Many Singaporean households would have considered hiring a maid or Foreign Domestic Worker (FDW) to help with household chores and/ or caretaking duties for various reasons, such as caring for a newborn or an elderly parent recovering from a stroke. COVID-19 has not changed this and may have even made it a more preferred option as families may decide that it makes more sense to hire live-in help to care for vulnerable seniors or young children than to expose them to the possible risk of infection in communal care facilities.
Post-COVID-19, the process of hiring an FDW has become more complicated and costly with the restrictions on border movements and compliance to COVID-19 safety measures. Here are 4 additional things to know when hiring a FDW during COVID-19.
#1 Additional Costs For FDWs Entering Singapore
Due to border restrictions, foreigners including FDWs must comply with COVID-19 measures, including swab tests and mandatory stay-home-notice period, to enter Singapore.
These entry costs differ depending on the country your FDW is arriving from. You can refer to the Ministry of Manpower (MOM)’s advisory for the detailed entry requirements from the different countries.
|Country which FDW is arriving from||COVID-19 Swab Test required?||Stay-Home-Notice required?|
|New or existing FDWs arriving from Vietnam. This would also include the unlikely cases of those arriving from Brunei, New Zealand and Australia (except for the state of Victoria)||Yes. Conducted at the airport ($300).||SHN is not required. FDWs are required to stay isolated in their accommodation (which could include employer’s residence) before receiving their test results (typically within 3 days).
|Existing FDWs returning from Hong Kong (from 14 October 2020, 23:59), Macao, Mainland China, Malaysia and Taiwan||Yes. To be done near the end of the SHN period ($200).||7-Days SHN, either at the employer’s residence or at dedicated SHN hotels.
|New FDWs returning from Hong Kong (from 14 October 2020, 23:59), Macao, Mainland China, Malaysia and Taiwan||Yes. To be done near the end of the SHN period ($200).||7-Days SHN at dedicated SHN hotels only.|
|New or existing FDWs arriving from the rest of the world (such as the Philippines, Myanmar, Thailand, etc.). This includes Hong Kong (before 14 October 2020, 11.59pm) and Sabah (Malaysia) (from 14 October 2020, 11.59pm)||Yes. To be done near the end of the SHN period ($200).||14-Days SHN at dedicated SHN facilities only ($1,500).
Additionally, FDWs arriving from India, Indonesia (from 19 October 2020, 11.59pm) and Philippines (from 19 October 2020, 11.59pm) must take a COVID-19 polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test within 72 hours before departure.
For new FDWs entering Singapore for employment and existing FDWs who left Singapore for work reasons (such as accompanying the employer overseas), the employer is required to pay for the full cost of entry including the COVID-19 swab test, private transport to SHN facility and the SHN accommodation. However, MOM does not require employers to pay the full cost of entry for existing FDWs who left Singapore for personal reasons.
For example, if your current FDW is returning from Philippines and she had left Singapore because you had required her to accompany you to Philippines (a work reason), you are required to pay for her cost of the COVID-19 swab test, as well as the SHN accommodation. If she had left Singapore to visit her family, you should come to a mutual agreement with her on who should pay for the entry costs.
In the unfortunate event when your FDW is unable to enter Singapore as scheduled, you would still be required to pay for the SHN arrangements (at dedicated facilities) and the COVID-19 swab test that is arranged prior to her arrival in Singapore. You cannot cancel and receive a refund for these pre-arranged entry costs.
#2 You Need To Pay The Salary Of Existing FDWs Serving Stay-Home-Notice (SHN)
The employment status of your FDW can make a significant difference in how much you are required to pay. If the FDW you are hiring is coming to Singapore for the first time for employment, you will be required to pay her salary only upon her arrival at your residence.
For existing FDWs who are returning to Singapore from overseas, you are required to pay her salary when she arrives in Singapore, regardless of whether she is staying in a dedicated SHN facility or at your residence.
For example, if your current FDW is returning from Philippines, you would have to pay her salary for the 2 weeks that she is serving her SHN. Whereas, if you hire a new FDW from Philippines, you would only start paying her salary after she is deployed to your residence.
#3 Levy Waivers For FDWs Unable To Return To Singapore
In light of the border controls, if your existing FDW is unable to return to Singapore due to travel restrictions, you are eligible to apply for a levy waiver which is capped at 90 days.
Additionally, to support employers affected by the sudden implementation of SHN measures, MOM has provided financial support at $60 per day for new FDWs whose work pass applications are submitted to MOM on or before 15 March 2020 and for returning existing FDWs who have left Singapore on or before 15 March 2020.
If you hired a new FDW after 15 March 2020, you are not eligible for this financial support. Likewise, employers of existing FDWs who have left Singapore after 15 March 2020 are also not eligible for this support as the departure took place, in spite of the travel advisories.
#4 Employers Have Additional Responsibilities Regarding SHN And Rest Days
Employers are required to support their FDWs during their SHN period to comply with the new COVID-19 measures. This includes ensuring that your FDW remains contactable during the SHN period by providing her with a Singapore mobile number, ensuring that the SIM card contains sufficient value and keeping the records updated with MOM. To facilitate tracking and temperature taking, your FDW is also required to install the “Homer” app on her phone and report her temperature 3 times a day during her SHN.
As FDW rest days are affected by the curtailment of social activities during Phase 2, employers should also come to a mutual agreement with their FDWs regarding their rest days:
- If your FDW agrees to spend her rest day at home, she should not be assigned work on the rest day.
- If your FDW agrees to forgo her rest days, you as the employer must provide compensation in lieu of the rest day.
- If your FDW wishes to go outside during her rest days, you should encourage her to do so on weekdays, while complying with the safe distancing measures imposed by the relevant authorities.
Consider Hiring A Transfer Maid Instead Of A New Maid From Overseas
Given the new challenges of hiring a new FDW from overseas, hiring a FDW that is already in Singapore may be worth considering.
In light of the travel restrictions, MOM has made transferring the employment of FDWs easier with employment agencies. Maid employment agencies with an additional license now can help employers cancel their FDW’s work permit even without securing a new employer for the FDW. The agency is then responsible for the FDW until she is deployed to a new employer or send her home if there is no available transfer.
While hiring a transfer maid is usually more costly because of the additional work experience, this may be offset in a time of a pandemic where travel restrictions and entry costs make hiring a new FDW difficult and costlier. Additionally, the work experience may be an advantage as they are already familiar with working in Singapore and may assimilate to your household more easily.