helper

What you need to know about hiring a domestic helper

Imagine coming home after a long day at work to a spotlessly clean house, where your kids’ toys are stored neatly away, and where a hot, home-cooked meal is ready on the table. Sounds like a dream only possible with a domestic helper?

There are many practical reasons why an extra pair of hands and feet at home would be useful. Besides dealing with the stress at work, one might find it hard to cope with the demands of caring for an elderly, taking care of the kids, rehabilitating from an illness, and managing house chores all at the same time. So much so, there were 239,700 foreign domestic workers (FDWs) employed in Singapore1 in December 2016. And every year, the numbers keep rising. 

There are plenty of apps and websites that let you hire a part-time cleaner from $10-$20/hour, but if you're looking for a full-time, live-in foreign domestic worker (FDW) as a longer term solution, the costs and responsibilities are of course, a bit more complicated than that.

How much will it cost?

As an employer, you would need to be responsible for your new foreign maid, from making sure their work permit is valid, to covering her insurance and medical costs. Fees include:

 
Item Costs / Coverage

Agency fee

This is the fee that you pay the placement agency you hire your helper from

$100-$2,000

Employers' Orientation Programme (EOP)

A mandatory course for first-time employers

$28 - $46

Settling-in Programme

A mandatory programme for domestic helpers who have never worked in Singapore before

$75

Work Permit application

$30

Work Permit issuance

$30

Foreign Domestic Worker Levy

Levy concession: You may be eligible for this if you are an elderly person, or hire a FDW to take care of a child, elderly person or person with disability living at the same registered address as you

$265/month

$60/month

Security bond

The Singapore government requires all employers to pledge a security bond in case the domestic helper breaks the law, usually in the form of insurance

Up to $5,000

Medical Insurance coverage

Covers inpatient care and day surgery

Coverage of at least $15,000 per year

Personal Accident Insurance

In case of an accident that results in permanent disability or death

Coverage of at least $60,000 per year

Based on the above, the total amount you can expect to pay when you first hire a domestic helper could be between $500 to over $2,000.

Factor in other costs such as your helper’s salary (average of around $500 monthly), the increase in household groceries and utilities costs, her airfare back to visit her home country, and you will have a better picture of whether a live-in helper makes astute financial sense given your unique needs.

Will she be able to get along with the family?

Of course, there are other considerations beyond the monetary. Does your home have sufficient room for the helper to have some private space? Are you ready to spend the time and effort to understand the cultural nuances of your helper? Some of them would be new to the role, and come from areas vastly different from fast-paced modern Singapore. Would you be able to guide them through the potentially difficult transition period as they settle into their new home? Would they be able to get along with the rest of your family?

What’s certain is that your home life will change—are you and your family ready for that?

Which maid agency should I pick?

Ask colleagues or friends for recommendations of agencies. According to CASE Singapore, the standards of customer service provided by the industry could certainly be improved, with 6% of customer complaints received in 2016 centred around maid agencies2. You are looking for a partner who would be able to understand your household requirements, and be able to provide service and advice on which helper you should consider. Facing hard-sell tactics? Vote with your wallet and go somewhere else.

What kind of helper should I choose?

Before you hire your domestic helper, put together a list of tasks that you would like help with. Consider if the workload is excessive; it is common to hear of domestic helpers who are expected to rise at the crack of dawn, and to work extremely long hours without adequate rest. Rule of thumb – ask yourself if you would be able to fulfil the same tasks you’re asking from your helper, and if you can’t, consider reducing the workload.

With a reasonable list in mind, work out which skills are of priority to you. Do you need someone experienced in childcare, is good with pets, or one who is able to cook up a storm? A cleaning whiz, or one with basic nursing skills to take care of your elderly parents? It’s definitely a bonus if you happen to hire a helper who is able to tick off your entire check list of requirements, but chances are, you may need to focus on what you really need.

Ultimately, getting a maid means outsourcing part of the management of the household to someone else, so that you can focus on other things like moving up your career. So do your sums, and consider your options. If you do decide to go ahead with hiring a helper, be sure to spend sufficient time picking the right person.

1Source: Ministry of Manpower, Dec 2016
2Source: CASE Singapore

 

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