Forum: Ensure that maids who can't cope can get help early

The report, "Maid grabbed employer's baby's hair to pull her head up, among various acts of assault" (Aug 25), raises some important questions on the best way to ensure the well-being of foreign domestic workers and the people they care for.

Criminal assault of vulnerable persons like young children is reprehensible and deserves the full weight of legal prosecution. Equally, domestic workers clearly want to avoid losing wages and their freedom over mistreating those under their care.

How then can processes be enhanced to prevent such transgressions which benefit no one?

Foreign domestic workers are a vulnerable group. They work long hours in a uniquely stressful job that combines menial tasks with caregiving, which can be tough even for the best of us.

They have threadbare support networks in a foreign land. Their options for modifying the circumstances of their work environment (including switching employers) are limited.

These factors could increase the probability of conflict.

As a society, we could start by being very clear about where getting children to comply with instructions - usually against their will - ends and assault begins.

We need to make it easier for domestic workers to recognise the boundaries of their actions. There should be greater efforts by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM), police and civil society to educate them about such limits.

At the same time, support networks for domestic workers should be strengthened should they fall short of expectations or feel overwhelmed.

Moves by the MOM to increase the frequency and number of house visits for first-time foreign domestic workers should be scaled up even further, perhaps with the help of volunteers, to ensure the workers can get help early and quickly if they are not able to cope.

Mohamad Farid Harunal Rashid

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