In 2020, having a maid (or ‘foreign domestic worker’ in official terms) in Singapore is no longer reserved for the most well-heeled members of society.
According to recent statistics, there are over 250,000 maids in the country with one in every five households having a maid — a huge jump from one in 13 in 1990, when there were about 50,000 maids.
Hiring a maid may be far more accessible today, but it can still be costly. A big reason for that is agency fees, which can cost up to $3,000 — more than five months’ wages in many cases.
Of course, this is not to say that agencies don’t provide a valuable service.
In today’s world, consumers place a premium on convenience, and that is exactly what agencies provide. They handle the sourcing, the contracts, and all the admin work that goes into the process.
Many employers are more than happy to pay that additional cost to have all that hassle taken care of.
But what about those who want to opt for the DIY route?
Hiring a maid without an agency – both you and the maid save money
As an employer, the cost savings for hiring a maid without an agency are obvious — you save on the agency fees.
But did you know that by hiring a maid directly, you often help the maid out as well?
You see, agencies don’t just make money from you — many profit from the maids as well. Many maids must forego their first few months of wages as payment to the agency.
By cutting out the middleman and hiring them directly, you help them save money too.
Many maids already face a substantial risk of exploitation in pursuit of better prospects for themselves and their families back home. If you can help them out by cutting out the middleman — and treating them fairly, of course — why not?
Here are the six steps to follow for hiring a maid without an agency in Singapore.
Step 1: Attend the Employer’s Orientation Programme (EOP)
Attending the EOP is part of the requirements stipulated by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) for all employers who want to employ maids.
Other requirements are obvious, such as being over 21 years old, not being an undischarged bankrupt, and having the mental and financial capacity to hire a maid.
Note that you only need to attend the EOP if you are a first-time employer or an employer who has changed maids frequently (i.e. you’ve raised some red flags with the Ministry).
It costs $35 to $60 depending on whether you do it in-person or online.
Step 2: Find and filter suitable candidates
Here comes the hard part: finding and filtering suitable candidates.
Each employer’s domestic situation is unique, so we won’t dive into how you should filter for those. You would know best.
Regardless of your individual situation, however, the maid must herself meet the MOM’s requirements. These cover the potential candidate’s gender, age, country of origin, and educational background.
If she is a first-time maid, she also has a programme to attend, called the Settling-In Programme, although this is only applicable after you have hired her.
The obvious question is then, where can I find these candidates in the first place?
Well, employers going for the DIY route typically already have someone in mind — usually a maid recommended by a friend or family member. Because these maids have already worked in Singapore, they are called ‘transfer maids’.
There are also online databases you can use.
Note that these will likely include both transfer maids and those still overseas. Their status would affect the steps you must carry out to bring them into your employment.
You might also have to pay a nominal fee in exchange for access to these databases.
Step 3: Negotiate terms
Once you’ve narrowed down your list, it’s time to contact the maids directly and negotiate terms.
Again, we won’t delve too much into this step because your expectations of an ideal maid would vary depending on your domestic situation.
You also need to consider the maid’s personal circumstances such as her religion, familial status, skills, medical needs, and her off day requests.
As with any good negotiation, it is important to make your expectations known upfront.
That said, keep in mind that as a potential employer, you are most definitely not on equal footing with her. You are in a position of power — and as the saying goes, with great power comes great responsibility.
Don’t abuse it and give Singaporeans a bad name.
Step 4: Apply for a new work permit
Now that you’ve found a suitable candidate, it’s time to handle the documentation.
Go to this official MOM page to apply for a new work permit for your future maid. Note that each work permit lasts for two years.
You will also see from the page that the requirements differ depending on whether your maid is a transfer maid or is still overseas.
Step 5: Purchase maid insurance (and pay the MOM’s security bond)
The MOM mandates certain insurance requirements for each maid. This includes personal accident coverage of $60,000 per year and a further $15,000 per year in hospitalisation coverage.
There are many maid insurance options available to you, and to make the best choice, check out our list of the best maid insurance plans and discounts.
Next, you will have to pay the MOM a $5,000 security bond. Yes, it’s a steep cost, and no, you can’t get around it unless your maid is Malaysian.
You will get this bond back after the work permit has expired and your maid has returned home successfully.
Oftentimes, you can buy the security bond together with the insurance as a package.
Note that this still applies even if you are hiring a transfer maid. Here are the steps needed to transfer a maid directly from one employer to another.
And of course, if your maid is coming from overseas, you will also have to bear the cost of the air ticket.
You will also need to send her for a medical check-up within two weeks of her arrival and bring her for photo-taking and fingerprinting within seven days after issuance of the work permit.
Step 6: Set up an interbank GIRO for paying the monthly levy
To regulate the number of maids in the country, the MOM mandates employers pay a monthly levy.
The standard levy is $300, but if you qualify for certain concessions it can be as low as $60.
Note if you have more than one maid, the levy will be increased to $450.
The levy must also be paid via interbank GIRO. Go to this page and log in with your SingPass to check and pay your levies.
Step 7: Sign employment and safety contracts with your new maid
Once all the above has been settled and the work permit is issued, there are still a couple documentary processes you must follow.
The MOM dictates you sign a safety agreement before she can begin working for you. You can find templates in seven different languages on the MOM’s site here.
Finally, although maids are not covered by the Employment Act, you are still encouraged to sign an employment contract with her.
This should cover the basics such as salary, notice period, and number of off-days per month. Here’s a sample template you can use.
Save even more by choosing the right maid insurance for you
You’re probably considering the DIY route for budgetary reasons. So why not make sure you maximise your savings by choosing the maid insurance plan that best fits your needs?
Go to this page to view and compare all our maid insurance plans at a glance.
This article was first published in SingSaver.com.sg.