My foreign domestic worker attempted suicide by falling down 3 floors from my Jurong home

She was only with my family for four months.

Belmont Lay | July 10, 2022, 05:18 AM

This first-person perspective submission is by an employer of a foreign domestic worker in Singapore. has reviewed the hospital bill, airline ticket receipts, and appeal letter by a MP related to this case. The writer has requested anonymity to share about her experience.

I am a 36-year-old mother of two children, aged three and 15.

I am currently carrying twins who are due on Nov. 3, 2022.

My husband is 55 years old. He suffered a heart attack in 2021 and has been placed on long-term medication.

We are both working as engineers but nowhere near management level.

We are considered a middle-income family. We save for our children's education and our retirement as much as we can.

Employed a domestic helper

In December 2021, we employed a foreign domestic worker from Indonesia from an agency in Ang Mo Kio.

She was 31 years old at that time, and her main primary duties were taking care of my three-year-old daughter and 10-month-old puppy, as well as housekeeping.

Could not do her job

During the days that I worked from home, we would chit chat.

I found out she chose to work in Singapore to earn extra money for her children’s education in Indonesia.

However, she will weep on some days, as she said she was stressed that her family in Indonesia kept asking her to find a man and settle down so she does not need to work in Singapore.

I asked her if she wanted to go back to Indonesia to settle her problems, and she mentioned she just gets too emotional.

After a while, I noticed that she does not have the skills to take care of my three-year-old daughter.

When my child refused to eat or shower, my domestic helper would vanish from my sight.

When I questioned her, she eventually came clean with me that even though she has kids, she did not take care of them, which explained why she has no experience in taking care of children.

Her own children are nine and 11 years old respectively.

This was a huge setback for me.

She further explained that the maid agency allegedly informed her that taking care of children is a very easy job.

Furthermore, the agency told her that since she had already rejected way too many employers, they did not allow her to have a choice to reject my employment offer.

Daily challenge

Each day became a challenge as a three-year-old toddler is not easy to handle if the caretaker has no skills and patience.

So, her main job was changed to just taking care of the puppy and housekeeping.

But we noticed that she started to skip meals and complain that she could not sleep.

The day she fell

On Apr. 25, my daughter had diarrhoea, and my husband took her to the clinic while I worked in the office.

Before I left for work, I reminded my domestic helper to shower and blow dry the dog.

At 10:30am, I received a phone call from the police that my foreign domestic worker had fallen.

I rushed home and learned that she had fallen out of my third floor unit window.

Police launched their investigations, and the Ministry of Manpower was notified.

Both my husband and I were at a loss and did not know what really happened as no one was at home.

Admitted to hospital with multiple injuries

My helper was admitted to the National University Hospital (NUH).

She suffered spinal, left ankle and right foot injuries, among other injuries.

She required extensive rehabilitation.

After a few days, the police told us that we as employers were not at fault and the case was handed over to MOM.

MOM has also cleared us of any wrongdoing and has no objection to our employment of a new foreign domestic worker.

Medical bill shocker

Before the final bill was issued, we already had to go through the process of seeking help for ourselves as employers.

On the third day our helper was in hospital, NUH had already called to inform us that the bill was already about S$40,000.

I was shocked.

I knew that the bill would continue to snowball at that point.

Even though the employer was not at fault, I was saddled with such a hefty bill.

So, I went to Jurong Spring CC to seek assistance from my Member of Parliament on May 5.

He wrote to MOM and NUH to appeal on our behalf.

I never learnt why she jumped or that she had a boyfriend in Singapore

When I saw my domestic worker in the hospital, I did not ask her why she jumped.

In fact, when I reached the hospital room, she was covering her face.

She was embarrassed to even see my face.

It was during one visit in NUH that I chanced upon her boyfriend.

This was despite her telling me before that she did not have a boyfriend in Singapore.

After speaking to the boyfriend, I learnt that he was allegedly on the phone with my helper when she jumped down from my house.

When I asked him what they were talking about when she jumped, he mentioned it was nothing much.

I did not want to probe further or speculate any more since this was a matter between two consenting adults and the fact that the bill was snowballing.

Another thing I learnt was that the boyfriend has known my helper for a long time since she was previously employed here.

They got to know each other on her off days.

He also said she went back to Indonesia when her previous employment here was over.

While in Indonesia, the boyfriend claimed she had already tried to commit suicide by standing in the middle of the road, but her mother managed to save her.

But he did not share the reason why she even attempted suicide before.

My helper's mother will contact this boyfriend on and off to find out about her daughter's condition.

Based on my own observations, my helper appeared contented while in bed in hospital, even though she had passed the responsibility of footing the bill for her medical expenses to me, her employer.

I have since concluded that one reason she came back to Singapore was to get back with her boyfriend.

I could be wrong. I would not know any better.

But I had more pressing issues to deal with -- all while pregnant.


About two weeks later, NUH informed me on May 11 that my helper could be discharged on May 13.

I quickly booked a flight out of Singapore that day for her and her boyfriend.

However, an hour later, NUH called me again saying that they could not release her because she had active tuberculosis (TB).

I was again shocked.

I had to rebook the tickets for May 25 and forked out an unnecessary S$800 extra as a result of making the flight amendments.

On top of this, my helper had to be warded for two additional weeks as a result of her TB diagnosis, which added to her bill.

On May 25, she was sent off via ambulance to the airport, which cost S$400.

I paid for my helper's boyfriend's tickets as well because he told me he did not have the money.

He said he will pay me back for his plane ticket.

So far, he has returned S$500 to me.

Maid agency declined to make refund

The maid agency has also turned down my request for the remaining placement fee to be returned to me since the domestic worker was only here for four months.

I thought I would be entitled to have the two months' worth of fees returned to me but the agency refused, saying whatever happened was a mishap.

But there was a contractual clause saying that if the foreign domestic worker is unwilling and/ or unable to continue employment in Singapore due to no fault of the employer, I will get the money back.

I pointed out this clause to the agent, and was challenged to report the matter to MOM.

I was told I was not going to get a refund of the remaining money.

Still liable for part of the bill

In a letter from MOM on May 12, my husband and I were reminded that we are "responsible for the costs of upkeep and maintenance" of the foreign domestic worker in Singapore.

This includes the provision of medical treatment, which is part of the conditions to be complied with by the employers of foreign domestic workers.

I learnt that any failure to resolve the outstanding medical bill constitutes a breach of the conditions of the work permit, we were reminded, which is an offence under Section 22(1)(a) of the Employment of Foreign Manpower Act 1990.

The penalty for failing to comply involves a fine of up to S$10,000 or 12 months' jail or both.

Final bill tally: S$66,670.05

The final bill issued on Jun. 17 was S$66,670.05.

The itemised bill was 12 pages long, listing the procedures, such as surgeries and treatments she had undergone, and their costs.

It also listed individual costs of tests, such as a lab test for calcium (S$10.38), Covid-19 test (S$112.35), cervical spine x-ray (S$567.10), and even miscellaneous items such as wet wipes (S$4.82).

On Jun. 20, NUH responded via email and said that while the appeal to seek financial assistance will be explored and subjected to approval, we are still liable for part of the bill.

Eventually, we accepted the offer to meet halfway: A bulk of the bill, some S$53,000, will be waived, and we as employers will pay about S$13,000 to close the case.

I used the spare cash that my husband and I have to make this payment.

My husband and I are thankful to NUH for this outcome.

Taking a toll on my health & unborn babies

I am currently past my fifth month of pregnancy.

Because of these events, I have not slept well or eaten well.

I went for my gynaecologist check-up on Jun. 17 -- the day I got the bill.

The result was that I had only gained 1kg throughout my whole pregnancy carrying twins, which was not healthy.

I doubt anyone in my situation will be able to eat or sleep well.

The period was mentally torturing and physically tiring.

The law protects workers, I understand.

But what about law-abiding Singaporeans like myself who need to be aware of what happens in such situations?

Employers are slapped with hefty hospital bills after their foreign domestic workers do something drastic.

I wonder what happens if employers of foreign domestic workers cannot afford the bill and do not know about the various avenues to appeal?

I am not the first, nor will I be the last employer to face such a situation.

My only advice is to seek help if you ever find yourself in a similar situation.

And find out beforehand what are your rights as an employer, before understanding what you can do.

Top photo of domestic helper supplied by employer