Hiring foreign domestic workers in Singapore
This is an entry about foreign workers who serve as domestic help in Singapore.
As of the latest population statistics in June 2018, there are 250,100 foreign domestic workers in Singapore. Most of these workers come from Indonesia, Philippines and Myanmar.
Before hiring a foreign domestic worker, there are a few prerequisites for the parties involved.
Foreign Domestic Workers
The foreign domestic worker must fulfill the following requirements to be hired.
||These countries have been approved by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM):
Potential employers must not hire a helper outside of the above countries.
|8 years of formal education|
Additionally, the worker must not be related to the employer.
The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) will consider the applicant’s financial ability to hire, house and care for the domestic worker in an acceptable living environment.
|Age||Citizenship||Annual Household income|
|< 20 years old||
||Maid agencies in Singapore estimate the following:
According to the MOM, they cannot quote an official amount. This criteria is judged based on external factors such as the type of application and the number of people in the household. However, the following is confirmed:
For applicants looking to hire more than one domestic helper, they must have 2 or more young children (below 18 years old) or a parent or parent-in-law over 60 years old living in the same household.
Employers’ Orientation Programme (EOP)
All first-time applicants need to attend the Employers' Orientation Programme. The EOP is a compulsory 3-hour course that helps applicants understand their responsibilities as an employer. For example:
- Provide the domestic help with 3 meals a day, basic amenities and a room (with adequate shelter and privacy)
- All help is entitled to a weekly rest day. If they agree to work on their rest day, they must be compensated with 1 day’s worth of salary.
The EOP must be completed at least 2 working days before submitting the Work Permit application. Applicants can take the course in person or online. Upon completion, applicants will receive a certificate acknowledged by MOM.
|Professional & Adult Continuing Education (PACE) Academy
|$34.50||Online registration||Only conducted in English.|
|Nation Employment Pte Ltd
||$30||Walk-in||Conducted in English and Mandarin on alternate weeks.|
|Online||$46||Online registration||Only conducted in English.|
The Work Permit in Singapore lasts for 2 years. Employers can choose to apply manually or through an online portal.
The whole process of getting a work permit costs SGD$70. The breakdown of costs can be seen below.
|Fee(s) (SGD)||Register||Processing time||Notes|
|Application||$35||Application form (manual registration)||Processing time:
||Successful applicants will receive an In-Principle Approval (IPA) letter.
|Issuance||$35||Online issuance||Delivery time:
||The helper will be issued a Temporary Work Permit while waiting for the official Work Permit card.
The helper may have to register her fingerprints and photo at MOM.
For online registration, employers will need to retrieve written consent from the helper. These are the additional documents needed for manual applications:
- Employers' passports (copies)
- Employee's passport OR travel document (copy)
- Birth certificates / identity cards (copies)
- Documents verifying the employer's income
Types of application
Joint Income Scheme
Employers can also apply for the work permit under the Joint Income Scheme by combining income with another working family member (except for spouse) in the same household. Besides fulfilling all the basic requirements, applicants under this scheme must be the one receiving a higher salary compared to the other family member under the same application.
The Sponsorship Scheme allows senior citizens to apply for a Work Permit based on the income of up to 2 sponsors. To qualify for this scheme, applicant must be a Singapore Citizen or PR who is 60 years old and above. He or she must not be earning any income or staying with any working adults. The sponsors may be the applicant’s children or children’s spouse, grandchildren or grandchildren’s spouse or the applicant’s siblings.
Employers can select these schemes online when applying for the Work Permit.
The Security Bond is a binding pledge between the employer and the Singapore government. It is meant to protect the welfare of the foreign domestic help. Should the employer break the law or go against the conditions governing the employment of a foreign domestic worker, they will be fined up to SGD$5,000 by the Singapore government. Every employer has to purchase the bond, unless the foreign domestic worker hired is a Malaysian. Bonds usually take the form of an insurance or banker’s guarantee. The details of the security bond has to be sent to MOM before the domestic help arrives or she will be refused entry into Singapore.
The bond will be forfeited if the employer or foreign domestic worker violated any of the conditions of the Work Permit or security bond, if the helper’s salary was not paid on time or the employer failed to send her back when her Work Permit is no longer valid. The bond will be discharged only when the Work Permit has been cancelled by the employer, the helper has returned home and the employer did not breach any of the conditions of the security bond.
Employers need to purchase medical insurance with a coverage of at least SGD$15,000 per year for inpatient care and day surgery during the helper’s stay in Singapore. If the Work Permit is applied or renewed from 1 October 2017 onwards, a Personal accident insurance with a coverage of at least SGD$60,000 per year has to be bought for the helper. This insurance must cover sudden, unforeseen and unexpected incidents resulting in permanent disability or death. All compensations must be made payable to the helper or her beneficiaries.
The foreign domestic worker has to be sent for a medical examination within 2 weeks of her arrival in Singapore. The doctor must be registered in Singapore. The medical examination form (MOM medical form) should brought along on the day of doctor's appointment. If the individual is infected with tuberculosis, HIV, syphilis or malaria, she will be sent home as she is unfit for work. Employers must submit the completed medical examination form when requesting for the issuance of the Work Permit.
Once hired, a foreign domestic worker must be sent for the Six-monthly medical examination (6ME) and the cost will be borne by the employer. It includes a pregnancy and syphilis test which occurs every 6 months, and a HIV and tuberculosis test every 2 years.
Settling-In Programme (SIP)
Employers have to send a first-time foreign domestic worker for the Settling-In Programme (SIP) within 3 days of her arrival in Singapore. This is a 1-day orientation programme to educate the workers on safety precautions and living in Singapore. The course will be conducted in the helper’s native language and the SGD$75 course fee will be borne by the employer. The employer should register the foreign domestic help for the SIP before her arrival. Registration for the course at various locations can be made on the MOM website (MOM registration portal).
The foreign domestic worker should complete her SIP course within the first 3 working days of her arrival.
During the foreign domestic worker’s stay in Singapore, the employer will be responsible for her general well-being. Any breaching of rules may result in legal penalties or revocation of the Work Permit.
The domestic help must be paid every month, and her salary should not be lower than what the employer declared to MOM. With effect from 1 May 2017, all Filipino foreign domestic workers working Singapore must be paid a minimum of SGD$570 monthly. The Indonesian government also requires domestic help from Indonesia to be paid at least SGD$550 per month. Employers are encouraged to transfer the salary directly into their local bank account. Cash payments are also allowed but employers are required to keep a record of the salary payments. With effect from 1 January 2019, employers are no longer allowed to safe-keep their domestic help’s money, bank book or card even if she requests for it.
Foreign worker levy
Employers are also required to pay a monthly levy through GIRO. The foreign worker levy is a pricing mechanism that regulates the number of foreign workers in Singapore. The levy will begin on the 5th day of arrival for first-time foreign domestic workers and the following day of arrival for non first-timers. Employers who are under the normal levy scheme will have to pay a monthly rate of SGD$265, while those eligible for levy concession will pay SGD$60.
Employers who live with a Singaporean citizen child or grandchild who is under the age of 16 will be eligible to apply for the concession rate under the Young child or grandchild scheme. Individuals who are aged 65 or above, or live with an elderly member, can qualify for the Aged person scheme under the concession rate. However, with effect from 1 April 2019, the qualifying age for the Aged person scheme will be raised to 67 years old, in light of the improving life expectancy and health in Singapore. If the employer has a family member who needs permanent help in at least 1 daily activity (showering, feeding etc), he can apply for the Persons With Disabilities scheme through Singapore Silver Pages (official website). All other applications should be made through MOM’s online service (MOM levy service portal).
References / Citations
- “Foreign workforce numbers”. Ministry of Manpower. November 12, 2018. Accessed on 29 January 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.mom.gov.sg/documents-and-publications/foreign-workforce-numbers
- “Foreign domestic worker eligibility”. Ministry of Manpower. November 15, 2018. Accessed on 29 January 2019.
- “Summary of everything you need to know before hiring a domestic worker”. HelperChoice. Accessed on 29 January 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.helperchoice.com/singapore/domestic-helper
- "What is the minimum income needed to employ an FDW?". Ministry of Manpower. Accessed on 28 November 2019.
- “Rest days and well-being for foreign domestic workers”. Ministry of Manpower. December 6, 2018. Accessed on 30 January 2019.
- “Employers’ Orientation Programme (EOP)”. Ministry of Manpower. July 17, 2018. Accessed on 29 January 2019.
- "FDW-EOP Foreign Domestic Worker Employers' Orientation Programme (Online)". Singapore Polytechnic. Accessed on 28 February 2019.
- “Apply for a Work Permit for foreign domestic worker.” Ministry of Manpower. January 14, 2019. Accessed on 29 January 2019.
- Ministry of Manpower. "Application for a foreign domestic helper work permit". Updated on October 3, 2018. Accessed on 28 February 2019.
- “Security bond requirements for foreign domestic worker”. Ministry of Manpower. June 21, 2018. Accessed on 29 January 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.mom.gov.sg/passes-and-permits/work-permit-for-foreign-domestic-worker/eligibility-and-requirements/security-bond
- Lin, Peter. “Cost of Hiring a Domestic Helper in Singapore”. Moneysmart. April 24, 2018. Accessed on 29 January 2019. Retrieved from: https://blog.moneysmart.sg/family/cost-hiring-domestic-helper-singapore/
- “Pre-employment medical examination for FDW”. Ministry of Manpower. October 27, 2016. Accessed on 29 January 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.mom.gov.sg/passes-and-permits/work-permit-for-foreign-domestic-worker/eligibility-and-requirements/medical-examination
- “Six-monthly medical examination (6ME) for foreign domestic worker (FDW)”. Ministry of Manpower. December 10, 2018. Accessed on 30 January 2019. Retrieved from : https://www.mom.gov.sg/passes-and-permits/work-permit-for-foreign-domestic-worker/eligibility-and-requirements/six-monthly-medical-examination
- Ong, Tanya. “Foreign domestic helper in S’pore declines pay raise to S$800, says she is ‘already receiving too much”. Mothership. May 18, 2018. Accessed on 30 January 2019. Retrieved from: https://mothership.sg/2018/05/foreign-domestic-helper-declined-salary-increment/
- “Paying levy for a foreign domestic worker”. Ministry of Manpower. August 17, 2018. Accessed on 30 January 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.mom.gov.sg/passes-and-permits/work-permit-for-foreign-domestic-worker/foreign-domestic-worker-levy/paying-levy
- “Levy concession for a foreign domestic worker.” Ministry of Manpower. August 3, 2018. Accessed on 30 January 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.mom.gov.sg/passes-and-permits/work-permit-for-foreign-domestic-worker/foreign-domestic-worker-levy/levy-concession