The Kiasu Singaporean’s Guide to Hiring a maids service
Last updated on April 1, 2019

Smiling young woman in apron holding a vacuum cleaner and duster
Hiring Foreign Domestic Workers (i.e. FDWs, and colloquially also known as maids or domestic helpers) is not an uncommon practice in Singapore, though it is no easy feat. An employer has a long list of things to take into consideration before they can employ a FDW, and tons of guidelines to follow after.

While all these conditions can make hiring an FDW seem like a daunting task, fret not! This is a guide that lists out all you need to know before and during the employment of an FDW’s services:

Choosing a maids service
Applying for a Work Permit for Your FDW
Sending Your FDW for the Settling-In Programme
Your FDW’s Employment Conditions
Your FDW’s Employment Fees
Your FDW’s Security Bond
Employment Rules for FDWs
Treatment of FDWs
Debarring of Employers
Other Employer Concerns

Choosing a maids service
The first step to hiring an FDW is easy – approaching a reputable agency.

You must verify that the maids service is licensed by Ministry of Manpower (MOM). The FDWs you usually see sitting by their front desk are not for employment, but rather for advertisement instead. The agency will assess your needs (for instance, a wheelchair-bound elderly at home) and select an FDW to cater to those needs.

In addition, you will have to attend an Employer Orientation Programme prior to hiring an FDW.

Applying for a Work Permit for Your FDW
Most maid agencies will do this on your behalf before you hire a maid. However, in a case where they do not do so, it is possible to apply for a work permit for your maid by yourself, either online or at a physical SingPost outlet. The full application procedure can be found on MOM’s website.

Though this step may seem simple, it is not to be overlooked as hiring an FDW without a valid Work Permit is illegal. Employers can be penalised with a fine between S$5,000 and $30,000 and/or imprisonment of up to 1 year. If the employer commits this offence more than once, imprisonment will be compulsory.

Sending Your FDW for the Settling-In Programme
If your FDW is coming to Singapore to work for the first time, you will have to send her for the 1-day Settling-In Programme (SIP) when she arrives in Singapore. She must attend it within 3 days of her arrival in Singapore (excluding Sundays and public holidays). To ensure that she can secure a training slot, you are advised to register her for the programme before she arrives in Singapore.

You will have to bear the costs of sending your FDW to the SIP, which amounts to S$75. The SIP will be conducted in her native language, and she will only be able to start work after she has attended it.

Your FDW’s Employment Conditions
FDWs are not covered by Singapore’s Employment Act. They are, however, governed by the Employment of Foreign Manpower Act, which is enforced by MOM.

Employment contract
The FDW’s terms of service are set out in her employment contract. The terms and conditions of this contract must be mutually agreed upon by you and your FDW.

While the agency can be asked to draft the employment contract on your behalf, it is important to ensure that the following terms are covered:

Placement loan
Number of rest days per month
Compensation in lieu of rest day
Termination notice period (can be waived by mutual consent)
Compensation in lieu of termination notice
Early termination is allowed to maintain flexibility for both the employer and the FDW. Either party can terminate the contract by giving the notice period agreed upon in the employment contract. If the notice period cannot be given, the party terminating the employment should pay salary in lieu of notice.

Safety agreement
As the employer, you must agree to comply with the safe work practices stipulated by MOM. In addition, if the FDW you are going to hire is a new maid or a transfer maid, the employer will arrange for you and her to sign a safety agreement.

New maids are those who come into Singapore from overseas, and are working here for the first time. Transfer maids are those who are already working in Singapore, but wish to work for another family. If you are renewing your existing maid’s contract, it will not be necessary for you to sign a safety agreement.

The purpose of this safety agreement is to ensure that both parties understand the restrictions set by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) on the cleaning of the exterior of windows. These restrictions were set in place in order to prevent maids from accidentally falling out of the window while cleaning.

The safety agreement itself:

Lists restrictions on cleaning windows;
States that your requirements for cleaning windows must comply with MOM’s regulations; and
Includes your maid’s acknowledgement of your requirements on window cleaning.
The safety agreement will be signed by you, the maid, and the employment agency; and all three parties are required to keep one copy each. To ensure that the maid fully understands the agreement, the copy of the safety agreement that she signs will be in her native language.

Your FDW’s Employment Fees
As one would expect, hiring a domestic helper is not cheap. Some may not be aware of the things that an employer must pay for apart from the payment of her salary, such as a levy fee.

Maid levy
How much is the maid levy in Singapore?
An employer is required to pay the maid levy imposed by the MOM which is S$300 per month. Maid levy payments are to be made online via General Interbank Recurring Order (GIRO), which can be applied for by form once your FDW’s application for a Work Permit has been approved.

Levy concessions can be granted for employers living with families that include children, elderly, or the disabled. For more information on levy payments and concessions, click here.

Are there penalties for failing to pay the maid levy?
Should you fail to pay the full levy on time, you might face the following penalties:

Late payment penalty of 2% per month or $20, whichever is higher;
Revocation of your FDW’s Work Permit;
A ban from applying for or issuing a new Work Permit;
A ban from renewing an existing Work Permit; or
Legal action to recover the unpaid levy.