Maid Agencies in Singapore are not considered essential services. Thus, a common question surface amongst many employers who have engaged their services during circuit breaker: are maid agencies open during circuit breaker? The answer is Yes. Even though maid agencies are not considered essential services and hence their stores have to be closed during this circuit breaker, maid agencies are still allowed to operate and work from home to serve the everyday needs of their current portfolio of employers and foreign domestic workers (FDWs). With the extension of the circuit breaker in Singapore until 1 June 2020, this continues to be in force till the end of the circuit breaker for all maid agencies in Singapore.
During circuit breaker, what happens if I have questions with regards to my helper that is already working in my house?
Employers should still be able to continue to receive advice, guidance, updates and assistance where needed, as your maid agency’s phone lines should remain contactable even as they are working from home.
Due to the new work from home (WFH) arrangements however, first check on your maid agency’s operating hours through their online presence (take for example Facebook or website) during this circuit breaker as maid agencies are allowed to open during circuit breaker, just that they have to operate strictly on a work-from-home basis thus their operating hours might be affected.
During circuit breaker, what happens if I have already hired a maid through my maid agency, but for some reason my maid is not yet able to arrive?
For employers who have hired helpers who are still overseas and waiting to come to Singapore to begin their contract with you, your maid agency should have already contacted and informed you on the expected delay of her arrival due to the following 2 points in current circumstances.
- Your maid agency could have already submitted and gotten an approved IPA (In-Principle Approval) from the Ministry of Manpower (MOM), but a new regulation by MOM states that, you still need to get an additional documentation which is the “Entry Approval” by MOM. However, what employers may not know is that the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) is only allowing very few maids or FDWs in during this period till the Covid-19 situation improves. These entry approvals are assessed strictly on a case-by-case basis and are approved only when deemed essential. So even if you have hired a helper from your maid agency and gotten your helper’s IPA approved during this circuit breaker, it would be best for you as the employer to submit a direct appeal to MOM for your maid’s Entry Approval and keep your maid agency in the loop.
2. For employers who have gotten an approved IPA and Entry Approval, that is certainly good news. However, the next step is a second challenge, even if your maid agency is opened during circuit breaker. There could be difficulties for your maid agency to arrange the flight for your helper into Singapore due to overseas borders closures, lockdowns, suspension of flight routes and flight operations by her source country. This is highly understandable. Meanwhile, your maid agency still needs to ensure that she gets taken care of in her source country as well, as the helper should have also been informed by your maid agency of their delay in arrival despite their selection. Due to her source country’s lockdown, there is a high chance in the delay of processing of your maid’s documents other overseas processes eg. medical, before she flies. All these leads to enhanced delays. Hence as an employer, you need to be calm and patient. Stay assured that your maid agency is still doing all they can by providing her food and lodging in their overseas training centre during this period so that when all processes are finally in place, your maid can finally take that flight to Singapore.
If you still have not gotten an entry approval for your helper, hopefully when the circuit breaker ends, with the assistance of your maid agency, you might want to seek clarity with MOM with regards to the entry approval for your helper.
During circuit breaker, what happens if I have hired a maid through my maid agency, and she is able to arrive in Singapore?
If your helper engaged through your maid agency, is somehow still able to arrive from her source country to Singapore in spite of all mentioned above, your maid agency needs to facilitate the 14 day stay home notice (SHN) prior to medical and deploying her at your home. The handover of your helper shall not take place in your maid agency’s office during the circuit breaker.
During circuit breaker, can employers still hire transfer maids?
Yes. Once the necessary processes are completed, transfer maids are still allowed to be deployed by the maid agency, directly to the new employer’s residence.
Also, a common question asked is, can I find suitable transfer maids that suit my needs as an employer during this circuit breaker? Even though transfer maids are in high demand during this situation where tensions rise at home between employers and helpers, there are not many employers transferring their helpers out and thus transfer maids are not easy to find. Suitable transfer maids are even less likely. This is the exact same reason why transfer maids are in high demand during this period. Most employers are not releasing their maids for transfer due to the knowledge that replacement hires are not easy to find and more so than not, new hires are not easy to process.
On the ground: what sorts of problems and adjustments are currently faced by employers and maids during circuit breaker?
During this circuit breaker, employers and maids are also constantly adjusting. As employers might be home fully, and there might be more tasks to complete and more social interactions at home, a mutual understanding thus needs to be sought and established during this period to keep a harmonious employment relationship. As FDWs are also not allowed to go out on their off-days, but have to spend it at home, the line between their work and their private time may blur further with this arrangement. An open communication is most important. Hence, employer need to work with their maids on a suitable plan to let them rest at home on their off-days.