Woman fined $34,500 for failing to pay salaries to helper

Woman fined $34,500 for failing to pay salaries to helper

SINGAPORE - A 39-year-old Singaporean woman has been fined $34,500 for falling to pay salaries to her foreign domestic worker.

Tang Lee Sung was convicted after trial in the State Courts of 19 counts for failing to pay $5,778 in salaries to her helper within seven days after the last day of each monthly salary for the period between Nov 11, 2011 and May 12, 2013.

Tang had employed an Indonesian domestic worker and agreed to pay her a monthly salary of $420, as reflected in her work pass application to the Ministry of Manpower (MOM).

According to the Work Permit conditions listed within the Employment of Foreign Manpower (Work Passes) Regulations, an employer is required to pay his or her FDW's salary not later than seven days after the last day of the salary period. The salary period cannot exceed one month.

During the period of employment, Tang had also allowed her mother to take her helper to Johor Bahru, Malaysia, to take care of her mother's cats at a rented house almost daily.

This amounted to a breach of one of the Work Permit conditions which permits a foreign domestic worker to only perform household and domestic duties at the residential address as stated in her Work Permit card.

During the two-day trial, Tang testified that her mother had a salary "safe-keeping" arrangement with her helper.

Tang and her mother refused to pay her helper her salaries at the end of her employment as they felt that the worker did not perform her tasks satisfactorily.

Tang, alleged that the worker had caused damage to their properties and mistreated her mother's cats.

However, the prosecution succeeded in stating its case that the said offences under the Employment of Foreign Manpower Act (EFMA) had clearly been committed.

Prosecution had shown that Tang had no grounds to withhold the salary, and that, whatever safekeeping arrangement between the parties was at best a contractual agreement and could not override the statutory obligation of Tang, as the employer.

The prosecution also proved that Tang had contravened one of the Work Permit conditions by allowing her helper to work in Johor Bahru.

At the close of the trial, the District Judge found Tang guilty and convicted her of all 19 charges of defaulting in salary payments and one charge of illegal deployment. She was also ordered by the Court to make good the entire salary arrears due to the worker.

Commenting on the case, Mr Kevin Teoh, Divisional Director of MOM's Foreign Manpower Management Division said, "It is reprehensible that an employer could think that it is justifiable to deny a worker her hard-earned salary. The Ministry takes a serious view of employers who wilfully withhold the payment of their workers' salaries and strong enforcement action will be taken."

Failure to pay salaries to foreign domestic workers is punishable by a fine of up to $10,000, or imprisonment for a term of up to 12 months, or both. For illegally deploying foreign domestic workers, a financial penalty of up to $10,000 can be imposed.

spanaech@sph.com.sg

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