26-year-old masseuse to pay boss $50,000 to “buy back time”


Here’s the tea. Ms Li, a 26-year-old masseuse working in Tampines had to “buy back time” by paying her boss S$50,000 to take more leave days.  

Her terms of employment  

The massage parlour she works at is located at Block 822, Tampines Street 81 and the working hours were from 9 am to 10.30 pm daily.  

On a typical day, she will massage clients for about five to six hours but sometimes it could add up to nine hours or more. 

As per Ms Li’s contract, she draws a monthly salary of S$800 a month.   

Ms Li also shared that her employers would deduct S$800 from her monthly salary if her work was not “up to standard.” 

How the amount was calculated 

Employees are given two rest days per month and if they took additional leave, they would need to “buy back time.”  

Her boss claimed that “buying back time” was a common practice in the industry and it was stated in her contract. 

According to Ms Li, customers are charged S$105 for two hours, which was later increased to S$108. So, if she wanted to take one day of leave of absence, she would have to compensate the company with a 12-hour service, which amounted to S$648.  

Due to her back problems and medical condition, Ms Lishe asked for 80 days leave of absence which eventually amounted to S$52,000 of compensation to the company.  

Of course, Ms Li cannot tahan this “vacation system” so she officially resigned on 17 January.  

Tampines Masseuse Gets 2 Rest Days Monthly, Pays Boss S$50K For More Leave

She said Boss said 

Ms Li claimed that upon signing the contract, she was unaware of the amount she needed to pay for extra days off.  

The owner of the massage parlour Ping Cai told Shin min Daily News that Ms Li would often take sick leave.  

“Except for her, no one in the store has been taking leave,” Ping said.  

After hearing both sides, we can’t tell if Ms Li’s sick leaves were a result of overworking. To be fair to her employer, having one staff down could also affect the business, hence, the implementation of “buying back time.” But we have to acknowledge that the amount is too hefty a price for Ms Li to bear.   

The main takeaway? Always read the employment contract clearly before signing and ask questions when you are not sure of the terms! If you are a union member, even better, you can always speak to your union to get advice on workplace issues and/or employment-related matters.

Why leaves are important  

Annual leave is essential to support good physical and mental health in the workplace and will improve employees’ work-life balance. It allows employees to rest and re-energise themselves, which will relieve stress and improve mood and staff morale.  

So ironic right? Massage parlours are meant to relieve us from the tensions built up in our bodies because of stress or overworking. Yet, the masseuse doesn’t get enough rest. How then are they able to treat us when they’re physically fatigued?  Jialat.  

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