Wanting to hire a foreign domestic worker to help out with chores at home is fine. Needing a helper to aid you in your daily tasks due to other circumstances is perfectly okay.
But if you were banned from hiring them, it does say a lot about you.
With such a power imbalance, employers must be aware of their treatment of foreign domestic workers. But of course, our love of cheap labour and lack of compassion means that this isn’t always the case.
According to TODAYonline, 40-year-old Syed Mohamed Peeran Syed Amer Hamza and 36-year-old Sabah Parveen have claimed trial (aka would like to dispute their alleged offences) to multiple criminal charges, including obstruction of justice by common intention.
The couple was at a court hearing on Monday (7 Jun) for their offences, including hiring a domestic worker even when they were banned from doing so, failing to pay her on time or provide her with adequate rest and sending her home to Indonesia after the police came after them.
Syed faces four charges while Sabah faces two.
How They Managed To Hire An FDW
In May 2015, Syed learned that he and his household had been placed on a blacklist for hiring foreign domestic workers till June 30, 2019.
The court heard that he wrote into the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) to lift the ban, but was ultimately rejected.
TODAYonline noted that court documents did not specify the reason behind the ban but stated that MOM had considered “all the relevant information, in addition to the composition of the charges”.
32-year-old Ms Aminah, who was in Indonesia, was recruited by the family in 2018. In July, Syed had managed to persuade his associate to apply for in-principle approval for Ms Aminah to be employed as a domestic worker in Singapore.
Then, he got his associate in Singapore, Mr Suresh Murugaiyan, to be Ms Aminah’s “employer” when applying to MOM. However, Ms Aminah was given Syed’s phone number and email from Mr Suresh.
Just as he planned, MOM’s Work Pass System approved Mr Suresh’s application. On 17 July 2018, Ms Aminah arrived in Singapore and began to work for Syed and Sabah instead of for Suresh.
Of course, if Syed or his family members had used the system, it would have automatically rejected their application, the court heard.
In addition, Syed convinced Mr Suresh to submit formal work permit declaration forms, which also stated the latter as Ms Aminah’s employer. This was also approved.
During her time with Syed and his family, she was only paid for her first three months of work and was not paid for at least two months before leaving Singapore on 24 January 2019. She was compensated S$1,000 on her last day.
While the prosecution argued that she was not paid for three months, the defence has claimed that she was last paid in November 2018, two months before she left Singapore.
Couple Hid Her From The Police
In addition to underpaying Ms Aminah, Syed and his family did not provide her with adequate rest.
She had testified that she was only given four days off in the first two months and had no days off for the rest of her employment period. Sorely insufficient, current laws dictate that foreign domestic workers should be given a day off every week.
Deputy Public Prosecutor (DPP) Chong Kee En then went on to explain the larger incident, saying that Ms Aminah had called the Centre for Domestic Employees, who later informed MOM.
The ministry then contacted the police, who went over to Syed’s house at The Mornington Condominium to do their job.
When asked where their helper was, Syed denied that Ms Aminah was working for them. He and his wife then hid her in the master bedroom toilet and told her she had caused great trouble by calling the police.
Even worse, Syed reportedly deleted material from her mobile phone and took out her SIM card. He also hid her at their neighbour’s house and asked for their help to take her to Changi Airport. Later that night, he used Sabah’s credit card to purchase a flight ticket to Jakarta, Indonesia.
The prosecution had managed to obtain evidence from the closed-circuit television footage of The Mornington Condominium, Changi Airport and the body-worn camera footage of the police officer who went to Syed’s residence.
Syed and Sabah
Apart from their failure to ensure Ms Aminah’s wellbeing, it seems like there were some issues with communication.
Sabah’s lawyer, Mr Jeremey Pereira, told the court that she did not know her household was barred from hiring domestic workers, as Syed was the main decision-maker.
She also believed that Ms Aminah was going to be sent back to Indonesia and was unaware that the police were investigating her and her husband for possible offences under the Employment of Foreign Manpower Act.
With regards to giving Ms Aminah enough rest, Mr Pereira noted that Sabah was “quite flexible” and gave her “quite a lot of free time”. She would only scold the helper for other things, such as not supervising her children around the swimming pool area.
Syed’s lawyer, Mr Adrian Wee, highlighted that Syed did not have day-to-day knowledge of how much rest Ms Aminah got but doesn’t deny being responsible for this.
As her (illegal) employer, he faces more charges than his wife for failing to ensure that she was paid all outstanding salary before being sent home and for instigating Mr Suresh to lie about his employment.
However, Mr Wee argued that Syed was “not in a position” to admit to the common intention element for the obstruction of justice charge, which states that both he and Sabah are liable for the offence.
Syed and Sabah’s trial is still ongoing. If found to be guilty for the above charge, they could be jailed up to seven years, fined, or both.
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