Let Maids Access and Give Feedback to Employers Too

This letter was submitted to The Straits Times’ Forum and was published on 15 October 2019

We welcome the Ministry of Manpower's (MOM's) announcement that from October next year, employers and agencies will be able to access more information on the previous work experience of a prospective migrant domestic worker (MDW), including the reason for leaving her last employment.

Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics (Home) welcomes any move to ensure the longevity of employment contracts between employers and MDWs.

In implementing measures to ensure better matching of employers and MDWs, it must be noted that any successful employer-employee relationship requires transparency and equal opportunities for negotiation by all parties involved.

Be aware also that employment can be terminated due to mutual incompatibility between employer and the MDW, and is not always due to shortcomings or at the behest of the MDW.

We note that in the measures proposed by MOM, the reason for termination of a contract is articulated in the first instance by the employer.

These measures will be implemented together with the existing online feedback channel which allows employers to leave comments, including negative ones, about MDWs they have hired.

Employers are thus given plenty of opportunities to collect information on an MDW before hiring her.

However, there is no similar chance given to the MDW to do the same with prospective employers.

They are sometimes left to rely on verbal assurances by employers or agents on their employment conditions.

Employers may also be dissuaded from considering a prospective MDWs by the information they read through the system, before speaking to the MDW to clarify the details contained therein.

This inequality can be remedied by also giving MDWs the opportunity to articulate why their previous employment ended, or to leave feedback on their employers.

Prospective employers will then get a more balanced understanding of the prior employment circumstances of the MDW.

MDWs can also be allowed access to an employer's hiring history, and the working conditions she would be subject to in the prospective employment.

Stephanie Chok