As calls to stay home grow stronger, our lives are increasingly confined to the domestic sphere. Part of fighting this pandemic will be in visible acts of civil responsibility: in observing circuit breaker measures and contributing what we can to vulnerable groups in society.
But equally significant is our behaviour in the private sphere of home: Are we fair to our helpers?
On April 11, the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) issued instructions for foreign domestic workers to stay home on their rest days (Maids must stay home on rest days: MOM, April 12).
The home is unavoidably a grey area for foreign domestic workers exercising their rights. There is no clear delineation of their private space or personal time. There is no exhaustive list of permissible and impermissible tasks domestic workers can be asked to do. Conversations with their employers are inadvertently calibrated by power imbalance - they are, after all, living in their employers' residences.
MOM reminds us to respect our helpers' rest days, but I suggest that we do more. Now is the time to reassess our relationship with the people who share our homes. To have conversations about how their family is doing back home, what essential errands they might need to run, and perhaps offer to drive them as they run those errands so they can avoid coming into contact with people.
We need to be strict with respecting their rest time, and, if we can, offer avenues for them to spend leisure time at home.
With the duration of the circuit breaker period uncertain, many will have encounters with cabin fever. Our domestic helpers are no more immune to it than we are. Tan Jing Min