SINGAPORE: The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) is introducing a new grading scheme and customer ratings for employment agencies that place foreign domestic workers (FDWs), it announced at an Employment Agency seminar on Wednesday (Mar 9).
The initiatives are aimed at improving the professionalism and service standards of these agencies, the ministry said.
The mandatory grading scheme, Trustmark, is a partnership between MOM and the Consumers Association of Singapore (CASE). This will be introduced by the second half of 2017, MOM said.
The grading assessment criteria will be jointly developed by MOM and CASE in consultation with the industry, and assessment areas will include having established processes to help employers find FDWs that suit household needs, as well as the proportion of FDWs who completed their contracts.
CASE said complaints about maid agencies account for a fairly large proportion of cases.
"The number of complaints over the last three years ranges from 850 to 1,250. The nature of complaints are usually unsatisfactory service, and you would notice that unsatisfactory service would involve service standards delivery," said Mr Seah Seng Choon, executive director of CASE. "The other nature of complaint is failure to honour. They may promise certain things, but they don't carry it out. The Trustmark, hopefully, will address this."
Employment agencies will have to undergo Trustmark grading before they renew their licenses. They will then have to display the grade received prominently to enable potential employers to make informed decisions when selecting employment agencies, the ministry explained.
Agencies will not lose their licence if they receive a poor grade.
Highlighting the importance of this scheme, Minister of State for Manpower Sam Tan said: "The important role that EAs (employment agencies) play to help both employers and FDWs find a good match from the onset cannot be over-emphasised. Having the Trustmark will place the onus on EAs to better fulfil their duty of care."
However, while he acknowledged that agencies could help lay the foundation for a good FDW-employer relationship by matching FDW skills to employer needs, "both employer and FDW will also need to play their part to make this relationship work", he said.
One maid agency Channel NewsAsia spoke to said meeting the service standards could be a challenge for the industry, given the many expectations that employers have.
However, an employer welcomed the plan.
Ms Sneha Srinivasan commented: "Today, pretty much, I think there is a certain level of basic standards you'd expect around health and hygiene, and the rest of it is left to the employer and the helper on how they agree on certain things. But if there could be some more criteria that come as a common standard, that might probably be a good thing."
MOM is also developing an employment agency customer rating system, which will be introduced in the middle of this year.
This system will provide employment agencies with feedback on their service levels to help them improve while helping prospective employers make more informed decisions. The ratings will be made public on MOM's Employment Agencies and Personnel Search E-Service Page.
The results from the rating system could be taken into account when assessing the Trustmark grade of an employment agency, the ministry said.