Up to bosses and agents to set rules of maid conduct


By Victoria Barker
My Paper
Thursday, Apr 25, 2013

SINGAPORE - Both maid agencies and employers should be responsible for setting guidelines and letting maids know what is and isn't acceptable when it comes to their personal conduct.

But they cannot forbid domestic helpers legally from using the Internet or smartphone chatlines during their personal time, at least three maid agencies told My Paper.

This comes in the wake of a post on citizen-journalism website Stomp on Monday, which claims that a maid used an instant-messaging application on her mobile phone to chat with other users during her working hours.

Stomp contributor SP said that his friend became acquainted with the maid via the app, called WeChat. The app allows users to share photos and videos with groups of users and individuals.

When asked if she was a permanent resident, the maid allegedly told the friend that she was a maid. She had also sent him suggestive photos of herself, some of which were said to have been taken in her employer's Housing Board flat in Punggol, said SP.

In several photos, which were posted on Stomp, the maid is clad in cleavage-baring tank tops. In another, she is wearing a translucent pink T-shirt that reveals a black bra.

SP said: "My friend also told me that the maid even asked him to top up her phone card if he wishes to chat with her further."

Business consultant Sandra Tay, 38, who has had a Filipino maid for the past two years, said: "I don't mind her using her phone to communicate with her friends and family when she's not working.

"It would upset me if she were contacting strangers, let alone posting sexy pictures taken in my home."

Maid agencies My Paper spoke to said maids are briefed on what is considered unacceptable behaviour. This includes making personal calls during their work day and using an employer's computer without permission.

Mr Gary Chin, the managing director of Nation Employment, said: "Most foreign domestic workers are willing to listen if you tell them properly. "But some may be bored, or curious, to find out more about such chatlines or apps."

Homekeeper managing director Carene Chin said that employers have every right to terminate their maid's contract if her behaviour "makes them uncomfortable even after they've advised her".

The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) said on its website that it takes "a serious view" of foreign domestic workers who break the law or "misbehave".

In Singapore, maids who become pregnant are deemed to have breached the conditions of their work permit, and will be repatriated.

According to MOM regulations, work-permit holders cannot become pregnant or give birth here unless they are married to Singapore citizens or permanent residents with the approval of the ministry.

There are no specific guidelines for personal conduct, but employers can write in to the ministry in the event that their worker has behaved irresponsibly.

MOM will then take appropriate action based on the facts and circumstances of the case, it said.

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