Even More FAQs that will help you understand the employment of a domestic helper better...

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Q: I am a first-time employer of a domestic helper, and it seems like there are some new requirements. What exactly are they, and how would they affect me?

A: The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) has deemed it compulsory for all first-time employer of a domestic helper to attend an orientation program. This is applicable to all applications subsequent to 1 April 2004. There is also an equivalent orientation program for first-time domestic helper. 

The orientation program for employers lasts for 4 hours and costs $20. There is also an online orientation program that costs $30. Please click here to access this online e-learning course provided by the Singapore Polytechnic.

It is advised that you attend the course first, and then allow a day or two for the MOM systems to reflect that you have attended and passed the course before any application is made. Therefore, if your application is urgent, it is advisable to attend the course as soon as possible while conducting interviews to find the right helper for your family.

 

Q: What if during the interview, I cannot decide on which girl is right for me? All of them seemed pretty good.

A: It is pretty difficult to decide, especially if most of the shortlisted candidates are close to your requirements and you are pretty comfortable with them. One way to go about it is to ask yourself how do you feel about each girl. How do your spouse and your children feel about each girl? You may also wish to consider the reaction of  your pet dog or cat to the candidates, if applicable. :-)

Invite them to your house to see their working environment and ask them whether they would like working there. Another point to consider is why do you need a helper in the first place? What is the most important task that you need her for, and whether each candidate can satisfy your needs?

Another way is to assign a number from 1 to 10 on each girl such that 10 is the perfect girl that you would want to employ immediately and 1 is the girl you wouldn't even consider in the first place. This would help you gauge the girls in a "concrete" manner as how good each girl is can be represented by a number. Hence, the higher the number of the girl, the better she suits you.

Yet another way is to go by elimination. That is, comparing girl A to girl B, you decide to take girl A. And girl B is out. Comparing girl A to girl C, you decide to take girl C, and so on and so forth, until one girl is left. She is likely to be the best girl for the job.

All in all, there is no hard and fast rule, and these are just some ideas to consider.

 

Q: Why is it that the candidate I want does not want to work with me?

A: There can be many reasons for this. Bear in mind that domestic helpers are just like you, looking for the best employer or working terms possible for themselves. They are no different from, say an IT specialist looking for a job with Dell Computers or Hewlett-Packard or Seagate. You are choosing them just like they are choosing you

Generally, experienced helpers are looking for all sundays off and all public holidays off. From our experience with them, having a good rest after a week of hard work is very important. After all, an IT specialist would have the weekend off, and so should all workers, wouldn't you think so? And, you wouldn't want your helper to burn out, would you?

Sometimes, the candidate you choose cannot work with you because of timing issues like her ex-employer cannot release her to you earlier when you need her urgently, or her ex-employer wants to transfer her immediately, but you are not ready to take her in yet. On rare occasions, there may be this unreasonable ex-employer who may disagree or change her mind repeatedly - in which case, we would advise looking for another candidate.

Another reason can be some of the candidates have a deadline for the transfer and would accept the best possible offer as soon as possible. If an employer takes too long to ponder and consider and think whether a candidate is right for her, the candidate may have already found a job with someone else. So, it would be advisable for an employer to employ the helper if she is, say 90% to 95% sure of her choice. In case it doesn't work out, the employer just has to ensure a reasonable guarantee is in place.

 

Q: What if my domestic helper makes mistakes?

A: As human beings, we make mistakes, and nobody is perfect. Please be more forgiving.

The best way is to talk to her and explain to her what you need of her and get her to perform accordingly. Give her a chance to prove herself. Do not scold her or verbally abuse her. This is an offence under Singapore regulations. Of course, physical abuse is even worse. Please read our free ebooks for even more details on abuse. Please click here to subscribe to our mailing list FREE and access our FREE ebooks.

As a guide line, allow the girl 3 months to get used to the work (3 months is also the general probation period of many companies). Even though she is experienced, your working style and her previous employer's working style may be different, and she would need some time to pick up. 

 

Q: I heard so many horror stories about young girls going after the husbands. How can I prevent that?

A: If an employer is very worried and is always imagining about the young domestic helper (it can also be an old domestic helper)  :-)  going after her husband, the best prevention is not to employ a domestic helper. At least, the employer can have a peace of mind.

But, to put things in perspective, the girls are here to make a decent living. Remember that they are the daughters of their parents, and the wives of their husbands and the mothers of their children back home. They are here to work so that they can provide a better living for their loved ones back home.

Horror stories spread like wild fire because "a dog bites man" is no news, but "a man bites dog" is big news. This is just like the newspaper or TV telling bad news all day long because that's how you get viewer-ship. And, telling horror stories and frightening other people can also be something that some "experienced" expatriates enjoy.

So, really, horror stories are blown out of proportion. If the employer trusts her husband, and she trusts her own judgement in marrying her husband, there is nothing to worry about

 

Q: I want to throw my domestic helper out immediately! Can I do that?

A: The answer is "no". An employer should treat her helper with dignity and treat her as a  fellow human being. When the MOM allows an employer to employ a helper, it is the employer's duty to take care of the helper. (Details is in the MOM's form).

Taking care of the helper include proper food and lodging. As long as the girl is under the employer's name, the girl shall stay in the employer's home because that is the address on the work permit. Moreover, under the regulations, the employer should allow the girl at least 2 weeks to look for a new job, if things have come to pass. 

 

Q: I only want to employ a domestic helper who has worked in an expatriate family. But, I heard that they are "spoilt", so what should I do?

A: Whether the girl is "spoilt" is really up to the girl. This is pretty much like the good people and the bad people in this world. So, who's good, or who's bad? It is difficult to judge what is "spoilt" as it depends on how you perceive it.

We would advocate interviewing both helpers who have worked in an expatriate family and those who have worked with the local family. This would allow you to have a better comparison

We have quite a number of clients who decided later that helpers with experience working with local families actually fit them better.

 

Q: I only want to give 0, 1 or 2 day-offs per month. I am afraid that my domestic helper will become bad after mixing with bad company outside.

A: There are two issues here. One, if you only give 0,1 or 2 day-offs per month, you are not likely to attract strong candidates. These performers generally want to have a good rest during weekends. Going to church, catching up with friends, having an enjoyable time are important to them.

Two, whether the helper turns bad really depends on her. If she is self-disciplined and she is clear about her priority here, she will know what to do. After all, they are all adults.

 

Q: It seems like engaging the service of employment agencies is expensive. Why is that so?

A: The answer is both "yes" and "no". If an employer feels that a few hundred dollars is expensive, then it is expensive. Even a few dollars can be expensive.

At the end of the day, what does an employer want for herself and her family? What is the price of having the family well taken care of? The children well tended to? Having more time for oneself and having a life? And, not having to worry about a helper who is not well-matched to her needs? And not having to worry about not having a good guarantee to protect her interest? Is a few hundred dollars worth the total peace of mind and a good family life?

Fact: "Cheap things are no good. Good things are not cheap." But, 121 Personnel Services is reasonable (see testimonials) and we don't practise "piece-meal" pricing (see below). 

Another thing to note is that certain agencies may quote a "piece-meal" price so that they appear cheaper than other agencies. And, after the employer engages their service, the hidden charges start to come into the picture, and the whole exercise actually costs much more.

 

Q: Where do the girls agencies shortlist for my interviews come from? How do I know whether these girls are good?

A: Generally, the girls come to agencies from many difference sources. It can be through recommendations by friends, from newspaper or magazine advertisements, from flyers, and through the agencies' own business networks.

At 121 Personnel Services, we operate by the Law of Attraction and the Girls' Goodwill. We attract girls to us by being open and fair to both employers and employees, and by the word of mouth among the girls. This trust was built up over time, and we value it a lot.

You see, if 121 Personnel Services attract good girls - the good girls will ask other good girls to come to us.Think about it - "the goody two shoes will only mix with the goody two shoes." Aren't you and your friends pretty similar in certain ways? It's almost impossible for a cop to be the best friend of a thief. By us being open and honest and impartial, we attract the good domestic helpers we deserve. And, so it is for the employer.

 

The Law of Attraction and the Girls' Goodwill result in many domestic helpers
coming to 121 Personnel Services to look for employers, giving you more choices.

Another important thing to note is that we do not force any girl to take up any job she doesn't like. What's the point if she is not going to do her best if she doesn't like working for a particular employer. 

Hence, it is very important that the employer ensures that the girl wasn't forced to take up the job and that she really would like to work for the employer.

Here are just some feedbacks from our girls (we have more on our files):

1. Ms. Juliet P. Adams

2. Ms. Asie C. Catbagan

3. Ms. Sauti Purwatie

4. Ms. P. Bk. Pushpalathe

Whether the girls are good is really relative to the needs of the employer. Certain girls simply suit certain employers better than others. Hence, we use the 121 Match-Point System to match the best girls possible to our employers. 

 

Q: I want to look for my own helper. What should I do? And, what should I watch out for?

A: There are a few ways:

  • check with friends or relatives to see whether there are any good helpers who are looking for a transfer to another employer

  • check out the notice boards at your embassy or clubs or at supermarkets like Cold Storage for notices of helpers looking for a transfer

  • engage the service of a maid agency to help you find a suitable helper

Quite frankly, all of them have their advantages and disadvantages.

For instance, if you take over the helper of your friends or relatives, the chance of your helper working out should be very high. We could then help you with the necessary paper (the industrial term used here is called "processing").

What about the helper you find through notice boards or from acquaintances. Like marriage, it is sometimes very hard to say whether it will end up in a divorce. In this instance, there are 2 pitfalls to watch for:

  1. The ex-employer of the helper may lie (God bless that not everybody is like that!) that the helper is good so that she doesn't have to incur the cost of sending the helper home. If it doesn't work out, it is your responsibility to send the helper home, and yes, you have to bear all the expenses.

  2. Some helpers want to save money by looking for their own employers. By doing so, they don't have to pay the agency any "job find" fee. But because she doesn't have to pay any "job find" fee, she may not do her best for you since she has not invested any money in finding a job. To her, the worst case scenario is to go home or find another job. (And of course, this may not always be the case.) 

You just have to watch out for these 2 pitfalls. Nevertheless, they may not always happen.

In the third instance, if the prospective employer finds the "wrong" agency, she may be ripped off, or certain promises may not be kept. In the end, the employer "suffers the consequences", so to speak. Therefore, it is important to use this checklist to evaluate your agency.

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