One challenge with picking a maid is finding the right person. Even a casual search reveals more than 500 maid agencies operating in Singapore, which gives you several thousand prospective employees to choose from. It’s best to keep things simple, and focus on a few background issues to help you make the best choice:
1. Is the maid a transfer from another contract?
There are two ways to hire a maid in Singapore. The first is through an agency. The other way is to hire on transfer – this means you are hiring a maid directly from her previous employer. If you choose this option, always ask why the maid is transferring from her previous employer. If it’s due to the maid’s allergy to cats and dogs, for example, and you have a pet, then you know she wouldn’t be an appropriate hire.
Most of the time, the reason is quite innocuous (e.g. the previous employer got retrenched and needs to cut back on spending). But red flags to pay attention are:
- Complaints or vague explanations
- Problems getting along with the family (insist on knowing the details)
- Illness or injury related reasons (ensure the maid is fully recovered before you hire her)
- An unusually short period of employment with the previous hire (less than a year)
2. Does the maid have young children back home?
Ask if the maid has young children back home. If the maid is a new mother, you have to consider whether this could affect her emotionally. It’s difficult to leave your one or two-year-old toddler at home, while you work for several years in a foreign country.
Of course, we’re not suggesting you deprive someone of employment because of their children – but you may want to consider making some extra preparations. You can do this by making sure they can Skype home, or by preparing for the possibility that they need to fly back in an emergency.
3. Log in to WP Online to check the maid’s employment history
The Ministry of Manpower (MoM) has a website that lets you check the maid’s employment history. Log in with your SingPass, and check before you hire. Look for any irregularities, between what the maid (or her agency) has told you, and MoM’s records.
If nothing is being hidden, these should be well accounted for. You should also take note of any positive or negative reports/referrals from previous employers.
4. Is the maid used to working with families like yours?
Describe the nature of your household needs, and ask for examples where the maid has dealt with similar situations. For example, if you have an elderly parent who uses a dialysis machine, has the maid dealt with something similar? There doesn’t have to be an exact match, but it’s ideal to find a maid with related experiences.
Perhaps the maid hasn’t dealt with dialysis patients per se, but she has worked with elderly patients who need close monitoring at home. For every requirement, the agency claims a maid can fulfill, ask for a practical example from her previous employment.
5. What does the maid like to do during her off-hours?
Before hiring, always state your policy towards your maid’s personal time, and ensure she’s okay with it. This will avoid friction or unhappiness later on. That being done, ask what it is your maid does in her free time. There are some subtle advantages to knowing this. For example, if your maid does go out and hang out with friends, does that mean she knows Singapore’s transport systems well?
That can be useful if you’ll need her to go out of the house on many chores. (Alternatively, you may decide you want someone less adventurous.) What you’re doing here is trying to find common ground, and have an understanding of your maid’s personality and preferences. If it seems like you won’t get along, pick someone else.
6. What is your maid’s culinary experience?
Cooking is a skill that takes time to acquire. As an employer, you may not have time to teach the maid. If that’s the case, ask for her culinary experience. It would be ideal if she can already cook the kind of food you prefer. Otherwise, check if she enjoys learning new styles of cooking, or is adaptable to them.
Remember that the less familiar the maid is with your family’s dining preferences, the more time you’ll have to invest in coaching her (and the more ruined ingredients you’ll see at the start). For example, if the maid’s previous employer just had her deep fry everything, it could take a while to adapt to your family’s preferences for healthier food.
An oft-missed consideration is speed. How much time did the maid spend making meals, with her previous employer? If she’s slow in the kitchen (bear in mind, some people can spend four hours preparing even simple dinners), she will have less time for other chores.
7. What was the most difficult thing the maid had to deal with, in her previous jobs?
This is an important question, as it tells you what the maid can’t – or doesn’t like – to deal with. If the maid had a problem getting three or four children under control at once, and you have an equally large family, you know right away that this is a red flag. If the maid had difficulty understanding her employer because of mainly written instructions*, you’ll know you need to convey all instructions verbally.
Look out for any of your household needs that would be considered a great difficulty for the maid. *Remember that speaking well is different from being able to read well. A maid who speaks English fluently might still have difficulty interpreting typed or written messages.
8. What sort of hours is your maid used to keep?
Some families eat dinner at 6 pm, some families eat dinner at 10.30 pm. Likewise, all of us tend to rise at different hours. While your maid will adjust to your timing after a while, it helps to know what she’s used to. In particular, find out if she’s an early riser or a night owl.
If your lifestyle means coming home late, for example, you should pick a maid used to firing up the stove at 8 pm. If you need to be up and having breakfast by five in the morning, make sure you have a maid who won’t be a total zombie at that hour. Also of importance: how many hours, the maid is used to working. Some maids come from employment where the workload is light.
Their last employer may have been a single expatriate or a young couple with no children; actual working hours may not have been more than five or six hours a day. It could be a jarring difference in workload if they then move in with your larger family.
Whatever your decision, it’s in your best interests to make sure your maid is well protected.
Always aim to give your maid more than just the bare minimum, especially when it comes to their well-being. Hong Leong Assurance Singapore offers online comprehensive maid insurance.
Maid Protect360 provides personal accident coverage of up to S$50,000, and in mid-September 2017 – an increase of sum assured to S$60,000. There are also special discounts on health and dental consultations for your maid at approved clinics islandwide.
For a limited time only, you can also save up to 50 percent on your maid’s bi-annual health check-up.
You can find out more about this product via Hong Leong Assurance Singapore’s website or simply ask your maid agency for more details.
By Ryan Ong
Disclaimer: All info contained herein is intended for your general information only and is not a substitute for insurance advice. If you have a specific question, please consult our insurance experts at 6702 0202.