13 May 2018
Justice Without Borders (JWB) recently held its first civil compensation workshop for the Foreign Domestic Worker Association for Social Support and Training (FAST). JWB staff and a pro bono lawyer from Drew & Napier LLC trained 10 FAST staff and volunteers, including experienced domestic workers from Indonesia and the Philippines, equipping them with the skills and knowledge to help victims collect evidence and pursue compensation from their abusers.
FAST has a membership of 8,000 migrant domestic workers including workers from Indonesia, the Philippines and Myanmar. FAST is deeply engaged with the community, with highly involved staff and volunteers, including senior domestic workers, running services, events and weekly classes for workers.
Workshop participants had witnessed many cases of workers facing food deprivation, restriction of movement, unpaid salaries and abuse. JWB’s training equipped these community leaders to identify workers with valid claims and help them collect evidence in order to pursue rightful compensation, even after they return home. The small and interactive session saw active participation by attendees who shared their experiences and asked many questions.
JWB’s Executive Director, Mr. Douglas MacLean and JWB’s Singapore Head of Office, Ms. Shalini Jayaraj began the workshop with an introduction to cross-border civil claims.
Many workers are not aware that they can still pursue civil claims against host country employers or agencies even after they return home. JWB’s pro bono legal network can help workers file valid claims in Singapore courts, even if they have returned to Indonesia or the Philippines.
Participants shared some of the problems that domestic workers may experience during their employment in Singapore, leading to an in-depth discussion on the types of employer actions that are legal or illegal.
Mr. MacLean and Mr. Wesley Chan, a Singapore-qualified lawyer and an Associate at Drew & Napier then led a discussion on the civil claims process in Singapore.
As evidence is essential to pursuing civil claims, Mr. Chan discussed the various documents that may serve as important evidence for a case, and how and when to collect evidence. Besides formal documents such as employment contracts, bank statements, medical reports and police reports, other forms of documentation can be used as evidence. Text messages, photos, voice recordings and diary notes can also support a worker’s claim.
Mr Chan also raised the importance of evidence being consistent and shared an example of a case where the client lost because of inconsistent evidence.
Finally, Ms. Jayaraj explained the process for referring cases to JWB, including assessment criteria and relevant procedures.
The participants were given the opportunity to ask questions and Mr. MacLean talked about the timeline for a case and emphasised that JWB’s services are always free of charge for migrant domestic workers.
JWB looks forward to future collaborations with FAST and extends its heartfelt gratitude to our workshop attendees for spending their Sunday morning with us, to FAST for inviting us to partner with them in their work, and to Mr. Wesley Chan from Drew & Napier LLC for sharing his invaluable expertise with the participants.