The Ministry of Labour on Saturday issued a 12-point set of standards for recruitment agencies sending workers abroad, warning operators they have just over a month to comply.
The directive, issued by Minister of Labour Ith Samheng, is part of the government’s efforts to improve safety for migrants, particularly domestic workers, after a four-year ban on sending maids to Malaysia prompted by numerous reports of abuse was lifted in December.
“The Ministry of Labour will take legal action against all recruitment companies starting from March 1 if they do not obey the ministry’s principles, which are to ensure the safety of workers sent abroad,” Samheng warned in the letter.
According to the standards, recruitment agencies, which have been at the centre of many accusations of mistreatment, now must be registered with authorities, prove they have an office, a clear address, working telephone contacts and staff.
Further, firms must seek permission from the ministry to advertise their services, keep records of workers sent abroad and sign and obey contracts with their clients, including not sending workers to different places than listed in their agreement, which had been among the grievances levelled by those duped by dodgy brokers.
The companies must also pay into the National Social Security Fund, provide a building for training workers and a safe, hygienic place for trainees to live and must have a permanent representative stationed in their clients’ destination country.
The director of the recruitment firm Top Manpower, An Bun Hak, said his company already complied with the regulations and would offer comprehensive training to maids before they were sent to Malaysia.
The Ministry of Labour has established a working group with Malaysian authorities to implement the memorandum of understanding, signed in December, which lifted the ban and flagged new controls to monitor the welfare of Cambodian maids in Malaysia, where the government estimates 8,000 Cambodians continue to work.
The legal flow of domestic workers back to Malaysia is expected to start around the middle of this year, though many have travelled there illegally in recent years, suffering abuse with few legal protections to fall back on.
Chan Pheakdey, who worked as a maid in Malaysia before being rescued from an abusive employer, yesterday recalled her dealings with the broker who sent her abroad and failed to help when things went wrong.
“My employer did not pay my salary; my family went to the company’s office but they had moved and not left a contact. It was very difficult,” she said.