Besides being unnecessarily cruel, treating your maid in Singapore badly defeats the purpose of hiring one to save you time and money.
Despite harsher actions by the authorities, stories of maids being mistreated are distressingly common in Singapore, with 90 such cases filed in the State Court over the last 5 years.
It’s not just outright abusive situations we’re talking about: some domestic helpers are subjected to uncomfortable living conditions and oppressive regimes set by their employers. Not only does this behaviour set a horrible example for the children; it can also cost you dearly.
A Stressed-Out Maid Gets Less Work Done
If your maid is constantly scolded and feels unequal to the task, the eventual result is to “freeze up” out of fear of underperforming, or just give up. When that happens, you’ll find you have to intervene in a wider range of chores. You’ll have to micromanage the laundry, cooking, sweeping, etc.
This micromanagement leads to more scolding, which leads to more stress, which leads to you having to micromanage even more. It’s an unhealthy cycle. And all the while, you will be wasting hours barking out directions.
This runs contrary to your original intent, which is to hire a maid to save you time. Now you’re losing time, raising your own stress levels and paying money to do it.
Scolding, yelling, and other aggressive methods are counterproductive. You would panic just as bad if your boss behaved that way at work.
If you really think your domestic helper can’t manage, you should politely request a change from the agency and leave it at that. There’s no need to behave like a drill sergeant.
Being Debarred Can Mean a Serious Loss of Income
If you are found guilty of mistreating your maid, such as by getting her to perform dangerous work (clean windows on the 10th floor from the outside), or by abuse (including inadequate food), you can be debarred.
When the Ministry of Manpower debars you under the Employment of Foreign Labour Act, you will not be able to hire a maid from anywhere. If you try, you’ll be breaking the law and you can be further charged. The penalty period varies based on the severity of your offence, and it can theoretically last decades.
If you run your own business or have a job that requires travel, this could spell the end of your current income source. You could end up resigning because you have no one to look after your elderly parents or children, and have to do it yourself.
It’s important to remember that, while you are the employer, you may be the one who is truly dependent on your maid.
Constant Turnover Wastes Time and Money
Invariably, the best maids are described as the ones who integrate with the family. They go out of their way to look after children or elderly parents and foster real relationships with their wards. But that’s not possible if your maid feels ostracised or mistreated.
Maids who aren’t happy will tend to distance themselves, and this raises the odds of friction – they are less likely to get along with other family members. The end result of that is often switching maids. But if your treatment remains the same, you will not see any difference, whoever the replacement is.
Constantly changing your maid could incur fees from the agencies (depending on the terms of the contract). Furthermore, it costs time and money to constantly make new registrations, and look around for a replacement. Also remember that every time you get a new maid, you need to wait a few weeks to train her and get her settled in.
Maids Who Like Working For You Tend to Come Back
When their contracts expire, maids may end up working for someone else. But if they like working for you, odds are they will come back. Now if you happen to have found a good one, look at the financial upsides of that.
You will not have to spend time and money looking for a replacement, and there is no risk of turnover (i.e. The replacement may not be suitable, causing you to again look for a replacement).
You will also not have to re-train the maid because she already knows what the family needs, as well as your schedule.. She can jump straight to work helping you the moment the contract is renewed.
There are Heavy Fines and Penalties for Mistreatment
News of ill-treatment will get out, if not via the maid agency (who have a vested interest in reporting such cases, as they could be in serious legal trouble otherwise), then by members of the public. If you see maid abuse cases there is an open system for reporting it.
Based on the news reports we’ve seen, penalties range from a few months to over two years, in addition to steep fines. This is not the worst of it. You will find it difficult to find new employment once you have jail time on your record, and your current employer will more than likely terminate your contract if you need to go to jail.
And of course, the court fees alone can come to several thousand dollars a day!
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By Ryan Ong
Ryan has been writing about finance for the last 10 years. He also has his fingers in a lot of other pies, having written for publications such as Men’s Health, Her World, Esquire, and Yahoo! Finance.