Maid had to sleep in employer's massage parlour after cleaning it

By day, Siti (not her real name), cooked and cleaned her employer's house.

By night, the 30-year-old Indonesian maid continued her work, cleaning her employer's massage parlour.

Her duties included washing used towels, cleaning massage beds and scrubbing toilets. Often, she had to sleep over there too.

This went on for about five months.

Tired and afraid, Siti eventually confided in her employer's neighbour, who advised her to call the Ministry of Manpower (MOM).

While cases like hers still exist, the good news is that the number of cases involving the illegal deployment of maids is falling.

A MOM spokesman said there are 206,000 foreign domestic workers in Singapore.

In 2008, 151 people were convicted of illegal deployment of maids.

For the first six months of last year, the figure dropped to just 36.

The decrease was due to ongoing enforcement and public outreach efforts, MOM's spokesman added.

In Siti's case, she had spent the last seven years doing housework for different employers in Singapore before working for her last family.

So it was "bad luck" she ended up working at a massage parlour, she told A. Pratama Employment Agency's general manager Desmond Phoon.

Mr Phoon, who got wind of Siti's case, did not know what had happened to her employer. He said Siti was cleared of wrongdoing and now works for another Singaporean family.

President of the Association of Employment Agencies (Singapore), Ms K. Jayaprema, said agencies are getting stricter with employers as they do not want to aid or abet any wrongdoing.

"In the past, employers were not so aware. They didn't see taking their workers to help out in their in-laws' (homes) as illegal deployment. But we caution the employers against doing so."

MOM's spokesman told The New Paper that foreign domestic workers can work only at the address stated in their work permits.

Some agents like Ms Lilian Pang, manager of 1 Astar Employment Agency, have declined business from demanding employers.

She recalled how, in January, a doctor was shopping for a worker to take on the usual household duties and clean her office twice a week.

Ms Pang said the doctor expected the maid to do more as she was going to pay her $450 monthly.

"I turned her down because the worker hadn't even arrived and she was already giving so many terms and conditions. I also didn't want to get myself into trouble," she added.

Nation Employment's managing director, Mr Gary Chin, said: "During the interview with the prospective employer, we'll find out his family background and the reason for hiring a maid.

"Usually, you'll be able to tell whether their intentions are legitimate."

He said he last came across a case of illegal deployment about 10 years ago.

But volunteers from migrant worker welfare groups Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics (Home) and Transient Workers Count Too (TWC2) said illegal deployment is still a bugbear.

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