$6k bond needed for Indonesian maids from Feb 1

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Employers will have to buy $70 insurance in lieu of putting up bond, but they must pay full sum in event of contract breaches

Employers of Indonesian maids will have to spend $70 more when hiring a new helper or renewing a contract from next month.

They have to make this one-off payment to an insurer for a new performance bond of $6,000 that the Indonesian Embassy is implementing from Feb 1.

Employers will have to pay the full $6,000 only if they breach the terms of the employment contract issued by the embassy, for instance, by failing to pay the maid's salary on time or abusing her.

When such breaches occur, the insurance company will pay the embassy first and subsequently claim the sum from the employer.

A spokesman for the Indonesian Embassy told The Straits Times that the bond is to better protect Indonesian migrant workers here by ensuring employers abide by the contracts.

The current contract terms include buying personal accident insurance for the helper, allowing her to practise her religion and not allowing her to clean the exterior of windows in high-rise homes.

The spokesman said the contract is being reviewed and will be finalised by Feb 1.

The embassy believes this new bond will not hinder the hiring of Indonesian maids, she added.

An estimated 120,000 Indonesian maids work in Singapore.

The embassy here is the first Indonesian embassy to impose such a bond, said the spokesman, who added that no particular case had sparked the initiative.

The embassy "is constantly looking at ways to better protect its citizens", she said.

The Philippine Embassy here has had a similar bond in place for more than two decades. Employers pay about $40 to an insurer if they go through a maid agency, in lieu of a $2,000 bond.

Aside from the country-specific bonds, employers also have to buy insurance for the $5,000 security bond required by Singapore's Ministry of Manpower (MOM).

When contacted, an MOM spokesman said the ministry is aware of the Indonesian Embassy's bond and is "seeking clarifications on the matter".

Maid agents said the rule will lead to higher costs for employers.

But the amount is not prohibitive, noted Singapore Accredited Employment Agencies Association president Lim Chee Chong.

Orange Employment Agency owner Shirley Ng said employers would have to abide by the embassy's rules, or choose helpers of other nationalities.

Ms Sheena Kanwar, executive director of migrant worker advocacy group Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics, said the move seems well-intentioned but does not help change the negative feelings some employers have towards maids.

"To change the culture and attitudes of employers, we need a more sustainable measure than bonds or adding bureaucracy," she said.

Some employers said it would be onerous to handle separate bond policies by both Singapore and foreign governments.

"Extra cost is never welcome to employers," said housewife Beatrice Mitschke, 47, who is thinking of hiring a new Indonesian maid later this year to help with chores and care for her elderly father.

Mrs Mitschke said the MOM bond already covers a "pretty comprehensive" range of issues, and suggested the two governments have a combined bond instead.

Another employer, jeweller Eileen Tjandra, 48, suggested the embassy impose the bond only on employers hiring maids who are new to Singapore.

"Those who have worked here before are more savvy. They know their rights and won't accept not being paid on time anyway," she said.