Maids, employers get coronavirus advisory amid reports of foreign domestic workers denied rest days

The authorities have advised foreign domestic workers and their employers to maintain open communication and discuss alternatives for the rest days due to the coronavirus outbreak.
The authorities have advised foreign domestic workers and their employers to maintain open communication and discuss alternatives for the rest days due to the coronavirus outbreak.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Foreign domestic workers (FDW) and employers were advised to discuss alternative arrangements for rest days and to consider precautionary measures in light of the coronavirus outbreak.

The joint advisory was issued by the Ministry of Manpower, Centre for Domestic Employees and Foreign Domestic Worker Association for Social Support and Training (Fast) on Sunday (Feb 9) after the Ministry of Health confirmed a total of 40 local cases of the virus on Saturday.

The confirmed cases include a 44-year-old Indonesian woman who contracted the virus from her employer, a 28-year-old Singapore resident who worked at health care products store Yong Thai Hang at 24 Cavan Road.

According to the advisory, employers and FDW were advised to maintain open communication and discuss alternatives for the rest days due to the virus outbreak.

The advisory called upon employers and FDW to come to a mutual agreement for rest day arrangements during this period.

While FDW are resting at home to minimise the time spent outside, they should not be assigned work, the advisory said.

It added that employers must provide compensation to workers who agreed to forego their rest days during this time.

The advisory also suggested personal hygiene and care precautions to protect households during this time.

Employers were advised to initiate temperature screening for members in the household, including domestic workers, and look out for respiratory symptoms.

In case of the domestic worker falling sick, employers were advised to provide them with adequate time to rest and recover before resuming their work.

Those who continue to go out on their rest days were advised to avoid crowded places and large gatherings, and avoid close contact with people displaying flu-like symptoms.

 
 

In response to queries from The Straits Times, Ms Jaya Anil Kumar, case manager at The Humanitarian Organization for Migration Economics (Home), said the organisation had come across a few cases where employers have barred their domestic workers from taking their rest days.

Mr Ethan Guo, general manager at Transient Workers Count Too (TWC2), said there were some employers who trusted their domestic workers to take precautionary measures outside the house, while domestic workers caring for young children were asked to stay home.

"Employers trust these workers to take care of their families at home. That trust should not be limited only to the confines of the home," he said.

Ms Jaya cited a case where a domestic worker who went out during her rest day was not allowed to stay in her employer's house and her employment was terminated.

She added that the maid was currently seeking assistance at Home.

"Many domestic workers use their days off to send money home or to tend to other errands which they are unable to do during their work days.

"Leaving the house may also be a form of respite for domestic workers, who live in their place of work."