Employers required to give maids at least 1 rest day a month from end-2022; day-off can't be compensated away: MOM
SINGAPORE — From the end of 2022, employers will be required to give their domestic workers at least one rest day a month that cannot be compensated away, the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) said on Thursday (July 22).
- From end-2022, employers must give domestic workers at least one rest day a month
- The day off cannot be compensated with pay, MOM said
- This is one of several measures it is taking to improve the well-being of these workers
- NGOs generally welcomed the measures but suggested they could be tightened
SINGAPORE — From the end of 2022, employers will be required to give their domestic workers at least one rest day a month that cannot be compensated with pay, the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) said on Thursday (July 22).
And from the third quarter of this year, doctors must record the body mass index of domestic workers, and check for signs of suspicious and unexplained injuries, as part of the workers’ half-yearly medical examination. This is to better detect signs of abuse.
These are among several moves announced by MOM to improve support for domestic workers and boost their well-being.
Currently, domestic workers are entitled to a weekly rest day. They may work on their rest day, but must be compensated with at least one day of salary or be allowed to reschedule their rest day within the same month.
In a press release on Thursday, the ministry said that these efforts were aimed at helping both domestic workers and employers settle smoothly into a mutually beneficial working relationship.
“We recognise that migrant domestic workers may face challenges in adjusting to work and life in Singapore. Similarly, employers may also face difficulties in accommodating a new person into their household.”
The rest day will give the workers more opportunities to form a social network and to recharge from work.
The ministry said that it also wants to detect signs of abuse more quickly and help domestic workers build a support network beyond their households.
Ms Gan Siow Huang, Minister of State for Manpower, said that MOM had gathered feedback from various stakeholders after the ministry announced in March that it would review measures to strengthen support for domestic workers.
These stakeholders included employers of domestic workers, employment agencies, non-governmental organisations and doctors, Ms Gan said in a Facebook post on Thursday.
“We agreed it’s important to help both domestic workers and their employers settle into a mutually beneficial working relationship... We also agreed that more should be done to prevent domestic worker abuse.”
In other changes, MOM will interview domestic workers twice in their first year of work, up from once now.
“This will provide migrant domestic workers and their employers with more opportunities to raise and resolve issues, and settle into their working relationship,” it said.
To facilitate the in-person interviews, MOM will set up three neighbourhood centres in partnership with the Centre for Domestic Employees. The first neighbourhood centre is scheduled to be operational by the first quarter of next year.
MEASURES CAN BE STRENGTHENED
Non-governmental organisations (NGOs) welcomed MOM’s latest measures, but said that there was room to tighten these measures to prevent abuse by employers.
Mr Alex Au, vice-president of migrant rights group Transient Workers Count Too (TWC2), said that the mandatory day off every month was “better than nothing” but called on the ministry to clarify how it will detect employers who do not allow their workers to go out or take their day off.
Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics (Home), another NGO, said that it hopes to see an increased frequency of mandatory rest days for domestic workers so that they may seek timely help if abused.
Home also noted that many domestic workers who are subjected to abuse do not have access to mobile phones. It called for regulations to allow workers access to their phones during meal times, rest times and after work hours.
Mr Au of TWC2 said that on top of requiring doctors to conduct added checks on domestic workers, employers should be barred from these medical consultations to ensure confidentiality between the worker and the doctor.
Mr Au also called on MOM to interview domestic workers thrice, rather than twice in their first year. The first interview should also be conducted within the first month of the worker's employment.
“If the poor helper has to wait six months before somebody contacts her, it will be a long period of suffering under a bad employer,” he added.
Home said that the post-placement checks by employment agencies should also be done throughout the entire duration of employment because cases of extreme abuse usually result from an escalation of practices and behaviours by employers.
There have been a few high-profile cases of domestic worker abuse of late.
In June, housewife Gaiyathiri Murugayan, 40, was jailed for 30 years for viciously abusing a 24-year-old Myanmarese domestic worker to death in 2016.
In May, administrative employee Tan Hui Mei, 35, was jailed for eight weeks for hitting, slapping and harassing her 26-year-old Indonesian domestic worker.
As part of the measures introduced by MOM, employment agencies will be required to conduct post-placement checks to ensure that domestic workers and employers are adjusting well and offer support if needed from the fourth quarter of this year.