"Local Employers - Do You Make These Mistakes in Employing a Maid?"

Dear Fellow Singaporeans and PRs,

was pleasantly surprised at the significant number of enquiries from fellow Singaporeans and PRs. 

Although 121 Personnel Services specializes in helping the expatriate community in Singapore with domestic help (or maid) matters, we've been asked many times whether we service the local community as well.

The answer is "yes" if you feel that we are able to fulfill your needs. Before I explain further, I'm glad to share that many local families who have employed our domestic helpers have been happy with them. 

(QC or quality control mentioned in the video refers to the proper screening of suitable candidates for employment. Replacement plan mentioned in the video refers to the redeploying of a new helper to take over the position of the previous helper.)

Your Needs May Be Different

Generally, many Singaporean families prefer to employ a new maid. There are pros and cons to this. However, one of the greatest challenges in employing newhelpers is their work performance and their ability to communicate in English. And, this is one of the main reasons many employers come to us for help. (There is no disrespect meant in this. Just an observation.)

If you were like me, you would be wondering where have all the good maids gone to? I've a few answers to that, and they're "not pretty".

"Ugly" Answers to an Important Question

As you are probably aware, the monthly salaries of domestic helpers are much higher in countries like Hong Kong, Taiwan, Norway, Spain and Saudi Arabia. It is no wonder that the more capable helpers tend to gravitate towards these countries.

Moreover, the many suppliers of helpers overseas do not view Singapore as their main market. The fact is that our market is small, and our government have implemented much stricter criteria like 8 years formal education, passing of entry test, must be 23 years old and above, and so on before the helpers can work in Singapore. 

Compared to the other countries, Singapore really isn't a very attractive market for them. In fact, the maid's loan has increased significantly compared to the past, as a reflection of the bad market condition here.

A Shocking Revelation

Another question you may have in mind is why do you always have maids that don't work out and why do you always have to get a replacement maid? (Replacement maid here means a helper or maid employed to take over the position of the previous helper or maid.)

One of the reasons, I believe, has to do with quality control of the recruitment and training process in Indonesia or the Philippines or Myanmar. Since many agencies share the same suppliers and bio-data, the quality of the helper you get will be about the same.

The key point here is that the local agencies here simply do not have control over the screening process of the helpers overseas. After all, the helpers are overseas, and it is the suppliers who find the girls. So, the agencies just have to accept the bio-data given to them. There is not much choice given to them. As such, you as consumers, are restricted too.

But, It Gets Worse...

However, there is something else that shocked me. The fact is it actually benefits the agencies to have you get replacement helpers from them again and again. (Replacement maid here means a helper or maid employed to take over the position of the previous helper or maid.)

I read this from a Chinese newspaper where an unnamed agency boss was interviewed. He said that it is good for business if an employer keeps getting replacements after replacements, so why should he bother to get them a good maid?

This is because each time the employer gets a replacement, he can charge the new replacement girl maid's loan of $2,200 to $2,800 and charge the transfer girl who is being transferred a transfer fee of $350 or more. The more times the employer gets a replacement, the more girls he can charge and charge. And, the cycle continues. The fact is, 1 sale from 1 customer can be easily multiplied into 4 sales or more with 2 rounds of replacements.

The reporter then asked what if the employer changed to another agency. He laughed, and said that he also owned a few other agencies.

So, have you ever wondered why many agencies do not bother to match the right girl to your family?

A Strategic Decision

Many years ago 121 Personnel Services did provide new Indonesian helpers and Filipino helpers. However, due to the reasons explained above, we have decided not to do so. More so, when we do not have control over the work performance of the girls, and the suppliers were unable to accede to our screening requests.

It was then that we made a strategic decision to focus on recruiting experienced transfer maids for the expatriate community. Why not the local community? This is mainly because the local community has a misconception that transfer maids are bad.

But, Are Transfer Maids Really Bad?

The answer is "no". Transfer maid is simply an industrial term for a helper already in Singapore transferring from Employer A to Employer B. What counts is the reason for the helper's transfer.

The local community has this misconception that transfer maids are bad because they get their helpers from agencies who place out new helpers. Many helpers are returned to the agency after a few days or a few weeks with the new employer due to bad attitude or the inability to do their work. These helpers are then transferred to another employer, and the process repeats itself.

Hence, you would have heard of cases whereby the same transfer maids were being transferred from one employer to another many times over and the agency did not tell the new employer about this fact.

But, what if the helper is transferring because the employer is leaving Singapore and she has worked with the employer for 4 years? What if she has completed her contract and would like a change in work environment after having worked 6 years with the same employer?

Are these transfer helper bad? Probably not, because they are transferring due to reasons other than bad work performance or bad attitude.

So, What is the Solution?

The solution, I believe, is in the recruitment process for the expatriate community. We should be doing something right because many of our employers are happy to give us a lot of testimonials.

So, what exactly did we do?

First of all, we are able to exercise quality control over the kind of helpers being placed out. Because these helpers are already in Singapore, we do not have to rely on overseas suppliers to do any QC. We do the QC ourselves face to face with the helpers. (QC refers to the proper screening of suitable candidates for employment.)

Generally, the helpers we place out must have at least 2 years of working experience, and many of them have completed their contracts. They are transferring because their employers are leaving Singapore (since many of our employers are expatriates) or their employers do not require their service any more or there are other valid reasons.

We also interview the helpers to get a feel about their personality and working experience. Many of our helpers are introduced to us by their friends. The fact is that many of us have friends who are similar to us in personality and habits. As such, a good helper will tend to introduce other good helper to us. This helps to increase the chance of success.

In addition, we have the 121 Match-Point System to match the right helper to your family as closely as possible (there is no such thing as a 100% perfect match, as you're probably aware). We will ask you some questions pertaining to your needs and at the same time, we will also screen the girls and shortlist those who match your requirements for your face to face interview.

Another important thing to consider is the work preference of the girl. Some of them prefer to take care of the baby instead of cooking, whereas some of them are great cooks, but are not so good in ironing. 

Hence, we will match their work preference to your work priorities as closely as possible. As for areas where they are weaker, you can choose to train them further or choose to be okay with it.

We also encourage you to talk to the earlier employer of the shortlisted candidates so that you can choose the best girl possible for your family. 

In addition, we will also dig up their past employment history from the MOM database so that you do not get girls who are being transferred every 1-2 months.

As you can see, this is a very rigorous screening process to find the right helper for you. 

Does that Mean Zero Replacements?

FACT: There is no perfect maid. Neither is there a perfect human being. Even loving couples can divorce, so how can every single helper being placed out work out perfectly. We definitely cannot guarantee this. However, we can strive to increase the chance of success as outlined in our procedures above.

In case, you're thinking that we are perfect and every maid we place out is perfect, I must let you know that we are NOT perfect, and we DO NOT profess to be so. We just DO Our Best. That's all.

Anyone who expects a perfect maid isn't being realistic given the nature of maid recruitment. I hope you understand this and bear with us should things not work out. Nevertheless, depending on your package, we do provide 1-2 free re-matchings should you require it. (Re-matching refers to a re-match of a more suitable helper to your needs, should the previous helper not work out.)


So, Experienced Transfer Maids are the Best?

Again, it really depends on whether the girl matches your needs in terms of work experience and personality.

Many of our experienced transfer helpers are from the Philippines. As such, communication in English should be easy. Sometimes, we do have some Indonesian, Indian and Sri Lankan transfer helpers.

You see, the culture and management style of the expatriates tend to fit in better with these experienced girls. Compared to local families, expatriates tend to be more open in their management style. In addition, they don't like to have the girl at home on Sundays because they would like to have some privacy on weekends. These factors are precisely what the experienced transfer helpers like working with expatriate families.

The transfer helpers like to have Sundays off to go to church or meet up with their friends.  They also tend to be more knowledgeable which allows them to do marketing on their own, follow recipes for cooking, pick up your children from school and so on. Their monthly salary is also slightly higher than the new girls.

In addition, due to their working experience, they are more likely to know how to behave, and keep their attitude in check. To many of them, having a secured job is important because they are supporting their families back home.

Compared to the new girls who may be "trying things out" and have no qualms in running away when things get tough, an experienced girl is more likely to bring the matter up for discussion with the employer.

Another positive point is that there is no maid's loan charges for transfer maids because the girl has already paid for it a long time ago when she first came to Singapore. Moreover, the transfer fee is paid by the girl herself. As such, she is more motivated to keep her job. Your cost is only the agency fee and insurance premium. In addition, the current agency fee for new maids is about $1,300.00 to $2,000.00. Our agency fee for our most popular package, in contrast, is less than $500. This means additional savings for you.

Do note that the MOM has mandated a weekly day-off for all maids effective 1 January 2013. Non-compliance will result in 6 months imprisonment and/or a fine of $5,000. For local employers, this may complicate your schedule. However, you can negotiate to compensate your helper in-lieu of the day-off. Nevertheless, if you compare a new helper to a transfer helper with a fixed day-off routine, you're probably better off with a transfer helper because she knows who she is mixing with on her off-days;  whereas a new helper, not knowing where to go, may end up with the wrong company. Not that this will definitely happen. But, the possibility is probably higher unless you make some arrangements for your new helper. This may also have an adverse effect on your security bond if your new helper runs away or breaks any work permit conditions. Compared to an experienced helper who has a "career" here, a new helper is more prone to running away when things don't work out.

Does 121 Practise "Replacement Cycle"?

In case you're wondering whether 121 Personnel Services practise the "replacement cycle" thing to multiply sales as described above, I must let you know a few things.

Firstly, if we do, we will not be getting all the testimonials that you are seeing here because many employers will be unhappy with us. So, it's a proven fact that we DO NOT practise this "replacement cycle" thing.

Secondly, you can see from our recruitment process above that we are trying very hard NOT to have a replacement. (Replacement here means redeploying a new helper to take over the position of the previous helper.) If we are doing this "replacement cycle" thing, why should we work so hard to screen the girls and match them to your needs? Why should we encourage you to interview the girls face to face and have a chat with their previous employer? Why should we even dig up the employment history of the girls from the MOM database so that you know these girls are not "kicked out" from their jobs.

Thirdly, we do not charge maid's loan for transfer maids (just so you know, some agencies do charge maid's loan for transfer maids). Does this "replacement cycle" thing even make sense in our business model if that's the case? There is no big money to multiply in the first place. Further, if we give lousy maids and have lots of replacements, we are actually losing money because it is extremely time consuming to go through the above rigorous recruitment process again and again. Isn't the time better spent on getting things done right the first time? And, that is to ensure that you don't need a replacement maid.

By now, you should have a good feel of the differences in the pros and cons of employing an experienced transfer maids compared to a new helper from overseas.

In Conclusion...

I hope I've explained the pros and cons of employing an experienced transfer maid well enough for you to make an informed decision. They are quite different from new helpers from overseas, and the way you need to manage them is also quite different. 

We can brief  you on how to manage them, and at the same time, we will also brief the girls on how to behave when working with a local family. We even have a "checklist" to help guide them on appropriate work behavior.

Finally, like many of the local families who have successfully employed an experienced transfer maid from us, I hope that you will have the same success too...

Yours sincerely,

Eddy Lam

Eddy Lam Yew Chiang [R1100380]


If you feel that we can be of assistance to you,  please feel free to contact The 121 Customer Care Team at:

Tel: (65) 6733-8121 (3 Lines)
Fax: (65) 6836-2518
Email: service[at]121personnel.com (please replace [at] with @  and write Subject: [Maid Service] - this is to reduce spam. Thank you.)

545 Orchard Road #12-07,
Far East Shopping Centre
Singapore 238882.
(Next to Hilton Hotel, Opposite Thai Embassy, Near Orchard MRT)

Office Hours: Mon.-Fri. 10:15am-6:00pm.
                        Sun.: 10:15am-3:00pm.
                        Closed on Saturdays and Public Holidays.

It is also our pleasure to have you visit us at our office (please call for an appointment before visiting so that we can attend to you fast).