MOM: about 550 complaints a year of illegal deployment of foreign domestic workers

Parti Liyani and her lawyer Anil Balchandani exiting the High Court on 4 September after her acquittal. (PHOTO: Grace Baey)
Parti Liyani and her lawyer Anil Balchandani exiting the High Court on 4 September after her acquittal. (PHOTO: Grace Baey)

SINGAPORE — Between 2017 and 2019, there has been an average of 550 complaints a year of illegal deployment of foreign domestic workers (FDWs) by their employers or household members.

In a media reply on Tuesday (8 September), the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) said that such numbers consist about 0.2 per cent of the over 236,000 FDW employers in Singapore.

MOM added that 76 per cent of these cases were brought up by third parties, while 24 per cent were surfaced by FDWs themselves.

“A good number of FDWs who alleged illegal deployment had left employment when they reported the matter to MOM. Some of them requested for assistance to return home while others requested to be allowed a transfer of employment,” the ministry said in its media reply.

Advisory and caution notices

MOM said that every allegation of illegal deployment is treated seriously and looked into by the ministry.

In most cases, the FDWs were deployed with their charges (either children or elderly persons) to close family members to continue to provide care to their charges. This is permitted, so long as the FDWs accept the arrangements, are not required to perform the household chores of two families, and their well-being was still taken care of.

There are other cases which warranted further action, Between 2017 and 2019, MOM has taken action against an average of 155 employers annually for illegally deploying their FDWs.

Of these, an average of about 60 employers were issued with an advisory notice, while 80 employers were issued with a caution notice. On average, there were 16 employers issued with financial penalties annually, ranging from $3,300 to $24,000.

Employers are issued with an advisory notice in cases where the illegal deployment is not conclusively substantiated; the notice serves to remind them of their legal obligations under the Employment of Foreign Manpower Act and the Employment of Foreign Manpower Regulations.

A caution notice, akin to a stern warning by the police, is issued when MOM establishes that the illegal deployment is infrequent or took place over a short period of time. The notice acts to warn employers that they must comply with the law or face stronger enforcement action.

MOM also takes a stern view of cases where FDWs are deployed to participate in non-domestic work or to work in commercial premises, regularly and over a long period of time. It would be especially egregious if the FDWs are overworked and not provided with adequate rest, the ministry said.

Their employers can be issued with financial penalties of up to $10,000 per count. They will also be debarred from hiring FDWs.

Notices issued to the Liew family

The issue of illegal FDW deployment came into prominence amid the recent acquittal of Indonesian maid Parti Liyani on charges of theft and possession of stolen items by her employer, Changi Airport Group chairman Liew Mun Leong.

Parti, now 46, had wanted to file a complaint with MOM in 2016 for being made to work outside of Liew’s house – at the home of Liew’s son Karl and Karl’s office. The Liews subsequently filed a police report accusing her of stealing more than $50,000 of items from their household.

MOM said that, in Parti’s case, it consulted the Attorney-General’s Chambers, and issued a caution notice against Liew’s wife Ng Lai Peng as well as an advisory notice to Karl Liew in May 2018.

The ministry said that FDWs are advised of the different channels of assistance available to them, should instances of illegal deployment arise. The FDWs can report such instances or other employment difficulties to MOM, and they do not have to wait until they have left employment.

FDWs can also contact MOM’s FDW helpline at 1800-3395505 to seek clarification and assistance, should they be unsure if their deployment is in order with the law.

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