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Despite MOM’s advisory, some employers don’t intend to keep their domestic workers at home

SINGAPORE — Foreign domestic workers and their employers approached by TODAY on Monday (Feb 10) said that they would keep to their routine while taking extra precautions, but are unlikely to stay cooped up at home.

Foreign domestic workers spending time on Orchard Road before the coronavirus outbreak in Singapore. They have been told by the authorities to try and stay home if possible.

Foreign domestic workers spending time on Orchard Road before the coronavirus outbreak in Singapore. They have been told by the authorities to try and stay home if possible.

SINGAPORE — Foreign domestic workers and their employers approached by TODAY on Monday (Feb 10) said that they would keep to their routine while taking extra precautions, but are unlikely to stay cooped up at home.

Most of the domestic workers said that their employers have not restricted their movements so far, with some saying that they have just been told to be more vigilant.

Just a day before, the authorities had issued an advisory to employers who hire foreign domestic workers, recommending that these workers spend less time outside of home on their rest day.

The advisory was jointly released by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM), the Centre for Domestic Employees and the Foreign Domestic Worker Association for Social Support and Training (Fast).

They also told employers to discuss other arrangements for their domestic workers’ rest day, for example, minimising their time spent outside. 

If the workers do choose to stay at home on their rest day, the employers should not assign any work on that day, the authorities said.  

The novel coronavirus epidemic, which had its first outbreak in Wuhan, China, has now spread to 28 countries including Singapore, which last week raised the risk level of the disease.

Singapore has seen 45 cases of infection so far, including one Indonesian domestic worker who contracted the virus from her employer. 

One employer Rose Awang, 57, told TODAY that it would not be morally right to restrict her domestic worker from going out even during this public health crisis. 

“We go out very often. Children go to school every day. Why can’t she go out,” the real estate professional asked. 

Another employer, Mr Larry Wang, 55, said that he is not too concerned about his helper going out on her rest day, although the real estate executive said that he would keep a lookout on how the situation develops. 

Ms Nina Rotelo, 53, who has been working in Singapore as a foreign domestic worker for the past 23 years, said that her current employer has not restricted her movements on her rest day.  

“For me, I’m not really worried about all these things. I still go out. My boss just reminded me to be careful,” she added. 

It’s also status quo for Ms Cristina Mandoza Fayco, a 57-year-old domestic worker.  

“My boss never said anything to me like, ‘Don’t go out’ or ‘Don’t do this or that’,” she said. 

While they are not making alternative arrangements to stay home on their days off, they have taken extra precautions. 

For Ms Rotelo, who is taking care of her employer’s three-and-a-half-year-old child, she makes sure he wears a mask on the bus and she will clean both their hands with alcohol wipes regularly.

Employers who spoke to TODAY said that they have instructed their helpers to take more precautions when they go out. 

Ms Connie Kang, 48, a human resources executive, encouraged her domestic worker to take more vitamin C and to wash her hands more regularly. 

Ms Awang told her helper to avoid crowded areas when she is out and not to stay at a place longer than necessary. 

Her helper is also cleaning their home more often than before. 

“We adjusted her workload because of the extra cleaning required… I would go home a little bit early to prepare dinner because she has to spend more time with the extra cleaning, vacuuming and washing,” Ms Awang said.

Ms Rotelo summed it up in this manner: “We just be careful about where we go and what we touch. And be more hygienic. That’s how I look at it”. 

Related topics

foreign domestic workers employer MOM coronavirus Wuhan virus

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