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I refer to the article ‘courts see more cases of maids being abused’.
Long waiting times for employers and recruiters to be brought to justice is a disincentive for migrant workers to file complaints. HOME’s shelter has one resident who has waited almost three years for her case to be brought to the courts. In last year’s report by The Straits Times, the AGC announced that it would establish a task force to look into speeding up cases so that convictions do not face unwarranted delays. What measures have been implemented since its establishment?
We have also noticed a disturbing trend of employers making unsubstantiated accusations when complaints are filed against them by domestic workers. The most common accusations are theft and child abuse which have serious consequences on the wellbeing of the worker. Not only do these investigations take several months to complete, they are also barred from working during the period of the investigations, leaving them bereft of income.
In many of HOME’s cases, these allegations are often unfounded and the worker is repatriated without compensation for earnings and time lost. While we acknowledge that the authorities have to take every complaint and allegation seriously, it is not fair to prevent the accused from earning an income during investigations as she has not been convicted or charged in court yet. If the employer’s claim is unfounded, the worker should be entitled to some compensation. Another alternative is to suspend the worker on a percentage of her income while investigations are ongoing.
The increase in the number of abuse cases being brought to court is a symptom of a larger problem. When workers are not allowed to switch employers without consent and when basic employment rights, such as holidays, annual leave and limits to working hours are not guaranteed to them by law, we are creating a culture which makes it easier for abuse and exploitation to happen.