The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) is investigating reports of a maid who was ordered by her employer to clean a canal in the Lorong Chuan area.
A ministry spokesman told My Paper yesterday that foreign domestic workers are allowed to work for their employers only at the addresses stated on their work permits.
This is according to the Employment of Foreign Manpower Act.
"The employer also has to ensure that the foreign domestic worker performs only household and domestic duties. The Ministry of Manpower is investigating the reported case," said the spokesman.
Chinese evening daily Lianhe Wanbao reported on Sunday that a maid had been spotted cleaning a canal in Colchester Grove under her employer's orders, to prevent the breeding of mosquitoes. She was also seen wiping the leaves of plants in a nearby park.
The MOM spokesman said that employers "who deploy their foreign domestic workers illegally may face a fine of up to $10,000 and/or 12 months' imprisonment".
"Such employers may also be banned from employing foreign domestic workers," she added.
The case has caused a stir among many people. An English version of the report that My Paper ran on Monday was shared on The Straits Times Facebook page, and garnered more than 2,000 likes, 1,000 shares and 800 comments as of 8.30pm yesterday.
Facebook user Neo Kaiwen commented that it was very dangerous for the maid to clean the canal, adding that "a storm upstream will result in rapidly rising and fast-flowing waters, which could have swept her away".
Another netizen, Khun Tim, noted that the job was for contractors appointed by the National Environment Agency (NEA) and not the maid, adding that the owners should write to NEA for fogging services or "appoint their own pest controller to do fogging in their yard".
John Gee, chairman of the research committee at non-profit migrant worker welfare organisation Transient Workers Count Too, said that it was the first such incident its social workers had heard of.
He said that it likely breaches work permit conditions "since this is work that is not performed in the employer's home".
Mr Gee said that if the maid's employer had felt so strongly about the state of the canal near his home, he could have cleaned the canal himself or organised a community effort for it, instead of getting his maid to do it.
When contacted, an NEA spokesman confirmed that the agency has received feedback from the public "requesting for the clearance of the outlet drain behind 31 Colchester Grove".
"Our service provider clears the litter from the drain three times a week, while the de-silting of the drain is carried out once every three months," he said.
Get MyPaper for more stories.