Domestic helpers to have 1 mandatory rest day per month that cannot be compensated away: MOM

With effect from end-2022, as MOM said that 'employers may need time to adjust to the new rest day arrangements.'

Nigel Chua | July 23, 2021, 10:24 AM

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The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) announced on Jul. 22 that the employers of migrant domestic workers (MDWs) will have to provide at least one rest day per month, that cannot be compensated away.

This was one of several measures that MOM said it would implement, to "strengthen support for MDWs and their well-being."

Other measures include enhancing the six-monthly medical examination, requiring employment agents to conduct post-placement checks, and interviewing MDWs twice within their first year of work instead of once currently.

Review by MOM after Piang Ngaih Don's case

Gan Siow Huang, minister of state for manpower, recalled in a Jul. 22 Facebook post that the review of measures to support MDWs had been mentioned in her Committee of Supply speech in March this year.

In that speech, Gan spoke about Piang Ngaih Don, a foreign domestic worker from Myanmar, who endured almost 10 months of abuse by her employer Gaiyathiri Murugayan.

She was killed in a fatal assault by Gaiyathiri and her mother, in Jul. 2016.

Gan brought up the fact that the abuse was not brought to light in spite of the fact that Piang had been examined by a doctor twice, and spoken with her employment agency on two occasions.

She then said that MOM had been reviewing measures to support MDWs and strengthen safeguards against abuse.

New measures following review

The review of the measures involved gathering feedback from employers, employment agencies, NGOs, and doctors, said Gan.

MOM said that the measures had the following objectives:

  1. Help MDWs and employers settle smoothly into a mutually beneficial working relationship.
  2. Detect signs of abuse more quickly by enhancing current touchpoints, and helping MDWs build a wider network of support beyond their households.

Mandatory rest day

The current law provides for a minimum of one rest day per week.

However, domestic helpers can choose not to take up in exchange for additional compensation of at least one day's salary, provided that both employer and helper agree.

There is currently no limit on the number of rest days that can be exchanged.

However, the policy will not take effect immediately, as MOM said that "employers may need time to adjust to the new rest day arrangements."

Thus, the mandatory rest day policy will take effect at the end of 2022.

Enhancing six-monthly medical examination to pick up signs of abuse

Employers are required to bring MDWs for regular medical examinations every six months.

MOM said that these examinations will be enhanced in the following ways:

  • Doctors will be required to record MDWs' body-mass index (BMI).
  • Doctors will be required to check for signs of "suspicious and unexplained injuries".
  • Doctors will need to submit records to MOM for any necessary follow up.

The enhanced process for medical examinations will be implemented in the third quarter of 2021.

Post-placement checks

MOM said that it will require employment agencies to conduct post- placement checks to ensure that MDWs and employers are adjusting well, and offer support if needed.

"As the intermediary that facilitates matches between MDWs and employers, EAs play an important role in helping both parties build strong relationships," MOM said.

This will be implemented in the fourth quarter of 2021.

Interviewing MDWs twice in first year

It was previously announced in May 2021 that all new MDWs would be interviewed within three to six months of them starting work.

Then-manpower minister Josephine Teo said that this expanded coverage by the Centre for Domestic Employees (CDE) would be effective by the end of this year.

MOM said in its statement yesterday that this would be further enhanced, such that MDWs are interviewed twice in their first year of work. Interviews will be done in person.

To facilitate these interviews, MOM will set up three neighbourhood centres in partnership with the CDE, with the first of these centres targeted to be operational by the first quarter of 2022.

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Top image via Facebook / Ministry of Manpower.