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Maid says her agency forced her to agree to everything with a smile during interviews so that she’s hired faster

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"Hi any tips on how to interview FDWs. They always say yes and with a smile to everything you ask but things can change once they get here," an employer said.

SINGAPORE: A few foreign domestic helpers took to social media to explain the process that goes on prior to them attending interviews with a potential employer. They wrote that they were briefed by the agents and forced to be compliant and agree to all of the potential employers’ requests.

In a Facebook group for domestic helpers, an employer asked for tips on interviewing potential maids. She said: “They always say yes and with a smile to everything you ask but things can change once they get here. They are doing everyone a disservice except the middlemen, who force them to be compliant so that the deal gets done faster, leaving the employer with an unwilling maid who has to bear the loan if she gets sent back bc she cant adapt to the job scope”.

“While we do have more control over them and can always threaten to terminate them, there is only so much control that i would bother effecting, because they can seriously sabotage us if we are nasty”, the woman added. She said that those with babies were especially reluctant to confront their maids lest the helpers lash out at their children. However, she added that this left one with the standard option to terminate helpers they could not work with, but added that it was “so costly and exhausting seriously to have to keep repeating this cycle while the middlemen are the only ones profiting”.

Her post struck a chord with a number of helpers who responded by saying that they were forced to say certain things and behave a certain way during the interview.

One helper who commented said: “I’m working here in sg more than 16 years. Base on my experience one of the agent always tell us to smile and say yes to the employers once we have interview. They also teach us what to say. One time during my interview I forgot to say what she teach us and I’m just by myself. I said what is that truth about me and my work experience. After the interview she spoke to me and told me what I said is wrong”.

Another helper said that despite her telling the agency about her preference for employers, they kept giving her that very type of employer.

Here’s what the helpers said:

Earlier this month, a foreign domestic helper with many questions about her agency’s practices took to social media to clarify them.

In her post to Facebook group FDW in Singapore (working conditions forum), the maid raised questions on five issues she faced. First, she asked if it was normal that her agent did not give her a copy of both the contract she signed in the Philippines and the contract that she signed in Singapore. She then asked who was responsible to hold her IPA after she entered Singapore. (An in-principle approval (IPA) is one of the requirements to bring migrant workers into Singapore.)

Her third issue – the maid wrote that her agent made her sign a blank piece of paper with a specific monetary amount on it. When she asked the agent what the piece of paper was or if she needed to take a photo of it, the agent simply refused. “why she ask you to sign a blank paper but she put an amount on it .. you ask her what is this or need to take picture but refuses ?” the maid wrote.

She added: “her agency fee is high more than 2,500sgd but when she send you to the employer she make a list for you to sign everymonth when taking (sic) your salary but she indicates here that you owe your employer .. why never tell the true agency fee ?” The helper also asked who should bear the commission fees if a helper recommended a first-timer to work in Singapore. “is it the agent/agency ? or the one who come and work ? (because what i see is they charge it to the new comer and add to her deduction?”

Maid says that her agent made her sign a blank piece of paper, did not give her a copy of her contract or reveal agency fees

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