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Ask Andreas: What right to health care does my helper have in Singapore?

ExpertsPost Category - ExpertsExpertsFamily LifePost Category - Family LifeFamily Life - Post Category - Domestic HelpersDomestic Helpers

We have the best Agony Uncle at Sassy Mama – Andreas is the author of one of our most-recommended books: Hiring & Managing Domestic Help. It’s an absolute must-have for Singapore mamas and you can buy it here!

This week Andreas, our expert extraordinaire when it comes to all things helper related, helps one mama with her question on health insurance and what to do with a helper who has called from vacation with a health emergency. 

What should I do when my helper calls from her holiday destination, and says that she needs to have an operation done, and she can’t come back to work in Singapore until after a two month convalescence? I have paid the basic insurance for her. What right to health care does she have in Singapore? Should I insist that she comes back and be cared for in Singapore?

According to the Ministry of Manpower website, you are responsible for your helper’s medical needs including the full cost of medical care and hospitalization. You must take out Medical and Personal Accident insurance as per the following guidelines on the MoM website:

  •          Medical insurance
    For medical insurance policies taken up or renewed on/or after 1 January 2010, the insurance coverage must be at least $15,000 per year for each FDW’s inpatient care and day surgery during her stay in Singapore. This is in line with the employers’ existing responsibility for the upkeep and well-being of their FDWs, including the provision of medical treatment.
  •         Personal accident insurance
    It is compulsory for employers to take up a Personal Accident Insurance policy for their FDWs before they can employ the FDW. The minimum sum assured should be $40,000. Any compensation payable should be made to her or her beneficiaries.*

In other words, as long as you have paid insurance, she can get health care in Singapore.

While your helper may well be telling the truth about her condition (please give her the benefit of the doubt), unfortunately many helpers use the “operation” tactic as a way to get extra time off. You should tell her that unfortunately you can’t reimburse expenses for health care abroad. After all, she can get free (to her) health care in Singapore so why should you pay for it in her country? Having said that, do check with your insurance company that she will be covered in case she comes back for care.

If you think she is using her “condition” as an excuse for extra time off, you should ask to see doctor’s statements and receipts. An emailed scan or picture of a receipt goes a long way. You want to see if she is actually sick. Continue by saying that if she cannot produce documentation and she does not report back to work after her vacation time on the date agreed beforehand you will have to terminate her. Employing anyone is based on trust, and if you cannot trust she is being honest with you that should be the end of her employment.

If she can produce documentation, you will have to evaluate based on the diagnosis and so forth. Was it a sudden illness? Could she have planned her procedure? Could she have it in Singapore instead?

Note 1: If she is traveling with you in a working capacity you should also reimburse health care expenses and claim on insurance. Best in this case to take out a travel insurance policy for your helper before you leave, as your Singapore policy may not cover it.

For the only guide you’ll ever need on working with a helper, check out Andreas’ fab book ‘Hiring and Managing Domestic Help’ and buy it here.


Andreas Rosboch was born and raised in Sweden by an Italian father and a Swedish mother. He has been an expat for more than ten years and plans to keep it that way. He has spent most of his career in the information technology field, handling everything from brand management to customer support. He is the author of one of our most-recommended books Hiring & Managing Domestic Help – an absolute must-have for Hong Kong mamas (psst- and you can buy it here). He lives in Hong Kong with his wife, two children and dog.

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