, they will not be allowed to interfere.  

“If we see the employer’s presence is affecting the domestic worker, we may request for the employer to step aside, or ask the domestic worker to come out of the house so that we can engage with her,” he said.

When asked by TODAY how MOM’s officers can tell if the foreign domestic workers are being truthful, or speaking under duress, Mr Li said the officers are “trained to look for signs of distress and if they are withholding information”.

If the officers discover that the foreign domestic worker has been ill-treated, Mr Li said a police report will be lodged immediately. In cases of non-payment of salary, too, MOM said it will investigate the matter immediately. 

MOM said later that during the round of house visits on Monday, they found no concerns with the well-being of the domestic workers they spoke to, though they encountered an employer who had withheld one worker’s work permit.

An MOM spokesperson said this is not permitted, and that the ministry will be following up on this issue with the employer.

Aside from the house visits, MOM will also be resuming in-person interviews for first-time foreign domestic workers at the office of the Centre for Domestic Employees (CDE) from May onwards. 

The CDE, which is a non-government organisation under the National Trades Union Congress, has been conducting the interviews on MOM’s behalf since 2017 to find out how these workers are adjusting to working in Singapore. 

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the CDE began conducting the interviews via video last year. 

The interviews typically take place within three to six months after a first-time foreign domestic worker has started employment, and prior to Monday’s announcement, involved only a randomly selected group.  

Mr Tan said this time round, they intend to expand the interview to cover all newly-arrived migrant domestic workers by the end of the year, and they are targeting to speak to around 2,000 per month. 

CDE’s chairman Yeo Guat Kwang said he welcomes the new measures by MOM, as it will not only assist them in identifying early signs of abuse or distress amongst foreign domestic workers, but also help these workers understand where they can seek help.

A Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics (Home) spokesman told TODAY while they support the new measures, they hope that such checks will be carried out throughout the course of a worker's employment, as cases of extreme abuse are usually borne out of an escalation of practices and behaviour.

Home is a a non-governmental organisation that advocates for migrant workers' rights and provides support to them

Such checks, said the spokesman, could be conducted by the authorities, or by employment agencies, assisted by guidelines and protocols. 

Commenting on the benefits of in-person checks, the spokesman said not having a domestic worker's employer around would make them feel safer when reporting instances of abuse, exploitation, or any well-being issues. 

"At times, remote checks on domestic workers who are in their employer's homes means that employers are in the vicinity while the calls are taking place. This makes it difficult for domestic workers to speak freely," said the spokesman.

Related topics

MOM foreign domestic worker safety

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