Not common for employers to default on pay
The director of casework at Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics has seen her fair share of cases where employers default on salary.
Ms Valli Pillai said most domestic helpers will approach them or the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) if they do not get paid after a few months.
But sometimes, it goes on for years because the maids feel attached to the family.
"Last year, a domestic helper was not paid for two years because of the family's financial situation. She agreed to continue working because she was worried that no one would care for the elderly family member if she left," said Ms Valli.
But most bosses of maid agencies said it is not common for employers to default on salary.
Mr Karl Tan, owner of Inter-Mares Management Services, said his agency has not seen such a case since it started in 1983.
"Such cases usually do not happen. I estimate only about 10 cases I have heard about in the last five years," he said.
Island Maids director Gabriel Ee said he has not encountered such an issue in his five years in the industry and attributed this to the strict regulations of the law.
"Some employers may not pay their maids as they are not satisfied with their performance," said Mr Ee.
Mr Tan added: "Some people are plain dishonest and want such services for free. But others may have their financial constraints and barely qualify to hire a maid in terms of their household income."
He said there could also be cases where employers withhold pay from their maids with the latter's consent.
In such cases, employer and maid may create a joint account where the maid's cash withdrawals have to be made with the consent of the employer.
But Ms Valli discourages domestic helpers from this practice.
"They are adults, after all, that's why they are working here. Seeing their own money every month is also motivation for them to keep working.
"I've also heard of cases of fraud when the employer took $1,000 from their domestic worker's account. Both the employer and the helper had an ATM card to the account, but the employer denied taking out the money," she said.
Foreign domestic workers seeking assistance or advice on well-being issues can call the MOM helpline for distressed FDWs at 1800-339-5505.
- DEREK WONG
TNP PHOTO: JEREMY LONG
Last year, a domestic helper was not paid for two years because of the family's financial situation. She agreed to continue working because she was worried that no one would care for the elderly family member if she left.
- Director of casework at Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics, Ms Valli Pillai