A SINGAPOREAN woman was fined $34,500 for not paying her domestic worker for more than a year and getting her to work at an unauthorised location.
Tang Lee Sung, 39, who lives in a semi-detached house, did not pay Indonesian Astrilia Agustin, 27, her salary for the period of November 2011 to May 2013, said the Manpower Ministry (MOM) in a statement yesterday.
The maid was to be paid $420 a month. In total, Tang owed $5,778 after deducting agent fees.
Ms Astrilia was also made to go to Johor Baru to take care of cats belonging to Tang's mother almost every day, even though she was supposed to work only in Tang's home in Jalan Rengas, in Seletar Hills.
District Judge Kamala Ponnampalam found Tang guilty of all 19 charges of defaulting on salary payments, and one charge of illegal deployment. Tang was given a $32,000 fine for defaulting on the salary payments, the highest so far, and fined $2,500 for illegal deployment.
During the two-day trial which started on April 13, Tang said Ms Astrilia had agreed that her mother would keep her salary for her and pay her later.
However, Tang and her mother refused to pay Ms Astrilia at the end of her employment contract as they claimed that she had not performed her tasks well.
The mother and daughter alleged that Ms Astrilia had damaged their properties and mistreated their cats.
However, the prosecution said Tang had no grounds to withhold the salary of the domestic worker.
According to MOM regulations, employers have to pay their domestic workers' salaries no later than seven days after the last day of the salary period, which cannot exceed one month.
Tang was also ordered to make good the salary arrears due to Ms Astrilia. She was not represented by a lawyer.
Employers who do not pay their domestic workers face a fine of up to $10,000 and/or a jail term of up to 12 months.
The problem of errant employers failing to pay salaries on time has grown.
Last year, there were eight employers convicted, up from five in 2013, an MOM spokesman said.
The director of the MOM's foreign manpower management division, Mr Kevin Teoh, said strong enforcement action would be taken against employers who wilfully withheld their workers' salaries.
Tang was not at home when The Straits Times visited yesterday. Neighbours said she mostly keeps to herself and used to have several cats in her home.
Employment agents said they still see such cases of non-payment of salaries despite strict regulations.
"Heavy fines are deterrents but they happen only if the girl is able to report to MOM," said Ms K. Jayaprema, president of the Association of Employment Agencies Singapore.
Having their salaries withheld is not the only issue maids face, said Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics executive director Jolovan Wham.
Said Mr Wham: "The deterrent fine is a good move but more attention needs to be paid to other salary violations, such as unauthorised pay deduction, which are more common."
Additional reporting by Aw Cheng Wei
This article was first published on April 23, 2015.
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