First posted 04:26pm (Mla time) Oct 25, 2005
SINGAPORE -- Employers of foreign maids working in Singapore must give their domestic helpers at least one rest day a month or compensate them in cash starting next year, The Straits Times newspaper reported Tuesday. Under current legislation, Singapore's employers are not obliged to give maids any free time, but the Association of Employment Agencies watchdog group said that from January, agencies must include a clause in employment contracts that stipulate one day off a month for maids.
Following the move, domestic helpers not given their monthly rest day can sue their employers for breach of contract, the report said. More than 140,000 maids, mostly from Indonesia and the Philippines, are employed in Singapore, a wealthy Southeast Asian city-state.
Singapore made it mandatory for maid agencies to be accredited in 2003 to encourage ethical and proper employment practices. The watchdog group is one of two organizations which run accreditation schemes requiring the more than 500 agencies under them to set out clear refund policies and employment terms for maids.
Maid employment agencies that do not include a clause for time off in contracts drawn up between maids and employers may not be reaccredited, the newspaper reported."Employers tell us that they are busy, that's why they can't give their maids a day off," the paper quoted David Haw, director of employment agency Newway Holdings, as saying. "It's a shame that we are from a developed country and yet we treat our maids like slaves.
"The report said a sample of the new employment agreement had been submitted by the association to the Manpower Ministry and that a standard contract would be issued shortly, implying government approval of the measure. The association can make recommendations to employers, but has no power to enforce policy.
The watchdog and the Manpower Ministry could not be immediately contacted by The Associated Press to confirm the report.
There have been periodic cases of employers abusing their maids in Singapore, and some activists want the government to do more to protect the rights of foreign domestic helpers.