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Is Hiring A Transfer Maid A Bad Choice?

Due to the rise in dual-income families, an aging population, rising living costs and urban lifestyle expectations in Singapore, hiring a maid is no longer a luxury for many, but instead a necessity. Following the news in Singapore, demand for transfer maids have also been on the rapid rise in recent years, especially so in the current covid-19 situation that has hit home hard. The question arises: Are transfer maids a bad choice? 

Exactly who are transfer maids? Transfer maids refer to Foreign domestic workers (FDWs) who are currently working in a household in Singapore, and whom have been given consent by their current employers to search for a new employer. As they have been allowed to transfer to a new employer upon successful interview and placement, they are hence referred to as transfer maids.

Still, the question begets: Are transfer maids necessarily a bad choice? Despite the common misconception that are associated to transfer maids, take for example, some employers are less inclined to hire transfer maids because these employers feel that transfer maids usually have been terminated from their contracts by their current employers, there are also more perspectives. If transfer maids are really a bad choice, why then the spike in demand among employers in Singapore for choosing transfer maids?

Let us look into possible reasons for a maid’s transfer. First, it could be that the maid was not able to perform on the job, or did not perform up to the expectations of her current employer and thus she is being put on transfer. The question is then posed: Did she not go through a proper job interview conducted by the maid agency and employer where her job scope and expectations were already communicated? 

Well, imagine  you as a job-seeker. You have been interviewed a few times over video call, with your contract and salary details fully confirmed, your approved work visa is binding, but you have never met your bosses face to face before. Consider too that you have been in a physically-challenging job prior, but are willing to take on this new job’s routine and schedule for the very first time, and you have to keep up learning daily as you try to settle in fast to meet and remember your employer’s expectation as they are slowly learning too about your personality, lifestyle and habits too. Now consider an additional task, that you might speak a different first language from your employer, and now have to upskill and learn a new language to communicate both your needs and challenges to your potential new employer. Further, add in a difference in culture, personality, education and upbringing. Now you already know that you need to leave your homeland to work for a better life for your family. You also already know that before you make any milestones financially, you have to pay off in the first few months the fees incurred to be placed in your new job. Now imagine the jitters you might have when you think about making a mistake on the job and its consequences, because your employer has the right to repatriate you should they wish to. Now imagine when you actually make a simple mistake. It is plain to see why some maids have their contracts terminated early and put on transfer or why some maids sound out to employers that they choose to transfer if certain issues can’t be ironed out or if certain on-the-job expectations can’t be met in time. This does seem quite reasonable in light of the many considerations above. 

Besides the above early termination as a reason for transfer, some transfer maids may no longer be needed by their current employer due to other reasons. This include: one’s personality and attitude, migration of the employer to another country, elderly she was a caregiver for has passed on, children she was caring for have grown up, employers may have lost their jobs or were retrenched and decided to handle their own household caregiving needs to save costs, unable to get along with the additional maid in the employer’s house or it could be a misunderstanding  that arose from one situation where both had their own side of the story. So forth and so on, these maids are then put on transfer or choose to transfer.

With the above further considerations, we now understand that transfer maids are not necessarily a bad choice and that is purely a misconception. What is actually important is for employers to do their own screening and interviews. As seen in the rise in demand of transfer maids, many employers in Singapore have long realized this important fact and transfer maids are currently in high demand in Singapore. Especially so with the current circuit breaker measures and Covid-19 situation where many employers have realized their need for household help to remain functional physically, emotionally and mentally, and to ensure the demands of work and family when added, still do not take a toll on them in the long run. 

Why should I hire a transfer maid? Why do employers choose to hire a transfer maid? 

1. Personal Interview and Better Match
A face-to-face meeting with your prospective maid hire would allow a better communication of your household’s job scope and needs. Imagine actually getting to meet your employer to discuss face to face the expectations of the job and to narrow the gap in discrepancies between employer and employee. You might want to consider the transfer maid’s body language, ability to express herself verbally and understanding better her strengths, abilities and weaknesses.  Some non-fundamental interview questions you might want to include could be questions on her employment history, her motivation for working as a foreign domestic worker (FDW) in Singapore, her reasons on leaving her current employer, her expected new salary, and what is she expecting in her new potential contract if she were to work in your household. This could be one benefit of hiring a transfer maid.  

2. Faster Processing of Application. 
As the transfer maid is already in Singapore, it goes without saying that due to the lack of overseas processes involved, the processing application time for the transfer maid will be much faster than newly arriving helpers. Due to her immediate availability and obtained release (consent to transfer) from her current employer, her deployment time to your household is also much faster than a newly arriving helper. this is certainly a benefit of hiring a transfer maid. This is usually one main reason why employers choose to hire a transfer maid. 

3. Employment History and Better Screening
All transfer maids have a record of their employment history that you can access through MOM’s website. The transfer maid’s employment history does lend clarity on her length of employment for households before and you can delve deeper in your interviews with her to better screen the different reasons for the different employment periods. If you are going through a maid agency to hire a transfer maid, it is of basic importance for the maid agency to facilitate that interview for you, but ultimately only you as the employer know your complete household duties and demands and are thus in a better position to decide if the transfer maid recommended is suitable to work in your household or not. Available employment history and better screening could be one reason why employers choose to hire a transfer maid.  Do note that this may not be a blanket solution, as there have been cases where prior job-hoppers have actually worked out and even completed contracts for new employers. 

4. Adapt Faster Due to Prior Experience

Even with the higher expectations of a transfer maid when it comes to choosing her new employment, it also comes that she has already had prior training in a Singaporean household, and that she already has had a set routine and friends. This could mean less supervision of basic tasks needed by her new employer, a small support group of friends also working in Singapore to chat and wind down after a day’s work via phone, and less worry of her being able to settle into her new job more readily. Yes, she may have comparisons from time to time with the use of social media but it is one of the only few avenues she has to de-stress, and an issue all employers face in current age. A transfer maid is also way less likely to suffer from home sickness, while a new maid might suffer from both homesickness while still be unfamiliar to Singapore  Remember that it is also the responsibility of the employer to ensure your maid is well-cared for, even as she needs to also be responsible in carrying out her responsibility as an FDW (Foreign Domestic Worker) in caring for your household. Most importantly, many employers find that the benefit in hiring a transfer maid is that she has prior experience in a Singapore household (it could be even a simple task of using our public transport system to get around) and this adaptability is something that Singaporean employers seek as a known benefit of hiring a transfer maid. The benefit of hiring a transfer maid lessens their doubt and alleviates a common worry - if their new maid can actually adapt fast. 

5. Lower Costs 
Affordability is an important factor and consideration when hiring a transfer helper. One of the many great benefits of hiring a transfer maid is that many costs including lodging and transport costs for bringing them to complete the various processes in Singapore before beginning work for her current employer has already been incurred, completed and paid for by her current employer. These possibly includes associated costs with the 14 days Stay Home Notice or self-isolation she has to comply with in the current circuit breaker period, her first medical check-up in Singapore, Settling-In-Program, thumbprint appointment with the Ministry of Manpower. Thus, the administration costs of hiring a transfer maid is undoubtedly more affordable than hiring a newly arriving helper. It is likely that the placement fee of a transfer maids also lower than a newly arriving helper due to the fact that the transfer maid has already been working for a period of time in Singapore. This is an immense benefit for employers who choose to hire transfer maids. Which bring us back to the point why many employers still choose to hire transfer maids. 

6. Ready and Eager to Start Work

Even though transfer maids are clearer on what jobs they prefer to take on, transfer maids also know better than to waste their time on a transfer. It is highly likely that a transfer maid is eager to start a new employment with a potential employer due to a myriad of reasons. One, a transfer maid knows that she has only a limited time in Singapore to transfer, after which she might risk her current employer sending her home if her current employer is no longer willing to continue paying lodging fees and levy costs for her transfer. More importantly though, a transfer maid knows that she has already incurred a placement fee which allowed her to come to Singapore to work, and so does not wish to be sent back just like that. This will certainly cause her to be worse off than where she first started – with a debt! Third, transfer maids who have worked in Singapore for some time may also have already committed to new commitments back home as compared to newly arriving helpers. Thus, a great benefit in hiring transfer maids is that they could cherish on a different level, their employment in Singapore. This could be a reason why you might choose to hire a transfer maid.

Generally, it is also important to engage the right Maid Agency in Singapore to assist in your search for a transfer maid hire. An agency that does not suitably match transfer maids to new households, have to re-do the whole process, re-lodge the transfer helper, and there will be a lot of re-matching and re-works involved for them. The maid agency might even lose goodwill and standing amongst employers and maids alike. Hence, one can see why a good and trusted maid agency seeks their best to conduct interviews for transfer maids and their potential employers.  

Finally, it is still up to the employer to decide if choosing a transfer maid is the ideal hire for his family’s needs, current scenario and situation. Finding a transfer maid that is reliable and trustworthy will indeed help the employer to better focus on the important areas of his or her household. As an employer, some of the considerations you might need to think through before you proceed with your hiring choice of a transfer maid could be: your budget, your maid’s main duties, and how quickly you need her to be deployed to your household to assist your family. 

We hope the above article has proved useful in helping you make a better hiring decision.