From Knowledge to Knowhow: Operationalising the Singapore Practitioner’s Manual at Home and Abroad


2015 saw the publication of JWB’s ground-breaking practitioner’s manual on remote civil claims for migrant workers who cannot stay in Singapore to pursue compensation. If you haven’t seen it yet, click the image to visit our download page.

Not content to allow the manual to be yet another publication that sits on the shelf gathering dust, we are now putting our work into the field as a tool to build knowledge and knowhow. Working with our partners in both Singapore and in workers’ home countries, we are making the manual accessible to others in their native language, developing hands-on workshops, and building a set of screening tools with our Singapore partners to identify potential cases for litigation.

Translating the Practitioner’s Manual into Bahasa Indonesia

Our Indonesian partners from Tifa Foundation and ADBMI
Our Indonesian partners from Tifa Foundation and ADBMI

The Tifa Foundation in Indonesia has kindly donated approximately US$10,000 of translation time to put our 240+ page manual into Bahasa Indonesia. This will make our work available to the thousands of Indonesian legal aid lawyers, caseworkers and government officers who support migrant workers going to and from Singapore. The translation will also be the first step in developing “know your rights” and caseworker specific materials from the contents of the manual.


Upcoming Indonesian workshops

The International Organization for Migration’s Indonesia country office will sponsor two workshops later this year to train caseworkers and legal practitioners on legal remedies available to those who have been harmed in Singapore. Participants will include those dealing with live cases, and together, we will not only discuss available remedies, but also how to bring potential claims in Singapore courts while the client is in Indonesia.

Case screenings with partner NGOs – HOME and TWC2

This summer, JWB’s legal fellows from the NUS Faculty of Law, supervised by Pro Bono Legal Coordinator, Nirupa Narayan, and Executive Director, Douglas MacLean, are working closely with caseworkers at our partner NGOs, HOME and TWC2, to identify potential civil claims that their Indonesian domestic worker clients may have. The screening process is based on our Practitioner’s Manual, and will also help us develop case identification tools that our partners’ caseworkers can employ going forward.

One of the key findings from our first round of screenings is just how little victims of exploitation are compensated for non-salary claims. Currently, domestic workers usually settle their claims through either an MOM-mediated process or through informal settlements. However, more complex claims, such as malnutrition from inadequate provision of food, physical and mental abuse, general mistreatment, and questionable salary deductions are often left aside in the race to secure salary claims and return home. The pressure to leave and the fear of losing access to their claims mean that some workers leave with far less than is owed to them.

By looking at all possible civil claims, JWB hopes to enable domestic workers to pursue claims in Singapore courts after they have settled down in their home communities. Workers can then be relieved of the financial pressure of unemployment in Singapore, and can take time to recover from the psychological strains of the ordeal they have endured. Most importantly, this work may lead to more comprehensive claims to be brought, enabling domestic workers to obtain the full measure of compensation owed to them.

As our workshops proceed in clients’ home countries, we can adapt the Singapore-based tools to their home context, enabling organisations that help those returning from Singapore to identify outstanding claims and begin the process of seeking compensation. Our current work in both Indonesia and Singapore will lay the foundations for these tools, developing the knowledge and knowhow needed to make access to just compensation possible on the victim’s terms, at the time and place that makes the most sense for them.