Singapore—After The Straits Times reported on Friday (May 28) that some domestic helpers are working for free on their rest days during this period of restrictions to curb Covid-19, the Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics (Home) said they should not be made to work for free on their day off.

Last Friday (May 21), the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) issued a statement strongly encouraging migrant domestic workers (MDWs) to stay at home on their rest days during this phase 2 (Heightened Alert) period.

MOM added, “If MDWs need to go out for essential errands, they should keep it short, avoid crowded places and keep to the maximum group size of two persons. They should not intermingle between groups, and should also not share food, drinks or utensils.”

However, ST carried stories of two domestic helpers working on their rest days while at home, and for no extra salary.

HOME wrote in a Facebook post, “During Phase 2, domestic workers should not be made to work without compensation. If they are staying at home, they should be allowed to rest, and any work done should be compensated fairly.”

The organisation underlined the importance of rest days, as they give helpers physical, mental, and emotional break from work.

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HOME also appealed to employers to “show consideration during this period of heightened restrictions”.

“Live-in domestic work can be especially stressful, because the line between work and rest is often blurred,” the organisation added.

HOME also urged that MOM legislate mandatory rest days for migrant domestic workers, for the longer term.

In the ST article, Ms Jaya Anil Kumar, a case manager with HOME, asked for this rest day to be defined as a 24-hour period, in an effort to avoid what happened during last year’s circuit breaker, when the organisation observed a 25 per cent increase in calls to its helpline from helpers who had been asked to perform chores on their rest days.

“This will entrench the idea that domestic workers who stay at home should not be given work and, if they do, they should be compensated accordingly,” Ms Anil Kumar said.


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