Sorry Madam, I accidentally broke the soup bowl” confessed Seetee (not her real name), a Migrant Domestic Worker from Indonesia.

Seetee worked for her employer for over 16 months and has carelessly slipped and dropped 2 plates over her course of work and more recently, a bowl. Her employer screamed at Seetee and demanded she paid for the broken bowl this time. Seetee apologised profusely and pleaded for forgiveness as the employer continues to reprimand her loudly. Her employer then threatened to send her home before the end of her contract.

Not wanting to go home for fear of losing income for her family, Seetee took out $200 cash of various denominations and place it on the table for the employer. Offering to pay for the broken items. The employer took the money.

A month later, Seetee was repatriated back to Jakarta by her employer without any reason. She was confused and decided to seek justice from Indonesia Embassy of Singapore. The Singapore MDW Agent was notified and the case was further escalated to Singapore Ministry of Manpower. During the initial attempt to recover the money from the employer, it was also revealed that the employer withheld a month of the MDW’s salary from the beginning of her employment fearing the MDW would not complete her 2 years contract. The money was a form of guarantee for the employer.

Long story short, the employer was instructed by MOM to hand over the owed monies to the Singapore agent so that the agent could wire transfer back to the MDW. In the course of investigation, the employer’s application for a new MDW was halted and eventually terminated by MOM. The employer was called in for interviews several times in a week. The employer was also banned from hiring any MDW for 12 months for multiple breaches of work permit conditions.

This is not a made up story. Under the MOM’s employment act and work permit condition, “Employer is not allowed to make deductions for damages to household equipment from the FDW’s salary, and employer needs to pay the FDW her salary in full. Employer must never make deductions from the FDW’s salary to penalise her for performance issues.”

Even the situation differs from the above, the MDW wasn’t sent home, she may still seek assistance from the Embassy or MOM, or even at our airport’s immigration counter to recover the money. Well, you may say “but the MDW offered to pay the employer, the employer didn’t deduct from her salary!” The employer shouldn’t have taken it in the first place. The MDW could argue that she offered out of fear of losing her employment or fear of further reprimanding.

The Employment of Foreign Manpower Act (EFMA) regulates the employment of MDWs. The Act lays down the conditions for the employment of foreign employees, and prescribes the penalties for infringements of these conditions by both employers and the MDWs. When unsure of your rights as an employer, always consult your agent or read the EFMA at

More information can be found on MOM website (Page 20 & 21):