Should I install CCTV to monitor my helper?

Being worried about our loved ones when we are not around is natural. We all want – even feel the need – to make sure that they are safe and sound. It is comprehensible that increasingly more employers in Singapore are choosing to install cameras to monitor how their loved ones are being treated by the helper they have hired to care for them when they are not at home.

Closed-circuit television (CCTV), what for?

The main reasons invoked by employers who have opted for CCTV (and those considering it) are that it is a good way to check in on their children or elderly parents when they are busy at work and an effective way to discourage helpers from engaging into certain kinds of behaviour.

What does the law say about it?

It is legally permitted for an employer in Singapore to install CCTV in their household as long as it does not threaten the worker’s privacy. While the law clearly states that there should be no cameras in the area where the helper sleeps, where she changes her clothes as well as in the bathroom, some grey areas remain. Theoretically – and oddly enough – it is permitted to install CCTV in bedrooms and toilets. However, recent complaints by helpers who reported that their privacy was threatened by cameras in their rooms resonated with MOM who asked their employers to remove the cameras. To be on the safe side, it is recommended to keep helpers informed about the installation of CCTV in the household as not doing so can constitute a violation of their privacy. Employers should be careful when installing CCTV in some areas of the household as certain footage –e.g. helpers changing their clothes – can constitute an invasion of intimate moments and is punishable.

Should I install CCTV?

Legally, it is perfectly okay to install CCTV to monitor your helpers’ work and behaviour. However, one might wonder whether it is actually the best way to build a long-term relationship based on trust. In a recent survey by H.O.M.E. of 670 helpers working in Singapore, 1 in 5 claimed that cameras were installed in her room and declared that being treated with suspicion made her anxious and confused. Treating helpers suspiciously right from the onset of the relationship without a valid reason is surely not the ideal way to kick start a relationship and can have disastrous effects.

Making the decision to install CCTV can sometimes indicate that underlying issues exist between you and your helper. You might want to work at trying to solve them first before resorting to cameras. If you decide to go through with installing CCTV in certain parts of your household, we recommend that you communicate about it with your helper and explain why you are making that move.