Mandatory day off, 24/7 helpline among measures to help domestic workers: Gan Siow Huang

The day off will allow domestic workers to form a network of support outside the household, as well as rest from work. ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG

SINGAPORE - A mandatory rest day to be implemented by the end of the year, as well as a 24/7 helpline and check-in interviews are among measures to help with the well-being of migrant domestic workers here, Minister of State for Manpower Gan Siow Huang said on Sunday (May 22).

Ms Gan was speaking at the NTUC May Day Domestic Workers Celebration 2022, which was held virtually this year.

The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) had said in July last year that employers would be required to give their domestic workers one compulsory day off each month that cannot be compensated away with cash, and that the new rule would kick in by the end of 2022.

On Sunday, Ms Gan said the day off would allow domestic workers to form a network of support outside the household, as well as rest from work and recharge.

She added that MOM would work with the Centre for Domestic Employees (CDE) and other community partners to introduce more programmes and activities for domestic workers to spend their rest days meaningfully.

Aside from this, MOM has partnered CDE to check in on all newly arrived migrant domestic workers within the first few months of employment, and CDE's ambassadors have also been helping to befriend domestic workers.

CDE also has a 24/7 helpline which allows domestic workers to seek help promptly in their native languages, said Ms Gan.

Thanking domestic workers for continuing to care for and support their employers' households despite the challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic, Ms Gan added: "Let's work together to build a culture of mutual respect and care for our migrant domestic workers."

Sunday's celebration included games and performances by domestic workers.

One of the performers was Ms Graziel Bheth Timtim, a 38-year-old Filipina who has been working here as a domestic worker for the last 10 years.

She sang a song accompanied on the guitar by her employer's daughter, 18-year-old student Jayne Peh - to whom Ms Graziel had taught how to play the instrument.

Calling the event a fun break from her usual routine on Sundays, Ms Graziel pointed out on a more sombre note that there had been recent media reports about domestic helpers being abused by their employers and vice versa.

"I hope this event will remind employers to consider their helpers' positive traits, and think of them as individuals as well," she told The Straits Times.

Ms Graziel Bheth Timtim (left) sang a song accompanied by her employer's daughter Jayne Peh on guitar, who had been taught how to play by Ms Graziel. PHOTO: NTUC

Ms Peh said she felt having a day to commemorate domestic workers was very important.

"Many times it feels like they aren't given enough platforms to showcase their independence. They should be respected and celebrated as individuals, and I hope that by watching this show more people will be aware of that," said Ms Peh.

Another domestic worker who performed a song at the event, 33-year-old Filipina Ailyn Hingabay Amparado, told ST: "I'm happy because I get to meet some new friends... I want to show that I don't just do chores, I have talent as well."

Her employer, 42-year-old Amanda Lau, who works in the finance industry, said she felt it was meaningful to have an event celebrating domestic workers.

"It's nice that they have some time off to enjoy. They play an important role in our economy, especially for families with young kids," she said.

Speaking at the event, NTUC Central Committee member Raymond Chin, noted that many domestic employees may not have been able to return home for the past two to three years due to the pandemic.

Mr Chin, who is also general secretary of the Union of Security Employees and co-chairs the event, said: "Without your personal sacrifice, many working parents in Singapore would likely have a tough time juggling work and caring for their families."

Urging migrant domestic workers and their employers to continue working on maintaining good relationships, he added: "It is not an easy decision to make, for you to travel to another country to look after a stranger's home. Most of you have dedicated much time and effort to help look after our children and care for our elderly parents.

"Your hard work is appreciated, and it means a lot to our families."

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.