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    Sep 08, 2016

    20 biggest maid agencies all rated below 4 out of 5

    WOULD-BE employers of domestic helpers can now check on the effectiveness of a maid agency, following a new rating system based on scores given to an agency by its customers.

    The information can be found on the Ministry of Manpower's existing online directory of maid agencies, each of which can get star ratings of one to five, with five being the top score.

    The system, announced in March, is part of an ongoing effort to raise industry standards.

    The ministry said the results will inform agencies of the specific areas they need to improve on.

    The directory has about 1,455 agencies but only around 580 have received ratings since the ministry began surveying employers in June.

    One reason is that ratings are published only when at least three reviews are received.

    Also, employers are asked to rate the agency only three months after they have hired a domestic helper.

    There were about 20,000 of them and they were asked via SMS. So far, about 10,000 have responded, a ministry spokesman told The Straits Times.

    They are asked to rate agencies on four service areas - how well the agent explained the application process, fees, service contract and maid's contract, as well as how able the agent was in finding a suitable maid.

    The 20 biggest agencies, according to the number of maids placed in the past year, all scored below four.

    The new effort was welcomed by the Association of Employment Agencies (Singapore) (AEAS) and maid employers like Geraldine Ang, 52, deputy director for service management at a statutory board.

    She described it as "a useful guide" but noted that other factors, such as how long domestic helpers stay with employers, are important too.

    AEAS president K. Jayaprema said the ratings should spur the firms to do better and could be "a wake-up call" for some.

    The agencies with the lowest scores include Niraz Agency Services, VROS Employment, Premium Management Services and Bala's Employment Agency.

    Niraz's director M. L. Philomena is not overly worried about her 1.7 score, saying she has her regular customers.

    "If I give in to an employer on everything she wants, I'm not being fair to the domestic helper," she added.

    Rengasamy Balasubramanian, owner of Bala's Employment Agency, agrees.

    Still, he plans to improve.

    "We will do more in explaining the contract and maid's background as well as try to help maids and employers to understand each other better," he said.