SINGAPORE, Sept 9 — The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) said on Tuesday (Sept 8) that the warnings it had given to the family of Changi Airport Group chairman Liew Mun Leong were consistent with the actions taken for similar cases. It also disclosed that from 2017 to last year, it has taken action against an average of 155 employers yearly for illegally deploying their foreign domestic workers.
The case of Indonesian domestic worker Parti Liyani, 46, who used to work for Liew’s household and who was acquitted of charges of stealing from them, has thrust the issue of wrongful deployment of domestic workers into the limelight.
Illegal deployments include employers or their family members making the workers perform household chores or caregiving duties for two families, or making them do non-domestic work at commercial premises.
MOM had issued a warning to Liew’s wife, Madam Ng Lai Peng, and an advisory to his son, Karl Liew, in May 2018. These were for making Ms Parti work illegally at other premises, including the son’s home and office.
Yesterday, MOM said that among the yearly average of 155 employers who illegally deployed their foreign domestic workers, an average of about 60 were issued with an advisory notice, while 80 were issued with a caution notice. The remaining, about 16 on average a year, paid fines of between S$3,300 and S$24,000.
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Advisory notices are issued in cases where the illegal deployment is not “conclusively substantiated”, MOM said. These serve as a reminder of an employer’s legal obligations under the Employment of Foreign Manpower Act and the Employment of Foreign Manpower Regulations.
A caution notice, which is equivalent to a stern police warning, is issued when the illegal deployment is “infrequent, or took place over a short period of time”, MOM said.
“(This) sends a strong message to employers that they must comply with the law or face stronger enforcement action,” it added.
MOM released the latest data in response to media queries on how it handles illegal deployment cases, in light of Ms Parti’s court case.
During her trial, it emerged that she had threatened to file a complaint with MOM over being forced to work illegally at the home and the office of Karl Liew.
The ministry said on Tuesday: “In Ms Parti Liyani’s case, at the conclusion of our investigations, MOM consulted the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) as is the practice for similar cases, on the facts available.
“With AGC’s concurrence and, consistent with the actions taken in similar cases, in May 2018, MOM issued a caution against s Liew and an advisory notice to Karl Liew. There were no prior complaints lodged with MOM against any of the parties involved.”
The ministry also stressed that every allegation of illegal deployment is looked into and treated seriously.
In most cases, further investigations with the foreign domestic workers found that they were deployed to the employers’ close family members to continue to provide care to the children or seniors they were hired for.
In such cases, MOM clarified that it is legal.
However, the ministry said that the domestic workers must first accept these arrangements, and they must also not be required to perform the chores of two households.
Furthermore, the employer must take care of the mental wellbeing of the worker.
“To avoid any misunderstanding or dispute, employers should work out a mutually agreed job scope with their foreign domestic worker,” MOM said.
The ministry said that between 2017 and 2019, it received an average of 550 complaints a year on the illegal deployment of foreign domestic workers by their employers or their household members.
This represents 0.2 per cent of the more than 236,000 employers who hire foreign domestic workers.
Of these complaints, 76 per cent were reported by third parties, while 24 per cent were surfaced by the domestic workers themselves.
“A good number of foreign domestic workers who alleged illegal deployment had left employment when they reported the matter to MOM,” the ministry said. “Some of them requested for assistance to return home while others requested to be allowed a transfer of employment.”
The ministry also said that it regularly provides educational materials to foreign domestic workers, who are advised of the different channels of assistance available to them.
They may report illegal deployment or other employment difficulties to MOM and do not have to wait until they have left employment.
If they are unsure if their deployment is in order with the law, they should call MOM’s dedicated phone line for such enquiries at 1800-339-5505 to seek help and clarification. — TODAY