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Author Topic: maid problems  (Read 11663 times)
thekopicat
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« on: 15 February 2001, 23:56:00 PM »
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My Indonesian maid has been working for me for the past 4 months.  She was recommended to me by a friend's auntie, who also happened to be the employer of her sister.  

She had been hard working and pleasant with my pets.  As we have no children, most of the time she has the freedom to do what she deems necessary in the house.

Recently, she has been ruining one thing after another.  First it was bowls and laundry, and finally to furniture and antiques.  Her latest victim costs me between approx S$1500 to $3000 (I can only estimate the cost).  I was in tears after she admitted that she remembered me telling her never to wash them (we're talking about some really delicate cushion covers which were bought overseas).  All 6 of them.

I do not know if it's intentional, even tho' the frequency of her ruining my belongings has been increasing steadily.  And I do notice they always happen after I nag/scold her for her mistakes or if I corrected her manners.

This time round, however, I am thinking of making her pay for part of the cost (like $280 which is her monthly salary) as a compensation to me as well as a punishment so that she'll not repeat the same mistake.  (I have a collection of English Regency antique which explains my worry)

Before I even brooch the subject with her, she told me she and her sister would check with the MOM on the legality of compensation.  In other words, she pre-empted my intentions!

That really crossed me esp since I have been giving her extra money and ang pows for the past 3 months, and all she could say to me was let her check with MOM and she'll get back to me the next day!  She did not even once apologise for her mistake even tho, I repeat, she admitted that I specifically told her not to touch those cushions.

I have had 4 maids for the last 2 years and the last thing I want to do is to find another.  But I thought that was such a cheeky thing to do.  

Question:  are the maids here really that protected from the MOM that even the employers could not exact any compensation from them?  I thought there could be a private arrangement between employers and employees (and verbally there is one between us) and it's entirely up to them how this issue could be settled.

[This message has been edited by thekopicat (edited 16-02-2001).]

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Kathleen
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« Reply #1 on: 16 February 2001, 8:45:00 AM »
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Sounds like you've had a bit of bad luck if you've had 4 maids in 2 years but for my two cents, it sounds like your relationship has deteriorated considerably. Ask her if she'd be happier working elsewhere and allow her to transfer.

It's reasonable to expect someone to follow simple instructions and most maids I've ever heard of don't deliberately seek out expensive things to wash especially if told not to. Cut your losses and find a replacement. Forget the MOM unless you want a big head ache on your hands.

Maybe you need to find someone that 'speaks your language' and has worked in a home with fine furniture etc and has experience dealing with it

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BoardManager
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« Reply #2 on: 16 February 2001, 10:17:00 AM »
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I won't encourage deducting any salary. It is not only inhumane, it will certainly lead to a great deal of unhappiness, and the maid will get more than her losses back!

Other posts on this Message Board (including those in the FAQ Archives of this Board) recommend that employers be firm and decisive with one's maid from the start. Being extra nice and kind at the start of the contract, including letting her off often, offering extra cash and gifts etc will set the maid thinking wrongly that they have an easy boss; that they (the maids) are indispensable. And when they turn out substandard work, they do NOT expect to be scolded. Of course, when they get reprimanded, they do not feel happy.

The time has probably come for you to let her go. Unfortunate and sad, but it is probably better to move on. That way you will at least limit your aggro and further losses.

[This message has been edited by BoardManager (edited 16-02-2001).]

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cs
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« Reply #3 on: 16 February 2001, 10:26:00 AM »
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Agree that it is going to be a lot of trouble if this gets to MOM.

Unfortunately it is not so simple as getting rid of your maid because she is threatening to go to MOM with a dispute. The Employment Act has clauses which allow an employee to make a complaint for wrongful dismissal. Firing your maid because she is threatening to seek advice from MOM to resolve a dispute would make a very strong case for wrongful dismissal.      

For the Employment Act, there are safeguards for both the employer and the employee. For the employer, you are allowed to make deductions for damages caused by negligence. To prevent employers from abusing this to make all sort of frivilous deductions, the onus is on the employer to show that the damage was indeed caused by negligence. In other words you will have to prove the negligence. Here you will have to do better than "I told her before" or "She admitted it was her fault". This is because your maid can always say that she was not know. If it boils down to a case of your word against hers, you will not have proved anything and will most likely lose the case.

My advice therefore would be for you to write down clearly a list of what she should and should not do. This list can then be followed by a line which says that she might be required to pay compensation if she does not follow the instructions and damages your belongings.  Your maid should then be asked to sign this. If  she subsequently damages your property and wants to bring you to MOM for threatening to deduct her wages, you can then bring out what she had signed and show it to MOM. This will clearly estalish that the deduction is legitmate. Also by making her sign, you  gain a pschological advantage. This is because she knows you are serious and will not hesitate to take action if she misbehaves in future.

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Mummy
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« Reply #4 on: 16 February 2001, 11:50:00 AM »
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Can the agency help? They could have a talk with her and maybe find her another employer. This MOM thing sounds a bit over the top.
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cs
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« Reply #5 on: 16 February 2001, 13:47:00 PM »
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The set of double standards and lack of ethical consideration in some of the postings is truly saddening.

If as an expat employee you were unfairly treated (e.g. your employer docked 25% of your pay or fired you without giving any reason), chances are that you would be all over MOM to take up your case. On the other hand if it is your lowly maid who wants to bring you to MOM, the suggested courses of action are to first try and exploit her ignorance. If that doesn't work, intimidate her by going to the maid agency that brought her here. And if that still doesn't work, give the problem to someone else by tansferring her to a new unsuspecting employer.

     

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PhilM
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« Reply #6 on: 16 February 2001, 15:14:00 PM »
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When I read the various posts on maids I can't help but feel many people do not see them as real people. The lady who signs herself as thekopicat told us her maid was hard working, her concern was the damage happening to her belongings.

Whilst I fully appreciate the frustration of having to deal with a person who has damaged your belongings I feel a little thought needs to go into handling the problem. Yes there are certainly outright bad maids but this is not the description I read here.

I think the real answer is not to threaten to take her salary away (this will make her desperate as her family back home relies on it) but to find the root of the problem. This could be several things:-

1. If you ever visited the village the girl comes from you would soon understand they have no understanding of our concept of antiques - food is their main priority. You need to teach her the personal value to you not the monetary value.

2. No matter how good an employer you are many maids live in constant fear of you leaving Singapore, not liking them, or returning them home for whatever reason. Frequently they are the main bread winner fot their extended family.

3. Apparently this girl has a lot of time on her hands it may be she is looking for work to keep herself occupied in an affort to please. Whilst annoying the damage could well be true accidents.

4. After you nag/scold her it could well be she is frightened and nervous and thus prone to making mistakes as she is not thinking straight.

5. Threatening to take her salary probably means threatening her families welfare that is why she ran to MOM - who is is she to turn to?

Of course I could be totally wrong and she may be deliberately damaging your things to get her own back for percieved wrongs. The point is you will never know unless you take the trouble to sit dowm quietly and discuss it with her as employer to employee, but also as person to person.

Reading between the lines I do not think you had any real intent to dock her salary - it was far more an indication of your frustration in dealing with the problem. I hope you can resolve the matter amicably and get back to a good working relationship with your maid.

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Mummy
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« Reply #7 on: 16 February 2001, 18:56:00 PM »
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All I was saying was that perhaps the maid might feel more comfortable expressing her concerns to the agent than the employer. While some of us might think that an honest, open conversation is the solution to all problems, often for an individual not accustomed to sharing their feelings with an employer this is impossible.

Secondly, the kopicat should perhaps consider that maybe the maid has difficulty understanding her instructions for language or cultural reasons. Maybe as the other poster said maybe she doesn't have enough to do. Either way, maybe the maid feels uncomfortable as well and just says "I'm going to MOM" like someone taught her to or as a reflex .. kind of like when we make a mistake we say "I forgot"

It's strange that so many employers are unwilling to admit that there is a bad fit (we're all only human) or that perhaps they might have somethign to do with the problem (no offence intended to the kopicat)

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thekopicat
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« Reply #8 on: 18 February 2001, 12:20:00 PM »
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Thank you for all the replies.  It certainly put things into perspective.

I did talk to the agent.  According to her, the minute the maid turns to the MOM or the embassy for help, it will automatically put me at the losing end.  Unless, yes, if there is a contract signed between the maid and I, there is apparently little I can do.

Believe you me, I have internalised many of the problems before.  Sometimes I cite the language barrier as a cause, and sometimes the hurriedness when the instructions were given.  However whatever the cause was, that couldn't still explain the maid's forgetfulness or negligence, which seems to be getting more and more frequently.

But as a lesson, I shall be more aware of the responsibilities of myself as en employer.  I mean at the end of the day I try to be a good one as I have realised that I used to be too stern with my previous ones.  And I do admit sometimes we forget our prilieged position in life.  At least she only destroyed material possessions and not my cats' lives!!!

Again, thanks so much for all your input.  I am going to print it out so that anytime I feel 'arrrgghhh' again, I shall read it over and be 'counselled' by it.

But at the mean time, I shall keep my eye open for a possible new help.  My current one has asked to be released.  From my clutches!!!

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Lily Aritama
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« Reply #9 on: 19 February 2001, 8:52:00 AM »
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When you say "most of the time she has the freedom to do what she deems necessary in the house" you give the impression that you believe she knows what to do. But remember that she has very limited experience and exposure; and what is commonplace to you is new to her. She probably does not know why some things have to dry cleaned. And your electric iron and washing machine with all the different settings are probably beyond her comprehension, unless you have taught her well. To appreciate this abyss that separates a typical employer in Singapore and the maid from Indonesia, close your eyes and try to visualise the place where she is likely to come from: some kampong where houses are lit by oil lamps, where twigs are used for cooking, where drinking water comes from the well, etc.

So beware, lest you let loose a bull in a china shop! The bull that smashes the delicate china in a shop does not have a bad motive. It is not destroying your precious porcelain because it got a scolding. Even were it possible for you to teach the bull to be gentle, it will still break everything it comes in contact with. It is just doing what comes naturally. Even if you punish it
for breaking your prized porcelain, will that cure it of its "bullness"? If you "punish" your maid by making her pay just a little to underscore the  damage she has done, you will not be able very quickly to teach her to appreciate the situation she is in. Meanwhile she will resent you and have cause to ruin some more of you precious antiques.

If it is fair to compare your maid with this bull, then the solution is clear. Take the bull out of the china shop before more damage is done! Do not try to teach the bull; do not try to put the china out of its reach. Both approaches are bound to fail.

Do not feel compelled to stick with your bull just because you have had three failed attempts to employ maids before. No one wants to change a maid unnecessarily, but if it does not work, then it does not work. You do not have to wait until your English Regency ends up in the dust bin before you feel justified enough to take precautionary measure to prevent more damage.

Since she has had the benefit of "legal" advice, she knows that you cannot make her pay and this implies that she now believes this to be true, that she can go on breaking things whether you like it or not! And you will continue to pay her and feed her, just like MOM says, and she can go on breaking things and there is, apparently, nothing you can do about it, except cry.

But MOM never says that an employer should nurture a bull even as she lives in fear that the more she nurtures it, the more damage it will continue to do just by being itself.

Incidentally the Employment Act does not cover domestic employment and as far as I know, MOM has never stepped in when a maid gets fired.

When you give your maid something for nothing, she will not necessarily reciprocate by working a little more conscientiously. So when you give her extra money and ang pows, it is thank you ma'am, if that. You give a little extra after the maid has performed well, as a reward. You will always be disappointed to give her an inducement because it is not clear to her that there is a string attached. To her, what you give to her is free and she does not have to repay you.

So please ma'am let us not talk anymore about the gifts. You owe her a living, she thinks. But be assured, MOM does not think so.

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cs
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« Reply #10 on: 19 February 2001, 10:12:00 AM »
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With respect of the Employment Act, I refer to section 67.

"67 The Minister may, from time to time, by notification in the Gazette, apply all or any of the provisions of this Act with such modification as may be set out in the notification to all domestic workers or to any group, class or number of domestic workers and may make regulations to provide generally for the engagement and working conditions of domestic workers."

MOM is the lead government agency that implements the Employment Act. They would therefore be the Singapore govt agency that mediates in the event of a dispute. It is of course not common for a maid to go directly to MOM. A more common course of action would be to report the matter to their employment agency or to their embassy. These bodies however have no legal power in Singapore. If they resolve the dispute, the case would then normally be turned over to MOM.

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cs
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« Reply #11 on: 21 February 2001, 9:28:00 AM »
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The following is taken from today's Straits Times. It puts into perspective why MOM and other govt agencies takes a very active interest in what happens to domestic workers.
____________________

Indonesian maids flee sexual abuse
NGOs say maids returning from Saudi Arabia and Malaysia have complained of rapes, violence and non-payment of their full wages by employers

By Marianne Kearney
STRAITS TIMES INDONESIA BUREAU

JAKARTA - Dozens of Indonesian maids working in Saudi Arabia and Malaysia have fled their jobs due to sexual harassment or violence at the hands of their employers, a non-governmental organisation says.

At least 23 maids from Lombok province alone had returned home in the past few months complaining they had been raped or sexually harassed by their employers, said Mrs Endang Susilowati of the Panca Karsa Foundation, an organisation assisting Indonesian migrant workers.

In one case, a woman from a village in the province was raped by her employer's son.

As her employer had not paid her salary, she was forced to work for another family to earn money for her airfare back home.

Mrs Endang said there was no legal recourse for these women as it was almost impossible to prove that sexual abuse had taken place and many of the women did not report the abuse until they had returned home.

At least another 40 workers from Lombok, mostly women, had disappeared in Malaysia and Saudi Arabia, said Panca Karsa.

It is not known whether these women have married overseas or died and their deaths have gone unreported.

Many of the maids were easily exploited by both their employers and the employment agencies as they did not know the language of countries such as Saudi Arabia or knew their rights, said Mr Singgih Darjo Atmadja of the Centre for Indonesian Migrant Workers.

He said he had received complaints from at least 500 foreign worker over sexual harassment, violent employers or non-payment of full salaries.

He said working conditions for maids in Saudi Arabia were often the harshest because the women had little idea of the culture they were entering and were isolated from other foreign maids, and because Saudis expected them to carry out whatever task was demanded.

The plight of Indonesian maids working in the Middle East has made headlines here as a number of Indonesian women have been executed or narrowly avoided execution in Saudi Arabia for committing adultery.

The maids often claimed they had been raped.

Mr Singgih pointed out that Indonesian maids earned huge foreign currency for their country. In 1998 alone, Indonesians working overseas brought US$3.93 billion (S$6.8 billion) into the country.

But the government had done little to protect their rights, he said.

Migrant workers have almost no protection and usually no one to turn to when they encounter problems overseas.

There is no legal protection for foreign workers and Indonesia's embassies lack a labour attache to negotiate for the workers' conditions.

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