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No more safekeeping of salaries, MOM tells employers of domestic foreign workers

The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) announced on Sunday (7th Oct) a new Work Permit condition that is designed to protect foreign domestic workers and employers from money-related disputes. The new condition which will take effect on 1st January 2019 will prohibit employers from holding on to paid salaries and other money belonging to the domestic foreign worker in their employ.

The MOM said that it receives about 600 cases of salary disputes per year, the majority of which are related to the issue of salary safekeeping. In practice, employers tend to keep the salaries of their domestic foreign workers as a sort of safety but this means that the workers don’t have direct access to their money, leaving them in a precarious position of having to ask their employers whenever they need money.

"The practice of employers safekeeping the money of foreign domestic workers poses inconveniences and risks to both parties," said the ministry.

Currently, employers are inconvenienced by having to track the correct payment for their domestic help while the workers themselves are left in an awkward position if their employers do not keep proper documentation of the payments. This then leads to disagreements over the amount of money being kept by the employer and trouble when the employer falls sick or dies, leaving the worker with no means of retrieving their money.

In one example given by MOM, a worker had accumulated over S$11,000 which was with the employer for safe keeping. But when the worker was ready to take the money, the employer was unable to give it to her in full as he has used it when he was facing a financial rough patch.

So with this new condition in place, the MOM hopes to protect domestic foreign workers from such situations and give them control over their own earnings. A breach of the Work Permit condition is considered an offence under the Employment of Foreign Manpower Act (EFMA) and employers who break the rules can be fined up to $S10,000 and/or jailed for up to 12 months.

To help with this new rule, MOM has suggested that salaries be paid electronically. The ministry is recommending that employers help their domestic foreign workers set up a bank account during the Work Permit issuance process.

The Centre for Domestic Employees and Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economic (HOME) is calling for the government to make electronic payments for domestic foreign workers compulsory. Also, it has recommended that a statutory fund be established for workers who are not paid by their employers.

This new condition is a step in the right direction to ensuring that domestic foreign workers are treated fairly and are protected when they come over to work in Singapore.