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Beyond Agency Fee And Salary: 6 Hidden Costs of Hiring A Migrant Domestic Worker In Singapore

Do not treat your helper as a cheap source of labour


Hiring a Migrant Domestic Worker (MDW), or colloquially known as a helper in Singapore has become a necessity for households with dual-income couples with children or elderly folks to care for. Yet, it may not be straight forward for some households given the cost of hiring a helper. There are known costs associated with hiring a maid, such as the agency fees if you were to engage your helper through a maid agency and the monthly salary of the helper, which varies depending on her nationality and experience level.

At the same time, there are also other relatively unknown or hidden costs that could have a compounded financial impact on the cost of hiring a maid. This article serves to highlight these hidden costs so that you can understand and factor them in when deciding to hire a helper.

Read Also: [2022 Edition] How Much Does It Cost To Hire A Maid In Singapore?

#1 Understanding The Employment Rules When Hiring A Migrant Domestic Worker In Singapore  

As an employer, you must make sure that your helper’s employment complies with the Work Permit regulatory conditions. Otherwise, you could be financially penalised and be barred from hiring another maid.

For example, you must first ensure that your helper has a valid work permit. Failure to do so could result in a $5,000 to $30,000 fine, imprisonment for up to 1 year, or both.

Next, you must ensure that your helper works at the residential address declared to MOM and performs only domestic chores. If she were to perform non-domestic chores like car washing, gardening, repairing, and tutoring, or take on work with other employers at another residential address, that could result in you being fined for up to $10,000 and also being banned from hiring helpers.

Additionally, you could also face severe penalties if you’re convicted for the ill-treatment of your helper, which includes both physical and emotional abuse.

[Potential Fine: $5,000 to $30,000, imprisonment, debarment from hiring another maid]

Read Also: How Much Does It Cost To Hire Part-Time Cleaners In Singapore?

#2 Providing Accommodation To Your Helper

One of the basic duties as an employer that you must fulfill is to provide your maid with accommodation.

Under the Employment of Foreign Manpower (Work Passes) Regulations, the maid’s place of residence must be the same as the employer. This would make it easier to care for the maid’s wellbeing and safety.

Some of the requirements for the accommodation are that it should provide adequate shelter from the elements and have sufficient ventilation. If possible, a separate room should be provided for your helper. If not, you must at least ensure that the maid’s accommodation has adequate space and privacy. You must also provide basic amenities such as a mattress, pillow, blanket, bathroom amenities, and toiletries.

The cost of providing accommodation includes one-off items such as the provision of basic amenities and ventilation (i.e. electrical fan) which may range between $150 to $400. Furthermore, there is also an ongoing cost incurred for the toiletries and physical accommodation space. Based on the cost of room rentals in HDB flats, this may range between $450 and $1,000 depending on the location and amenities provided in the accommodation.

[Estimated Cost: One off: $150 to $400 / Ongoing Opportunity Cost: $450 to $1,000 a month]

#3 Providing Adequate Food To Your Helper

Another important responsibility that you must undertake as an employer is to provide your maid with three nutritious meals a day.

MOM has suggested the following meal plan as an example of a day’s food intake for a female engaged in moderate activity.

Source: MOM

The cost of food could represent one of the biggest hidden running costs of hiring a maid, as we may not normally keep track of this expense. The cost of a meal also depends on whether the household does more home cooking or buys its meals.

Assuming an expense of around $2 for breakfast and $4 each for lunch and dinner, would mean having to set aside around $10 a day or $300 per month for your helper’s meals. This could add up quickly if the household were to eat out often and bring their helper along with them.

[Estimated Cost: $300]

#4 Bearing Your Helper’s Medical Related Expenses

Cost Of Buying Maid Insurance Plans

One of the responsibilities that you need to undertake as an employer before the arrival of your helper is to buy her a medical insurance plan.

According to the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) requirements, employers need to buy mandatory medical insurance coverage of at least $15,000 per year for inpatient care and day surgery. This required coverage will be further enhanced to have a co-payment element and a higher annual limit of $60,000 by the end of the year.

Additionally, you also need to get a personal accident insurance policy for your helper that has a limit of at least $60,000 per year to cover sudden, unforeseen, and unexpected incidents resulting in permanent disability or death. Do make sure to nominate either your helper or her beneficiaries for the compensation.

Depending on the coverage that you choose for personal accident, hospitalisation & surgical expenses, and third-party liability, the cost of insurance plans could range between $209 and $493.

[Estimated Costs: $209 to $493 per year]

Read Also: [2020 Edition] Complete Guide To Buying Maid Insurance In Singapore

Other Medical Expenses That You Might Incur

Another aspect of medical costs that you, as an employer, need to bear is the ad hoc medical and dental expenses of your helper.

A consultation at a local polyclinic would cost your helper $53.50 or $73.90 at the family physician clinic as a non-resident. Moreover, depending on the dental work required, NTUC’s denticare charges between $550 and $850 for a full denture (full per arch).

[Estimated Costs: above $50]

#5 Airfare Related Costs You Need To Bear

When you bring in a migrant domestic worker, you will be required to bear the full cost of sending them back home when the employment relationship ends. This includes whether the MDW has completed her contract or is leaving early.

You must buy her an air ticket which must include the check-in luggage to her home country and transport to her hometown.

Country Cost of Air Ticket*
Indonesia $180 – $250
Myanmar $200 – $430
Philippines $150 – $220

*Ticket prices may change may differ at the time of booking.

[Estimated Costs: $150 to $430]

Traveling Overseas With A Maid

Overseas travel is rising in popularity once again as more people go on vacation after border measures were relaxed for most countries in 2022. If you decide to bring your maid along on your overseas trips, whether to care for your family members during the trip or as a reward, you will need to bear the additional costs of airfare, visa application fees, and other travel-related costs.

The total cost of bringing your maid along for overseas trips could depend on how frequently you travel in a year, the destination, and the duration of the holiday.

[Estimated Costs: it depends]

#6 Cost Of Additional Training

If you are hiring a first-time migrant domestic worker (MDW), you need to send her for a 1-day Settling-In Programme (SIP). The orientation program, which costs $75, would educate the MDWs on safety precautions and living in Singapore.

The topics that will be covered under the SIP are as follows:

  • Adapting to working and living in Singapore
  • Conditions of employment
  • Working safely
  • Relationship and stress management

Some families may have a specific caregiving duty that they require the helper to perform. This duty might have been required at the start of the employment contract or something after that. You can hire a helper who is trained to provide these specialised caregiving skills for a higher salary or pay for the helper’s training to ensure they are adequately trained to perform the tasks that you require of them.

For example, if you have a new born, then you could decide to send your helper for infant/baby caregiving training, such as “The Competent Nanny” course, which costs $200, or the “Child & Infant CPR Workshop” organised by KK Hospital, which costs $35.

Additionally, some employers also send their helpers to a course of their choice. For example, an article in the Strait Times reported how an employer paid $4,000 in training fees for her helper to learn how to drive. There are also other courses conducted specifically for helpers in Singapore by FAST Lifelong Learning Centre, such as specialised health and pain management for eldercare and a certificate in business management that are also endorsed by the Indonesian and Philippines embassies.

[Estimated Cost: minimum $75 for first time maids, others may vary]

Do Unto Others As You Would Like Them To Do Unto You

Just like it is impractical to list all the dos and don’ts that you need to follow as an employer of a migrant domestic worker, so it is to count every dollar and cent. Instead, we could be guided by the golden rule of “do unto others as you would like them to do to you.”

The MDW, while working for a salary, is in fact someone who is helping you and your family with your daily household needs and chores, which you cannot do yourself. Therefore, do treat them well as they too could be someone else’s daughter, wife, or mother like yourself.

[Estimated Cost: Good Karma]

Read Also: DollarsAndSense Experiences: Why It Makes Sense To Hire Professionals To Deep Clean Your Home After A Renovation

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