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Criteria to Employ a Maid in Singapore

Before you decide to hire a foreign domestic worker and start the orientation process, you need to make sure that you’re eligible to be an employer under Singaporean laws. Not everyone qualifies to hire a domestic helper, so don’t make the mistake of finding a maid only to realise that you will not be able to legally employ her.

As would be expected, you do not qualify to be an employer if you are still a minor (in other words, if you are not 21 years old). If you are going through bankruptcy, you are also not able to employ a full-time domestic worker. The Ministry of Manpower says employers must have the mental capacity to fully understand their role and duties as an employer.

Remember that as an employer, you will be responsible for the wellbeing of your helper. Singaporean law stipulates that foreign domestic workers must live with their employers, and this naturally comes with a large set of responsibilities. The rules regarding eligibility are partly designed to ensure the safety and wellbeing of helpers.

As such, the Ministry of Manpower will take your mental capacity as well as your finances into account when you apply. The ministry does not publicly disclose how much you need to earn to qualify, but says the amount is based on the realistic total cost of hiring a foreign domestic worker (including wages, the levy payable to the government, and costs associated with maids’ wellbeing – such as food and medical expenses).

In most cases, hiring a foreign domestic worker costs more than S$1,000 each month, not to mention upfront employment and visa costs. Monthly costs consist of wages (a HelperChoice study found that the average helper’s wage in Singapore is just shy of $600), a monthly levy payable to the government ($265 unless you qualify for the concessionary rate of $60), medical and personal accident insurance (more than $200), and food.

The ministry does, however, consider the combined salaries of married couples when considering their eligibility to hire. Alternatively, you can combine your salary with a family member who lives with you, or you can apply under the Sponsorship Scheme if you are over 60 and not drawing a monthly salary.

Note that you can only combine your income with one other person when making an application under the Joint Income Scheme together with a working family member.

If you are at least 60 years old, live alone and have no salary, you can qualify as an employer based on the income of either one or two sponsoring relatives.

If you do not qualify to hire a foreign domestic worker, there may be alternatives available to you. In many cases, you can consider legal part-time work, where a maid will come to your house on one or several days a week to do chores such as cleaning and washing. This suffices for many employers, especially those without small children or elderly family members.

It is possible to lose your eligibility to hire a foreign domestic worker, if you violate employment laws or if you hire and fire too many domestic helpers within a short period of time. For example, employers who have made six applications for helpers’ work permits within a year will need to have an interview with a Ministry of Manpower officer to see if they are fit to make another application.

The eligibility of your domestic helper

After considering your own eligibility, and after starting the job search, you will also need to make sure that your preferred candidate is eligible to work as a domestic helper in Singapore.

Maids in Singapore must be female and between 23 and 50 years old when the application is made. The Singaporean government only approves work permits for maids from the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Hong Kong, Myanmar, South Korea, and Taiwan.

Domestic workers also need to have at least eight years’ formal education and must have proof thereof.

One way to ensure that you choose a candidate who is eligible to work in Singapore is to employ someone who is already working in the country. In this case, you would undertake a transfer hire.

This also allows you to check the maid’s credentials with the Ministry of Manpower or with her current employer. If the helper can be transferred, you can also interview her face-to-face in Singapore to see how she interacts with your children, what recipes she cooks, and so on.