There is no doubt that there are hundreds of thousands of families in Singapore hire foreign domestic workers (from the Philippines, Indonesia, and other approved nations) to cover a range of duties. However, employers should be aware that domestic helpers are only allowed to perform certain duties or “maid chores” like caring for children and the elderlies, as enforced by the Ministry of Manpower. But, can maids wash cars, for example? Which household chores can FDWs perform?
Foreign domestic workers’ duties usually include cleaning, washing, ironing, shopping, cooking, and taking care of children, elderly family members, or pets. Additionally, they can also run occasional errands.
By doing these and a few other chores daily, maids can relieve many of the pressures on family life and allow both parents to work full time. However, employers should take note of government regulations restricting the scope of maids’ duties.
Employment laws in Singapore
According to the Ministry of Manpower, a maid is not allowed to work for another person or at another address. This means you are not allowed to let your maid work part-time for anyone else, even if she has some spare time and wants to supplement her income.
She is also not allowed to perform duties that go beyond household and care work, even for her sponsoring employer.
Under Singaporean law, you may be held responsible if your worker is found to be involved in part-time or non-domestic work. As the employer, you can be blacklisted which means any future application to hire a domestic worker will be unsuccessful.
Duties such as gardening, car washing, repair work, and tutoring are not considered domestic work and are therefore not allowed. The Ministry of Manpower offers some examples of restricted maid duties, including cooking for her employer’s food business, working in a food stall, or working in her employer’s shop.
In 2005, an employer was charged with illegally deploying her maid when she asked the foreign domestic worker to serve customers at her food stall. The employer was fined S$3,000 and her $5,000 security deposit was also forfeited.
Ensure open communication
When your new domestic helper starts her employment contract, you should discuss the regulations regarding her job duties – making sure that she understands them and the possible consequences thereof.
Let her know that she is not allowed to work for any other employer, even on her day off. She should also not work in anyone’s shop, business or office, or start her own company in Singapore.
The rules restricting helpers’ duties may be particularly pertinent to employers who have hired foreign maids in other countries, where maids’ job duties could include car washing and gardening.
If you have a formal employment contract with your maid, consider including in it her list of expected duties, along with those duties which are not allowed. This will be for the benefit of both you and your maid.
Besides clearly explaining these laws, you should explain the duties your domestic helper will be responsible for. Describe to her in detail what you want her to do every day with a task list and how she should arrange her day. If you want your domestic helper to buy groceries, explain what you want her to buy and the number of times she should go shopping every week.
Remember, two-way communication is essential if you want to foster a healthy working relationship with your maid. Allow her to provide feedback and let you know if she needs surplus income, rather than finding out that she works on her rest days.
By taking care of time-consuming household duties, domestic helpers across Singapore help to improve the lives of the families they work for. As with any other job, some helpers are better at certain aspects of their job than at others.
Employers can consider sending their maids to special classes to improve their skills. These courses can include medical training, cooking, or English-language training. Before hiring a maid, take note of the important employment costs and processes involved, including the requirement to have a security bond and pay your maid an appropriate salary.
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