HOME’s Indonesian caseworkers meet every Sunday to run a helpdesk that serves workers in their own language. Including both volunteers and some current domestic workers, the helpdesk staff are a key source of support and advice for domestic workers who run into problems in Singapore. They are thus well-placed to guide workers on potential civil compensation claims, and how to collect the important pieces of evidence needed to make their claims as strong as possible.
JWB’s Executive Director Douglas MacLean and Pro Bono Officers Ms Tammie Koh (Singapore) and Ms Sri Aryani (Indonesia) recently met these caseworkers to discuss the types of evidence needed for the most common types of civil claims that domestic workers are likely to have. These include salary underpayment, overcharging of agency fees and abuse.
Legal practitioner Mr Wesley Chan, an associate at Drew & Napier LLC, also kindly shared his experience in evidence collection as a litigator. He illustrated the importance of having consistent, corroborated and good evidence. Corroboration was highlighted as a key component, as evidence that supports domestic worker’s statements can lead the judge to believe a plaintiff’s version of events over the defendant’s.
The session became very interactive as caseworkers shared the scenarios that they often encounter, while Mr. Chan advised on how to obtain the relevant evidence in each scenario. A key example: key evidence such as invoices and contracts that contain the worker’s details are often in the hands of an organisation like an employment agency. A worker may be able to make an official Personal Data Protection Act to obtain those documents, forcing the agency to produce the evidence, or else face potential sanctions.
Understanding that some of the most important evidence might not ever be written down, Mr. Chan discussed how domestic workers can protect themselves before trouble begins. Strategies like taking photos of relevant documents, taking screenshots of text messages, and keeping a journal to document incidents can help provide additional support to the worker’s claims. He noted that caseworkers can assist by advising workers of the importance of and the means to collect evidence early on in the process.
With many potential clients going home before they have a chance to make a claim, JWB discussed with participants how they can make a case referral to our local office.
Ultimately, the caseworkers left with a greater understanding of how to effectively gather evidence, and what claims may be possible. We are optimistic that the caseworkers’ new knowledge will help bring more cases to light, enabling more workers to seek just compensation, even after returning home. Finally, a sincere thank you to our partners at HOME for giving us the opportunity to share with their Indonesian caseworkers, and to Mr. Wesley Chan for sharing his insights and experience on civil litigation.