17 October 2012

Hiring a Foreign Domestic Worker - Part 2 of 3

As a follow on to my Foreign Domestic Work (FDW) blog, below is an account of the process we went through to engage our helper. So for the curious or interested, read on.
  1. Several recommendations have been made on our condo's Facebook group.  We chose an agency that was appreciated for its quick and pleasant service.  We liked the detailed resumes available on their website from where we could make our initial selections.  Ideally you enquire about their services, fees payable, policies such as placement fee refunds, helper replacement if the one hired doesn't work out, renewal of contract assistance.

  2. Select preferred candidates and make arrangements with agency for interview date and times. Aim for a day where all candidates are available and you have a couple of hours to go through the interviewing process and the paperwork preparation.  Prepare a broad set of questions you want to ask.

  3. Agency placement fee is payable on the day. Prices will vary between agencies but be prepared for around SGD$500-$600.

  4. The agency will take you through several forms that need to be completed and lodged with the Ministry of Manpower (MOM). The agency will complete these forms and lodge them for you but you want to be aware of what that is since you will be signing on the dotted line.  The agency should also offer to renew contracts between you and helper as the work permit is for two years.

  5. Medical and personal injury insurance for the helper is compulsory. Around SGD$250-350 for the duration of the contract (2 years).
  6. A flat rate of SGD$265 is payable monthly to MOM as levy.  The payments are setup as automatic deductions from your nominated bank account.

  7. Select preferred candidate and go through the contractual negotiations. Other than salary, which is usually indicated on the resume, there are several considerations to be agreed upon between the two parties.

    a.   The average salary is SGD$500 per month which is largely dependent on skills and experience. FDW salaries are not regulated, they are left to be dictated by market forces.  Any salary increases are left to the discretion of the employer.

    b.   It is not unusual for helpers to only have one day off per month.  As of 1 January 2013, all new permits will entitle the helper to one day off per week.  Some helpers request to have public holidays off which is at the discretion of the employer.  In this situation, for instance, if the candidate is Christian you may choose to only provide Christian public holidays such as Easter and Christmas or you may choose to provide all public holidays off or you may choose none. Be mindful though that this is a negotiation to provide you with a candidate that is more suited to you and your family and so give and take will go a long way.

    c.   You may be requested to establish curfew time that may be included in the contract.  Typically 10pm is the acceptable norm providing minimal disruption to the family and it ensures the helper has returned home to have sufficient rest time before the next working day.  If the employer retires for the evening earlier then it may be more suitable to bring the curfew forwards to a more suitable time.

  8. An online orientation program must be completed two days before a work permit for a helper can be lodged with the MOM Online orientation certification.  The course explains the do’s and don’ts of being an employer, responsibilities of the employer and employee during the contract, the rights of the employee, relationship development between employer and helper as it will be different than an office environment given the proximity of both parties in the home, understanding cultural differences, expecting miscommunication and how to manage that, how to deal with problems or even potentially illegal activities by the FDW that may come to the employer’s attention, ie stealing from employer, working for someone else on their day off (FDW’s are not allowed to work for anyone else once they are tied to an employer). The course takes about an hour to complete with a basic test at the end. Once completed an electronic certificate will be produced which needs to be printed and provided to the employment agency. The MOM will note completion of course electronically and in a couple of days provide approval to the agency to proceed with the application.
  9. The agency will contact you as soon as all forms are in order and make a time for you to collect the FDW from their offices. Copies of paperwork you should be taking with you are:

    a. Employment contract between you and helper.
    b. Standard Service Agreement between you and employment agency.
    c. Domestic Maid Insurance Policy.
    d. In-Principal Approval letter from MOM.
    e. Services & Fees Schedule for FDW indicating payments made, such as, agency fee and insurance premium.
    f. Salary payment schedule indicating salary to be paid monthly, date of payment, loan repayments (see below).  This needs to be signed by helper each time she's paid.  It protects both parties to the contract should any disputes arise in the future.

  10. Helper's are responsible to pay the balance of the agency's fees which are substantially higher (as much as SGD$2200) than the fees paid by the employer.  If a FDW doesn't have the required amount then it is progressively deducted from her salary until paid off.  Our helper paid it upfront so we are not clear as to whether the employer has to pay it upfront on behalf of the helper and then deduct from salary or if it's a bank loan to the helper and gets deducted then.  From what I glean on the internet there are some unscrupulous agency activities in relation to this placement fee so be cognizant of the transaction you are entering into.  If you feel you may have been ripped off take it up with the MOM.
  11. The final step takes place about a week later as the new work permit is issued to the FDW by MOM. This work permit ties the FDW to the new employer for the duration of the contract. The FDWs passport is returned at the same time which may be held by the employer for safekeeping. The work permit must be held by the FDW at all times. Our helper chose for us to look after her passport which we keep together with our own passports. If at any point your helper is travelling abroad with you ensure that all visa requirements for your helper are in order as they may differ for her country to yours, ie until recently Myanmar nationals had to apply for visa into Indonesia prior to departure as opposed to paying the visa fee on arrival like many Western countries do. Also ensure the FDWs passport is valid for time of travel well in advance. This pro-activity will alleviate any potential travelling issues.
All the best to any future FDW employer.  With preparation and knowledge, the experience should be smooth and swift and a positive one.