October 17, 2019New measures to improve FDW retention rates in Singapore
- Post By: Eugene Chan
Singapore’s Ministry of Manpower has rolled out several new Initiatives that are slated to be rolled out over the next two years with hopes of improving Foreign Domestic Worker retention rates here. The initiatives stem from talks and consultations between 44 stakeholders comprising of Employers, Employment Agencies and Non-Government Organisations since 2018 October according to the MOM.
One of the main initiatives and also the one to be rolled out the soonest, is a Free dispute resolutions service, which is planned to be implemented by end of October. This Services aims to resolve any issues and disagreements between Employer and Foreign Domestic Worker or Employment Agencies and will be Introduced and Mediated by the Centre for Domestic Employees (CDE) and the Lutheran Community Care Services (LCCS). Employers are also able to approach Foreign Domestic Association for Social Support and Training (FAST) for dispute resolution services, FAST has made this service available since 2016 when they launched a pilot programme with the primary purpose of resolving issues instead of resorting to termination of the working relationship.
Roughly 2/3 helpers do not complete the two years of their contract and MOM recognises that more can be done to support Employers in the hiring of Helpers as Early Termination of contracts is costly and disruptive to Employers, maids and agencies.
One other Key component of the policies is a more concise documentation of the prospective maid’s work experience information that will be available for Employers and Employment Agencies to scrutinise. Other relevant information like key job scope, residence type and household size of the helper’s former employment will also be part of the document, even information about why the helper left their last employment will also be included.
According to the MOM, there were roughly 250 employers who changed five or more maids within 12 months in 2018. One of the main reasons was that the helper’s biodata was not detailed enough, e.g. can work with children, but there could have been more than one helper assisting with the chores which is common in countries like Indonesia and the Middle East. The MOM believes that with better and clearer information about the maid’s basic details and employment history, Employment Agencies will also be able to better advise employers on a helper that is suitable for their needs.
Some insight from Ms. K. Jayaprema, president of the Association of Employment Agencies (AEAS) stated that the measures from the MOM are complementary to what agencies are already currently practicing, especially with detailed biodata information and Employment History. For Employers who change domestic workers frequently the agency will be able to determine a hiring pattern and identify the key issues and where they lie with the help of more detailed information. Employment Agencies could also advise and suggest different nationalities or age groups, and have deeper investigations into what went wrong in the previous employment.
A policy that will affect Employment Agencies directly is a refund of Service fees of at least 50% to Employers if a maid’s contract ends prematurely within the first six months of employment. The services fee generally includes all fees collected from employer, excluding third party costs like insurance, maid placement loan and ad-hoc service requests like house visits. This initiative is planned for launch in 2021, which is implemented with the intention that Employment Agencies take greater ownership of more relevant recommendation, successful deployment and retention rates for Foreign Domestic Workers.
The AEAS will be working closely with MOM to ensure that the perimeters of the service fee refund are clear, and she also foresees that the agencies could react by increasing their service fees to factor in losses. She also feels that matching skillsets and concise biodata information are lower in priority compared to other factors, instead the expectations of employers and domestic workers must be managed better.
Ms Jayaprema also stated that the AEAS will be working with MOM to ensure clarity on the perimeters for the refund of the service fee, and added that she foresees that agencies could react by increasing their service fees to factor in losses. A match may seem positive on paper but in some cases personality differences may cause a fall out regardless. We must still remind and educate employers and domestic workers that ultimately, it is still their responsibility to make the working relationship a positive and successful one.