Singapore – A Singaporean woman who hired a domestic helper from the Philippines pleaded guilty on Thursday (Jan 6) to failing to pay her salary for more than a year. The total sum unpaid came to S$6,500.
Santa Maria Michele Theresa faced four charges of failing to pay a foreign employee, resulting in a fine of S$14,000. Nine other similar charges were said to have been considered in her sentencing.
Then 56, she was charged last September for employing Emferatriz Borja Montefolka from 2013 to 2019, but failing to pay her salary of S$500 for 13 months, from April 2018 to April 2019.
Ministry of Manpower (MOM) prosecuting officer Melvyn Low said in a Straits Times report that Theresa knew she was supposed to pay Montefolka her fixed monthly salary on time but failed to do so.
MOM’s website makes it plain that employers are required every month to pay their foreign domestic workers an amount not lower than what was declared to the ministry. “You must pay your FDW a salary every month, no later than seven days after the last day of the salary period,” it said.
Theresa has not made any restitution to Montefolka. The prosecution requested that there be no compensation because the maid faces charges for illegal employment.
The court heard that a woman called Norliza Kamardin hired Montefolka between August 2018 and April 2019 despite knowing that Montefolka did not have a valid working pass. Her case is currently pending.
Meanwhile, Theresa’s defence lawyer, Barry Delaney, said in mitigation that his client had hired the Filipino to care for Theresa’s father but after the father died, Theresa decided that she would no longer employ her.
Montefolka was on holiday in the Philippines at the time and Theresa told her not to bother returning as she was no longer needed. The helper pleaded with Theresa to take her back. Theresa agreed and sent her a ticket to Singapore.
Mr Delaney said Theresa, his client, did not consider that she had broken the law at that time.
“This is a tragic story, but one out of kindness. Unlike other stories of exploitation, she didn’t abuse (Montefolka),” said Mr Delaney, pleading for an S$8,000 fine.
Although the prosecution agreed that there was no exploitation involved, Theresa should have known better, since she had employed maids before.
There was no exploitation but a clear breach of employment conditions for failing to pay a maid’s salary, said the judge, setting the fine at S$14,000.
If Theresa fails to pay the fine, she will jailed for 40 days, reported The Straits Times. She also faces charges of cheating, for allegedly duping victims in rental scams and making them pay several thousand dollars each. For cheating, she could be jailed for up to 10 years and fined.
The Straits TImes had reported last September that Norliza could be fined $20,000 and jailed for up to a year. Her case is pending,
On Wednesday, ST reported that charge sheets accuse Norliza of hiring Montefolka as a maid between August 2018 and April 2019 without a valid work pass. According to the ST report last September, Montefolka could possibly be fined up to $20,000 and jailed for a maximum of two years.
Reacting to the news, members of the online community clearly regarded the Filipino helper as a victim. They wondered if Montefolka would be getting any compensation after the court case.
“Then what about the maid’s owed salary?” a netizen asked.
“She paying the fine to court, and who pay the maid? In the end, who is the winner who earns here?” asked another netizen./TISG
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