Better insurance coverage for foreign domestic workers from October

Better insurance coverage for foreign domestic workers from October

The move is to ensure all FDWs continue to be adequately compensated in the event of permanent disability or death while employed in Singapore, said Minister of State for Manpower Sam Tan

SINGAPORE: Foreign domestic workers (FDWs) in Singapore will enjoy better protection under changes to their Personal Accident Insurance requirements with effect from October 2017.

Announced by Minister of State for Manpower Sam Tan at the NTUC’s May Day Domestic Employees Celebration on Sunday (May 7), the move is to ensure all FDWs continue to be adequately compensated in the event of permanent disability or death while employed in Singapore.

Mr Tan said this is in line with higher FDW salaries, as well as increases in the cost of living in workers’ home countries since the last review in 2008. This state of affairs was flagged by the Union, which asked the government to review insurance requirements since January 2017.

Starting salaries for Foreign Domestic Workers rose from an average of S$300 in 2012 to about S$550 in 2016, according to figures from the NTUC’s Centre for Domestic Employees (CDE).

“They will also help employers to better protect their FDWs and their families at a slight increase in premiums of about between S$7 to S$15 (a year),” said Mr Tan, after discussions with insurance companies to reflect the increased quantum. “FDWs will also have greater peace of mind, be happier and more productive with these changes. So we trust that these changes will further facilitate a harmonious working relationship between employers and their FDWs.”

In the event of death or permanent disability, FDWs and their families will be assured a minimum sum of S$60,000 – up from the previous S$40,000. The Ministry of Manpower also requires the insurance to cover all sudden, unforeseen and unexpected incidents that result in the death or permanent disability of the FDW, with no additional conditions, exceptions or exclusions allowed to be imposed except those specified by the Controller for Work Passes – such as for pre-existing conditions and suicide.

Changes will also be made to allow FDWs or their legal representatives to file claims directly with insurers, or have an MOM-appointed representative directed to act on their behalf. Coverage will also need to start when the worker first arrives in Singapore to the date she returns to her country, or in the case where she changes employers, to the date her new work permit is issued.

CDE Chairman Yeo Guat Kwang said it welcomes the move, especially after it saw “quite a number of unfortunate cases where cover lapsed”. He added that though insurance issues made up only “a handful” of the roughly 600 cases the centre handled (from January 2016 when the centre first launched to Mar 31, 2017), the union did not want this number to increase. 

“Such regular reviews are important so as to go in line with inflation and also to give the (worker’s) family, if unfortunately something happens, better support,” said Mr Yeo, who is also the NTUC’s Assistant Director-General.

He added that the increase in cost of premiums on the employers would be something households “should be able to cope” with - years after the last revision.

Workers Channel NewsAsia spoke to welcomed the change.

“It’s a big benefit for us. We don’t know what’s going to happen in our life,” said Filipino Nemia Apolonio.

Indonesian Sri Sunarni said that the change would help her support her family with buying a house or land. “If I cannot do anything, this insurance can cover my life,” she added.

Moving forward, the CDE will also urge the government to consider increasing medical insurance coverage for serious illnesses suffered by FDWs from the current S$15,000, said Mr Yeo.

About 1,000 domestic employees attended the NTUC’s May Day event at the Youth Park @ Somerset, held in appreciation for the work they do for Singapore’s employers and families. 

Source: CNA/mn