Forum: Why a different standard for domestic helpers?

The Ministry of Manpower's advisory that foreign domestic workers (FDWs) should seek their employers' consent before taking their entitled rest day on a weekday - while avoiding certain destinations - comes off as patronising (Maids can meet friends on rest days, but in groups of up to five, June 18).

While the ostensible reason is to minimise crowding in public, it reveals different standards for Singaporeans and FDWs.

We should not suggest any additional restrictions on FDWs that are not also imposed on Singaporeans.

FDWs should not need to ask for special permission to take a day off. And they should be able to visit whatever destination they wish.

Non-governmental organisations reported during the circuit breaker that when FDWs were on their rest day at home, many of them would still be given work.

And even though there have been documented crowds at hot spots like Holland Village, there is no advisory discouraging locals from visiting such places.

No Singaporean demographic has been singled out for extra scrutiny.

It would be insensitive to say that a particular Singaporean occupational, racial, residential or age group should not visit a certain place. So why is it that these sensitivities are not applied to FDWs?

On top of this, some Singaporean employers have already expressed that it would be difficult to let their FDWs go out on weekdays. Many need their FDWs to take care of their children on weekdays while they are busy working.

Given the realities of what Singaporean employers and FDWs have to work with, the recommendation that FDWs go out on weekdays is impractical.

Foreign domestic workers are employees, like the rest of us. They should receive at least one day of rest a week, according to their weekly rest day entitlement.

Given that they are obligated to take the same safe distancing precautions as everyone else when going out, the judgment of whether they can go out and where they can go should be left to them.

Kristen Teo Ren Qi

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