The Manpower Ministry (MOM) said it is currently reviewing the call for the government to implement a weekly rest day for domestic maids with compensation in-lieu.
In an email reply to Channel NewsAsia, MOM said it will consult with various stakeholders including employers, employment agencies and non-governmental organisations.
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MOM said it recognises the benefits of rest days to the well-being and productivity of foreign domestic maids.
However, instead of mandating rest days, it said the government has adopted a more flexible approach of allowing households to work out a mutually agreement employment arrangement with their maids, and encouraging employers to grant their workers regular rest days.
Accredited employment agencies use a standard employment contract for maids, which requires employers to stipulate the number of rest days per month. Should the maids agree to work during their rest day, employers are required to pay them an agreed amount of compensation.
Agencies cautioned that this may not go down well with employers.
Joanne Lee, Director of JL Employment Services Pte Ltd, said: “I would say most employers may not be in favour of this. I guess it’s because during their rest days, they would want their helpers to be around to take care of their needs. I guess it’s a lot of inconvenience.”
The MOM’s 2010 survey showed that slightly over half of all foreign domestic workers in Singapore already enjoy at least one day off a month.
The development came two days after Minister of State for Community Development, Youth and Sports, Halimah Yacob, suggested legislation be considered that makes employers give their domestic helpers a rest day every week.
She said giving maids a day off might help to minimise some issues such as stress and overwork that domestic workers are facing now.
As of December last year, there were about 200,000 Foreign Domestic workers in Singapore. Some employment agencies have said that if this weekly rest day is implemented, it could help boost the number of domestic workers in Singapore.
They said this is important as the demand for domestic workers would rise as Singapore faces an ageing population and more women opt to go to work.
The new International Labour Organisation convention was approved last week in Geneva to grant domestic workers greater protection from exploitation. Singapore was among 63 voters which abstained from voting on the convention.
The Manpower Ministry has said it would sign the treaty only when it was sure it could implement it here, and that it would continue to review the rights and responsibilities of employers and workers.
Source: Channel NewsAsia, June 21, 2011: MOM reviewing call for weekly rest day for maids, by Vimita Mohandas. Link: http://www.channelnewsasia.com/stories/singaporelocalnews/view/1136385/1/.html