I AGREE with Ms Tan Lee Lin ("Potentially cheaper way to hire maids"; Aug 28) that employers should source maids directly from their home countries.
This is not just a question of saving money. We hire agents because we wish to protect ourselves against the risk of the unknown, or have something to fall back on should things go wrong.
It has become extremely easy to hire maids, with most of the paperwork available online. So the agent is now more of a liaison and mediator. However, many of them perform below expectations.
Agents are entrusted with sourcing and training maids. They have to ensure that what employers see is what they get.
Sadly, there have been many instances where maids' biodata contain false information about their skills, ages and work experience.
There is no way for employers to verify the information. When we find out the truth, it is often too late - the agent has already collected his dues and washed his hands of the whole affair, claiming ignorance.
Agents are supposedly intermediaries between maids and their employers in case of disputes, or if the maid suddenly decides to terminate her employment. However, the hapless employer is forced to dole out the agency and documentation fees all over again, with no help or recourse available.
An employer even has to pay for the maid's lodging and levy, while she waits at the agency for a suitable job.
The problem has now escalated, and the number of agencies dealing with only transfer maids has burgeoned.
It serves the agent's purpose to encourage a faster turnaround, as he gets his share of the transfer fees from the maid, and also pockets the agency fees from every subsequent employer.
Maids keep fishing for "better" prospects with no thought to their contractual obligations, and it is the employer who stands to lose, with nowhere to turn to.
In view of the growing emphasis on family-friendly practices in Singapore, it is vital to address the childcare issue. With no reliable help, how can one even think about having more babies?
The issue of employers' rights has been raised several times in The Straits Times' Forum page, and the Manpower Ministry has promised to look into implementing steps to protect employers' interests.
However, in practice, nothing has been done. It is time for maids and agencies to be made more accountable, and for proper penalties and prohibitive measures to be put into place to protect employers.
Devi Asha (Mrs)