Employers may find it hard to look after well-being, safety of maids if they live out: MOM

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SINGAPORE – Employers may find it more difficult to look after their maids’ well-being and safety, if these workers were to live apart from them, said the Ministry of Manpower (MOM).

Employers will also need to take responsibility for their maids if they break the law or sustain injuries while living separately, it told The Sunday Times. It was responding after some Straits Times Forum letter writers suggested relooking employment rules to allow maids to live apart from their employers.

Under the Employment of Foreign Manpower (Work Passes) Regulations, migrant domestic workers (MDWs) must stay in the same residence as their employers. Any other residential address must be approved in writing by the controller of work passes.

MOM noted that there have been “only a small number of cases” where MDWs were found to be living separately from their employers.

There were 245,600 MDWs in Singapore as at June 2021, according to MOM.

Earlier this month, ST reported that there were more than 50 requests from employers and maids on social media in the past year for live-out arrangements.

Live-out maids, who enjoy the privacy such arrangements bring, can be paid as much as $1,500 a month, which covers their rental, transport and food expenses. This is double what some maids here get every month.

They know it is illegal to live outside their employer’s home – without approval from the authorities – but say it is a secret agreement.

In its reply, MOM said it is aware that “some households may require domestic services, but are unable to accommodate a MDW in their homes due to space constraints or a preference for privacy”.

For such households, the ministry urged them to consider the Household Services Scheme (HSS), which allows employers to engage help for part-time services such as home cleaning, grocery shopping and car washing instead of hiring a MDW.

These workers from approved firms can be deployed to multiple houses on a part-time basis. They live in accommodation provided by their companies.

HSS companies are currently allowed to hire female workers from countries such as India, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Cambodia. This is in addition to the existing approved countries in the service sectors, such as China, Malaysia and North Asian sources, including Taiwan and South Korea.

The scheme – introduced as a pilot programme in 2017 – was made permanent in September 2021 following an increased demand.

For example, professional cleaning service company Amahs On Wheels charges $380 for four, once-a -week cleaning sessions in four- and five-room Housing Board flats. A pet-sitting session costs $30 per hour on a weekday, or $50 per hour on a weekend, at a minimum of three hours per session.

MOM added that it will continue to monitor demand from households and assess if the scope of services under the HSS can be further expanded.

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