Guide to Hiring A Foreign Domestic Helper in Singapore (Part 1)

Guide to Hiring A Foreign Domestic Helper in Singapore (Part 1)

Hiring a domestic worker is no longer considered a luxury for many Singaporeans but a necessity. The increase in the number of dual-income parents due to the rising cost of living to the ageing population has caused many Singapore families to turn to domestic workers to ease the burden of their daily responsibilities at home.

Having a domestic helper can be one of the huge plusses of living in Singapore, especially if you have children, seniors or pets. But, before you make the decision to hire a Migrant Domestic Worker (MDW), ask yourself these questions. They are designed to prepare you for what lies ahead.


1. Have you considered all the financial implications? Are you prepared to commit to the legal responsibilities that come with employing an MDW?

Apart from the levy and your MDW’s salary, you must provide and pay for her upkeep and maintenance including medical treatment (including non-work related treatments), accommodation and food. You should also factor in other onetime costs such as agency fees, work pass application fees, cost of accident and medical insurance. The cost of her return air ticket is also to be borne by the employer.


2. Are you prepared to set aside time (at least a few months if your MDW is new to Singapore) to train and supervise her?

Your MDW may not have done domestic work before. It could be the first time she is working overseas. The household work you require her to do may be different from that in her previous job/household. You will need to supervise her closely during the initial months of employment. If you are hiring someone with whom you share no common language, you are likely to have to spend even more time helping her settle in.


3. Are you and your family members comfortable with the idea of another person living with you?

An MDW lives and works in your home and your family should be prepared for this. You should discuss your decision to employ an MDW with your family members and ensure that they are comfortable with it before you go ahead.


4. As your MDW may be new to working in Singapore, or even new to domestic work, are you prepared to give her time to learn and adjust, and guide her and correct her mistakes patiently?

Your MDW is likely to have a very different way of life in her home country. She will need time to learn and adjust to our culture, environment and the different languages and dialects spoken here.



What To Expect When You Hire An MDW

You may face some challenges when you employ an MDW. Remember that she may speak a different language and may not be able to converse with you in English.


1. She may not have worked in the domestic sector, or as an MDW in Singapore before, hence:

  • She may need coaching and close supervision in the early stages of employment.
  • She is not likely to be used to working in high-rise buildings and may not be aware of the dangers when cleaning windows or hanging out laundry.
  • She may not be familiar with the use of modern household appliances.
  • She may or may not be able to take care of your children, or elderly, according to your expectations, and time will be needed to communicate expectations.

2. She may not know how to do all the jobs you ask her to do

Even if she had previously worked as an MDW in Singapore, different households have different expectations and practices.


3. She will need regular medical examinations

Medical examinations are mandatory upon her entry to Singapore and then for every six months that she works here. The pre-employment medical examination screens the MDW for four types of infectious diseases (tuberculosis, HIV, syphilis and malaria) and checks if she is fit to work. She will also need a regular pregnancy test. You may want to send her for more tests if you have specific concerns about her health.


4. Maintaining a good working relationship with your MDW takes time and effort

It takes commitment to build a long-term relationship based on trust and openness.


5.  MDWs don’t suit all families

Do you really need an MDW? There are alternatives. For example, if you have caregiving needs, day care centres could look after your children or the elderly in your home. Some day care centres also provide transport services for the elderly to and from their centre. Or if you have cleaning needs for your household, you could hire local or part-time cleaners.



The Cost of Getting A Helper in Singapore

Before hiring a domestic helper in Singapore, you should consider the total price you will incur. Initial costs, such as agency fees, work permit application, insurances, and medical examination, can average to about $1,700. It may seem overwhelming, but it’s a one-time fee that you have to pay upfront.

The average monthly salary of a domestic worker is at least $600. But, depending on the origin country of your helper and her work experience, the monthly salary may vary. For example, the governments of Indonesia and the Philippines require domestic workers in their countries to receive a minimum wage. In contrast, countries like Myanmar and Malaysia allow lower rates for domestic workers in their countries.

Other recurring costs to consider when hiring a domestic helper include the rest day entitlement, provision of proper upkeep and accommodation, provision of medical treatment (including non-work related), as well as food and transportation assistance.



The Waiting Time to Hire A Helper in Singapore

After the entire application process is complete, it usually takes one to four weeks for the helper to arrive in Singapore and start working if you have hired a domestic helper through a maid agency. The duration can vary depending on the employee’s country of origin.



Employer Requirements for Hiring A Helper

Before you go about employing your first FDW, you need to check the current criteria as stated by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM). In a nutshell, you’ll need to be:

  • At least 21 years old
  • Have no undischarged bankrupt proceedings against you
  • Have the mental capacity to fully understand and discharge your responsibility as an employer.

The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) will also take into consideration the nature of your needs – will it be for an elderly in the family or a small child. They will also check your financial capabilities – maintenance and upkeep for the helper is also your responsibility. 

You, as an employer, would need to abide by the guidelines set up by the MOM. Plus, if you are a first-time employer of an MDW, you need to attend the Employer Orientation Programme.




If you have considered the above factors and are ready to hire your domestic helper, you may want to know that some employers choose to employ an MDW without going through an employment agency (EA), but there are also those who prefer to engage an EA for help. In our next blog post, we will summarise the key things you should look out for when engaging an EA.


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