We’ve all heard horror stories of maids being terribly abused by their employers in Singapore. And although authorities have come up with stricter regulations, mistreatment is still distressingly common here.

And we’re not just talking about outright physical abuse, like beating or other abusive forms of punishment – some domestic helpers are subjected to uncomfortable living conditions and oppressive regimes set by their employers. Not only does this behaviour set a horrible example for the children; it can also cost you dearly.

Besides the obvious ethical implications at hand, mistreating your domestic helper involves other hidden costs worth knowing about. Here are five reasons:

5 Surprising Reasons Treating Your Maid Badly Can Cost You More
(Photo: Pixabay)

1. A stressed-out maid means you’ll have to step in more 

If your helper is constantly scolded and feels unequal to the task, the eventual result is to “freeze up” out of fear of underperforming, or just give up. When that happens, you’ll find you have to intervene in a wider range of chores. You’ll have to micromanage the laundry, cooking, sweeping, etc.

This micromanagement leads to more scolding, which leads to more stress, which leads to you having to micromanage even more. It’s an unhealthy cycle. And all the while, you will be wasting hours giving directions. This runs contrary to your original intent, which is to hire a domestic helper to save you time. Now you’re losing time, raising your own stress levels and  paying money to do it.

Scolding, yelling, and other aggressive methods are simply counterproductive. You would panic just as bad if your boss behaved that way at work. If you really think your domestic helper can’t manage, you should politely request a change from the agency and leave it at that. There’s no need to behave like a drill sergeant.

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2. You may lose money from getting debarred

If you are found guilty of mistreating your helper, such as by getting her to perform dangerous work (clean windows on the 10th floor from the outside), or by abuse (including inadequate food), you can be debarred.

When the Ministry of Manpower debars someone under the Employment of Foreign Labour Act, one will not be able to hire a maid from anywhere. Trying is seen as breaking the law and is a chargeable offence. The penalty period varies based on the severity of the offence, and it can theoretically last decades.

This means, if you run your own business or have a job that requires travel, it could spell the end of your current income source. You could end up resigning because you have no one to look after your elderly parents or children, and have to do it yourself. It’s important to remember that, while you are the employer, you may be the one who is truly dependent on your helper.

5 Surprising Reasons Treating Your Maid Badly Can Cost You More (2)
(Photo: 123RF)

3. Constantly changing helpers is a waste of money and time

Invariably, the best domestic helpers are described as the ones who integrate with the family. They go out of their way to look after children or elderly parents and foster real relationships with their wards.

But that’s not possible if she feels ostracised or mistreated. Helpers who aren’t happy will tend to distance themselves, and this raises the odds of friction – they are less likely to get along with other family members.

The end result of that is often switching maids. But if your treatment remains the same, you will not see any difference, whoever the replacement is.

Constantly changing your domestic helper could incur fees from the agencies (depending on the terms of the contract). Furthermore, it costs time and money to constantly make new registrations, and look around for a replacement. Also remember that every time you hire a new helper, you need to wait a few weeks to train her and get her settled in.

Read also: 6 Ways To Save Your Marriage When Your Mother-In-Law Hates You

4. While you can save more if she enjoys working for you

When their contracts expire, maids may end up working for someone else. But if they like working for you, odds are they will come back.

Now if you happen to have found a good helper, look at the financial upsides of that. You will not have to spend time and money looking for a replacement, and there is no risk of turnover (i.e. The replacement may not be suitable, causing you to again look for a replacement). You will also not have to re-train her because she already knows what the family needs, as well as your schedule.. She can jump straight to work helping you the moment the contract is renewed.

5 Surprising Reasons Treating Your Maid Badly Can Cost You More (2)
(Photo: Pixabay)

5. The consequences of mistreating a maid go beyond fines and penalties

News of ill-treatment will get out, if not via the maid agency (who have a vested interest in reporting such cases, as they could be in serious legal trouble otherwise), then by members of the public.

If you see maid abuse cases there is an open system for reporting it. Based on the news reports we’ve seen, penalties range from a few months to over two years, in addition to steep fines.

This is not the worst of it. You will find it difficult to find new employment once you have jail time on your record, and your current employer will more than likely terminate your contract if you need to go to jail. And of course, the court fees alone can come up to several thousand dollars a day!

Essentially, domestic helpers are human too, with needs and fears like anyone else. Treat them the way you’d want others to treat you, and you’ll have a happy helper and an easier, more comfortable life at home.

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Text: Ryan Ong/Additional Reporting: Elizabeth Liew

This article first appeared on Singsaver.com.sg, Singapore’s go-to personal finance comparison platform that guides consumers on the best money habits with its credit card comparison tool and allows real-time personal loans product comparison.