News of domestic helper mishaps often spread quickly not just because of their shocking nature—the victims of these stories also end up with exorbitant medical or liability costs. In most cases, your full-time domestic helper’s toothaches, flu or other minor ailments can be addressed with relatively low costs. But what happens when an emergency happens? Will you be liable to pay out thousands of dollars in medical bills for your domestic helper if she breaks a bone from falling or gets cancer? Below, we explore different types of emergencies and whether or not it will be covered by your insurance.
If Your Domestic Helper Commits a Crime Against You
It’s unfortunate when your domestic helper turns out to be less trustworthy than you thought. Though such cases are quite rare—with an average of 40 FDW-on-employer abuse cases per year—the fact that they do occur can make any employer feel unsettled. If you return home one day to find your belongings missing, or if you get into a spat and your helper spitefully hurts your child(ren) or elderly relatives in retaliation, the psychological stress and associated medical and replacement costs can end up being very high.
The good news is that depending on who your insurance company is, your domestic helper insurance can cover all of these scenarios. This includes coverage for items lost or damaged by fire or theft, and damages to children, handicapped or elderly family relatives. If you have proof (such as a home CCTV system) of any of theses events, you must report the incident to the police, your insurer and the Ministry of Manpower. However, you may not be able to claim repatriation expenses, re-hiring or termination expenses as these are usually only claimable due to severe medical reasons or death.
If Your Domestic Helper Falls While Cleaning
The Ministry of Manpower makes the Settling-In Programme necessary for a reason—it is their way of letting your domestic helper know what is proper work protocol and how to prevent unnecessary injury. The programme seems to be doing its job well with only 6 cases of life-threatening work injuries happening per year on average. However, there will be times when such protocol is ignored, either by the helper who prefers doing things her own way or by employers who insist on getting a job done regardless of safety protocols. Unfortunately, this usually leads to dangerous situations that end up costing the employer thousands of dollars in medical expenses and either the permanent injury or death of the domestic helper.
In this case, your domestic helper insurance should cover you if you claim under their personal accident section. Your insurer will pay out a prorated sum depending on the severity of the injury. Some insurers even offer outpatient expenses to continue the treatment for the injured worker. If you decide to keep your domestic worker after the incident, your insurance will also cover your domestic worker’s wages while she’s in the hospital and, in some cases, wages for temporary alternative help. If the injuries are severe enough or you want to send your worker back home, your insurance will pay for repatriation expenses, termination expenses and re-hiring expenses.
If Your Domestic Helper Becomes Pregnant
There are only around 100 cases of domestic helper pregnancies per year in Singapore. Nonetheless, the risk is still high enough for insurance companies to refuse coverage for anything related to your domestic worker’s pregnancy. This includes pregnancy, childbirth, miscarriage and abortion expenses. In this case, it is highly unlikely you will be responsible for your domestic worker’s medical bills at this point since she will be breaching her work permit. However, you will be instead be responsible for repatriation and re-hiring costs as your insurance will only cover these things if your domestic worker cannot continue due to medical conditions besides pregnancy.
If Your Domestic Helper Runs Away
According to the most recent statistics, around 4,000 domestic helpers run away per year. If your domestic worker runs away, you should report the incident to the police and Ministry of Manpower immediately. Unfortunately, in this case your insurance can’t help you much. If you can’t find your domestic worker, half of your security bond will be forefeited to help pay for her repatriation and other related costs. Your insurance can only help recover some of the bond only if you had purchased the optional waiver of counter indemnity benefit. This waiver can reduce your bond liability to $250 instead of $2,500. However, your insurer must have evidence that you were not at fault of breaching the bond (i.e. you did not abuse your maid to the point where she ran away).
If Your Domestic Helper Gets a Terminal Illness
There have been several cases of domestic helpers suffering from terminal illnesses that ended up costing their employers thousands of dollars in medical fees. These cases are quite rare, but increased to 55 cases per year in the past three years as compared to the previous yearly average of 40. Thankfully, the minimum S$15,000 of hospitalisation coverage that your insurer is supposed to provide should be sufficient for most hospitalisation and medical cases. However, if your bills amount to greater than S$15,000, you will be liable to pay the remainder of the bill. In this case, if you want to prevent any surprise medical bills, it may be beneficial to max out your medical coverage and opt for a FDW insurance policy that offers S$20,000-S$30,000 in medical coverage. Additionally, some plans offer optional riders that can increase your hospitalisation or personal accident coverage even more.
However, there are stipulations that you should be aware of. The first is that the illness can not be due to a pre-existing condition (unless your FDW has been in Singapore for more than 12 months and contracted the condition here). The second is that your domestic helper must be placed in a Class C or B2 hospital ward for you to receive full coverage. If your domestic worker ends up in a B1, A1 or A2 class ward, your insurer will only pay a certain percentage of coverage. Lastly, not all diseases are covered. Though insurers started offering medical coverage for terminal illnesses like cancer, strokes and heart attacks, you will not receive coverage for medical bills relating to venereal, mental or congenital diseases.
If Your Domestic Helper Gets into an Accident on Your Family Vacation
If your domestic helper has to travel with you on your family vacations, your maid insurer will automatically extend their coverage to wherever you are going. However, there are exclusions to the coverage, including injuries or accidents due to sports and other adventurous activity, as well as bodily harm due to force majeure. Thus, if you are planning on having your FDW participate in common winter or water sports, you can consider including her in your travel insurance policy. You should keep in mind that in the event something does happen, you can only claim your domestic helper’s illness or accident under one policy or the other.
Not all maid insurance policies are created equal, which is why it’s so important to make sure you read the policy wording and plan out the benefits you want coverage for before settling on a policy. Though you may be locked into whatever insurance policy your maid agency supplied you during your first year, it is good practice to look around for better policies when renewing your domestic helper’s contract. Additionally, though these emergencies do happen, they are still quite rare. In most cases, the time you spend with your domestic helper will be uneventful. If you have a domestic helper for 10 years, your risk of dealing with any of these emergencies once is less than 20%. This means per year, the risk is only 1.9%. Nonetheless, since some of these cases could wipe out your entire savings or even force you to go into debt, it’s better to pay a little bit extra on your insurance policy to get ample coverage and prevent potential financial ruin.
This story was originally published on Value Champion.