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Direct Hire vs Maid Agency [Hiring a Domestic Helper in Singapore]

Updated: Jun 28, 2018

Understand the pros and cons of hiring a part-time versus full-time helper and the different channels available when hiring a domestic helper in Singapore.

When searching for a suitable domestic helper, you may wish to first decide on whether you need a part-time or full-time helper.


If you do not have the space to house a live-in helper, you may wish to consider part-time helpers who can come in every few days or weeks to help with general household chores such as cleaning, laundry and ironing.

This option is suited to young professionals who may not have the time or capacity to attend to housework during the week.


Cleaning agencies can provide part-time or ad-hoc cleaning or domestic services. This option allows you the flexibility to choose the type of services on a piecemeal basis. There is no long-term commitment and you are not subject to government levies.


Often times families that require dedicated full-time carers such as those with young children or elderly persons, opt to employ live-in domestic helpers. This is particularly so when continuity of care is needed to ensure consistent care quality.


Most families in Singapore typically choose to hire a foreign domestic helper as live-in helpers. Want to know how to do go about hiring one? Read on.


Channels for hiring a foreign domestic helper:


Maid Agencies

  • This is one of the more popular ways to hiring a foreign domestic worker. For a fee, a maid ageny will help you search for a suitable helper based on your requirements.


  • The fees charged by maid agencies would include services such as arranging interviews with shortlisted candidates, providing training on household tasks, assisting with visa arrangements, sending her for the medical check-up and arranging the logistics to get your helper to your home.



Direct hiring:

In Singapore, it is also possible to hire a foreign domestic helper directly, without going through an agency or intermediary.

  • You make your application online through MOM's eService portal. Processing generally takes 1 week for online applications and 3 weeks for manual applications.

  • First time employers of foreign domestic workers are required to attend the Employers' Orientation Programme (EOP). The EOP can be taken online or in a classroom. It costs S$30 - S$46 to attend the programme.


  • Check your eligibility as an employer and understand the Ministry of Manpower's (MOM) requirements on hiring a foreign domestic helper prior to submitting your application.

  • Once you have identified a suitable candidate and have negotiated the employment terms, you will need to ensure her work permit/visa and paperwork are arranged in accordance to government requirements.


  1. Submit an application online or manually through any Singpost branch. A payment of S$30 is required for processing the application. You will receive an in-principal approval letter or a rejection letter in the mail.

  2. Prepare for your helper's arrival by getting a security bond, buying personal accident and medical insurances, registering your helper for the Settling-In Programme (this is a mandatory orientation course for foreign workers coming to work in Singapore). Once she arrives, you are required to send her in for a medical check-up.

  3. Issuance of work permit. When your helper arrives, you will have to apply online for a Temporary Work Permit which is valid for 1 month. Your helper might also be required to register her fingerprint and photo with MOM. After which, you will receive the Work Permit card in the mail.

  4. Old pass cards must be returned to MOM.

Direct hiring is popular with employers wishing to employ domestic helpers that are already in Singapore (also known as transfer maids) as there is less documentation and logistics involved than hiring a domestic worker from outside the country.


Direct & maid agency:

  • What if you have identified a suitable candidate referred to you by friends or family and you don't have the time to go through the paperwork and logistics? In that case, you can approach an agency to help you with the necessary paperwork and on-boarding requirements.


Things to note when deciding to engage a maid agency or hiring direct


Consider your situation and timeline:

  • Are you in hurry to engage a domestic worker? Perhaps you are a first time employer who may not be familiar with the hiring and on-boarding process? If so, engaging an agency might be the way to go.


  • Do you need a helper who has special skills such as nursing care or newborn care? You will need to go about looking for the best candidate for your needs and ensure these candidates are properly vetted and reference checked before you decide to start the work permit process.


Determine your budget:

  • A major consideration when deciding between hiring direct or using an employment agency to hire a domestic helper is the cost.


  • Hiring direct and doing things yourself will be more cost efficient. However you bear the risk of your candidate rejecting your offer once the flight tickets have been bought and arrangements made.


  • While employment agencies might charge a service fee, most agents will have a refund and replacement policy in place if the chosen candidate is unable to take up your job offer.



Engage reputable agencies:

  • When choosing an agency to help with the recruitment of a domestic helper, make sure they are accredited by MOM. Follow these easy steps when selecting an domestic worker employment agency.

  1. Shop around: Speak to a few agencies before you narrow down your choice of agency. Understand what they specialise in, how they recruit candidates, if they provide structured training to their candidates and their service offering.

  2. Understand the fees: lower fees may be budget friendly but try to understand if there are any other ancillary costs that you would need to pay later. Make sure you read our article on typical hiring fees and costs.

  3. Assess their track record: MOM publishes statistics on employment agencies and their personnel. Consider their track record such as the agency’s demerit points, worker retention rate, transfer rate and worker placement volumes.


MOM Employment Agency Directory

Do your homework:

  • When hiring a domestic worker directly, understand the risks involved in hiring a candidate from overseas i.e. when sending funds for flight tickets or when fronting other costs.


  • Be clear and transparent on the job requirements and employment terms to your selected candidate during the interview. Being upfront about the job will ensure the right fit for your household and helper.


  • When engaging an employment agency to help with the recruitment, understand what services are included or not included, their refund policies and dispute resolution process. Understand their terms of service and go through your Service Agreement with the employment agency.


Sample Service Agreement between Employer and Agency

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