The Straits TImes/ANN
The Indonesian Embassy's move to impose a new performance bond of S$6,000 (US$4472) on employers who hire Indonesian maids here is unnecessary, Singapore regulators said on Tuesday.The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) said in a statement that it has made clear to the Indonesian Embassy and the Indonesian Ministry of Manpower that Singapore already has a comprehensive set of regulations to protect all foreign domestic workers.
The statement comes after the Indonesian Embassy notified maid agencies here of the new performance bond, which took effect last month.
Since then, employers hiring a new Indonesian maid have been asked to purchase a performance bond guarantee from one of two insurers approved by the embassy and sign a standard employment contract. This entails a one-off S$70 payment.
Employers will have to pay the full S$6,000 only if they breach the terms of the employment contract issued by the embassy.
Employers who are renewing the passports of their current Indonesian maids or processing documents at the Indonesian Embassy may also be asked to purchase this guarantee and sign a new employment contract.
The Philippine Embassy here has a similar bond that has been in place for more than two decades. Employers pay about S$40 to an insurer if they go through a maid agency, in lieu of a S$2,000 bond.
K. Jayaprema, president of the Association of Employment Agencies (Singapore), said that as far as she is aware, the Philippines Embassy has not had to resort to bond forfeiture so far.
"MOM has a welfare system for foreign domestic workers which is well regulated. There are avenues for workers to complain, and action is taken against employers for abuse," she said.
"I believe that the Philippines Embassy sees value in the existing system and so they haven't had to exercise the bond forfeiture."
MOM said in its statement that the specific conditions under which the Indonesian Embassy may exercise the performance bond forfeiture are not clear. "There also appears to be a lack of mediation and dispute resolution process available to employers before the performance bond is forfeited," it said.
Yeo Guat Kwang, chairman of the Centre for Domestic Employees (CDE), said that the center has received feedback from employers who are anxious about the lack of clarity on these specific conditions.
"CDE would like to urge the Indonesian Embassy to make clear the conditions for forfeiting the bond, and more importantly, spell out the process for mediation and dispute resolution before the performance bond is forfeited," he said in a statement Tuesday.
He also called for more clarity on how this new bond would bene-fit the maids, "as we are worried that this cost may be transferred to them unnecessarily".
MOM now requires employment agencies to explain the new bond to people who are looking to hire an Indonesian maid, and obtain written acknowledgement from them, indicating that they understand the implications before purchasing the bond guarantee or signing the Indonesian Embassy's standard employment contract.
MOM will also be issuing letters to all existing employers of Indonesian maids to urge them to read and understand the terms and conditions before purchasing the bond guarantee or signing the contract.
The letter notes, for example, that the Indonesian Embassy "does not need to show that you have done anything wrong to forfeit your bond".
It also says that if the employer does not accept the terms of the employment contract or the bond guarantee, they can consider alternatives, such as hiring a maid from another country or employing part-time help.