BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN — The Labour Department is in discussions with employment agencies to regulate the hike in fees associated with bringing in foreign domestic workers, the home affairs minister said on Friday.

Speaking during a session of the Legislative Council (LegCo), YB Pehin Orang Kaya Seri Kerna Dato Seri Setia Hj Abu Bakar Hj Apong said the government wants to strike a balance between the needs of employers and employment agencies.

Employment agencies have increased their service costs during the pandemic due to changes in administrative arrangements, including payment for quarantine.

Some employers are now required to shell out as much as $6,000 to hire a domestic worker through an employment agency, triple the usual cost before the pandemic hit.

The fees cover agency charges, processing of the foreign worker license, job order verification, visa, medical check-up and insurance.

“There are 21 employment agencies that can bring in domestic helpers for $1,500. We want to be able to strike a balance in terms of the fees,” the minister said.

YB Pehin Dato Hj Abu Bakar was responding to a query from LegCo member YB Pehin Orang Kaya Pendikar Alam Dato Paduka Seri Hj Hasrin DP Hj Sabtu, who said families have been facing issues trying to hire foreign domestic workers.

The government imposed COVID-19 travel restrictions and suspended the issuance of non-essential foreign worker permits in March 2020.

Only essential travellers who have received approval from the Prime Minister’s Office can enter or leave Brunei.

In January, the labour and immigration departments started to allow domestic workers to return to Brunei, as long as they test negative for COVID-19 and complete a period of quarantine upon arrival in the sultanate.

The minister said employers are also allowed to transfer employment of workers to other households.