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Why employers should pay more attention to the mental health of maids during the pandemic

It is in employers’ own interest to help their domestic workers to alleviate stress-causing factors, as this can help to maintain a healthy home atmosphere.

Why employers should pay more attention to the mental health of maids during the pandemic

It is in employers’ own interest to help their domestic workers to alleviate stress-causing factors, as this can help to maintain a healthy home atmosphere, says the writer.

Sneha Sundar Rajan

Migrant foreign domestic workers (FDWs) constitute a part of at least every fifth household in Singapore. 

Amid the rise in dual income families requiring help with both the young and the ageing population, dependency on FDWs has only increased.

Unlike labour in a public setting, FDWs work full time within the close confines of employers' residences. 

While Singapore has moved on with the gradual reopening of the economy in Phase Three,  the long-drawn nature of the Covid-19 pandemic might mean that FDWs continue to be confined within national borders and, to some extent, at home.

The following factors might result in stress and other mental health issues such as depression, and outbursts of anger and frustration in FWDs:

  • Anxiety due to intermittent lockdowns and worsening Covid-19 situations in FWDs’ home countries
  • Increased distance from family due to the postponement or cancellation of home country visitations 
  • Increased surveillance and tensions in the home space due to the constant presence of the employer if they are working at home
  • Reduced socialisation within Singapore due to regulations to control the spread of the virus

In Singapore, employers are expected to cater to the general health of FDWs, which in current circumstances demands heightened attention.

At times FDWs may not know they need help, or they may not be comfortable articulating their problems to their employers. 

They may keep their emotions bottled up, which eventually might lead them to suffer a mental or emotional breakdown.

This would not only surprise the employer but can result in an uncomfortable situation within the work space.

Speaking from my own experience as an employer of a FWD, I would suggest the following.

First, have regular conversations with them with an open mind, to understand their personal life in Singapore and their home country; and their level of comfort in their work space.

These insights could provide the employer with a hint or a clearer understanding of any signs of frustration or depression. 

Second, offer kind gestures such as time-outs, permission to go out for short breaks while observing safe distancing during working hours.

As employers, it is our role to define the relationship we wish to share with our FDWs.

Being a constant support system, developing a baseline friendship, trust and mutual respect would help them speak freely and with confidence knowing that we, as employers, are there to help them deal with issues they may not have answers to. 

It is in employers’ own interest to help their FDWs to alleviate stress-causing factors, as this can help to maintain a healthy home atmosphere.

Have views on this issue or a news topic you care about? Send your letter to voices [at] mediacorp.com.sg with your full name, address and phone number.

Related topics

domestic helper foreign domestic worker mental health resilience

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