Singapore has laws to protect foreign workers' rights but citizens also have a responsibility to be kind and humane towards them, said Professor Chan Heng Chee yesterday.
Most people here already have a sense of decency, she said in opening remarks at a migrant workers' group event, and would help strangers in need and not begrudge the Government helping the poor and elderly.
This attribute should be cultivated and extended to how migrant workers are treated, according to Prof Chan, who is Singapore's Representative to the Asean Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights.
"It should not be the law that forces us to do so. We should treat them well, feed them adequately, allow rest time, and abuse of workers should be ruled out," she said in an opening speech at an event organised by the Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics, or Home.
The event was held to train lawyers and volunteers from non-governmental organisations in advocating for migrants' rights.
Ms Chan said that Singaporeans by and large treat their maids well, and it was a small group of errant employers who were the problem.
"But we must not have that group, even a small group, in the future," she said.
She listed two other parties as having a role to play in ensuring migrant workers' rights - the host country and the "sending" country.
Host governments need to pass laws and regulations to protect the welfare of migrant workers, said Prof Chan, who is also an ambassador-at-large.
In Singapore for instance, the 211,000 domestic helpers must, among other conditions, be at least 23 years old, attend a settling-in programme, and be given a mandatory rest day once a week.
She said that "sending" countries should ensure that those who are underage are not issued with falsified passports saying they are older.
The day-long event at Riverview Hotel also saw participants share their experiences in human trafficking and migration law.