It is now widely accepted that domestic helpers meet an essential need and that they should be treated no differently from people in other forms of employment.
Employers of maids in Singapore are becoming increasingly conscious of the need to not only provide a better work environment to them, but also to treat them more kindly and compensate them more generously.
It is thanks to the Manpower Ministry and other focused non-governmental organisations that the terms and conditions of employment of domestic helpers have improved substantially over the years.
However, one area that can be improved is that of paid home leave.
With some gentle persuasion and regulation, I am sure employers can give their helpers two to four weeks' vacation every year or two and return travel fare to their hometowns.
It is common for expatriate jobs to have this provision, so it is difficult to understand why it should not be so for domestic helpers too.
There will be employers who will have difficulty providing such leave, especially if the helpers have caregiving responsibilities.
This is where a system can be developed to make short-term relief staff available. Some financial support can be given to those who cannot afford to pay for both their helper and a relief helper at the same time.
Such a temporary relief facility would also support employers who need help in situations where their regular helper is unwell or has to leave at sudden notice.
Singaporeans, by and large, want to be recognised as kind, understanding and professional employers.
All measures taken in this direction will surely be appreciated.