More than one in three new maids last year received weekly rest days

SINGAPORE - This is "encouraging" compared to the situation in 2010, when only 13 per cent of some 900 maids surveyed did so, said Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Manpower and Education Hawazi Daipi in Parliament.

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Question by MP MS MARY LIEW

To ask the Acting Minister for Manpower since the introduction of the compulsory weekly rest day for foreign domestic workers (FDWs) (a) how many FDWs have chosen to take the weekly rest day; (b) how many have chosen to forgo their rest day in lieu of additional payment; and (c) how many complaints has the Ministry received about employers not granting rest days.

Response from the Ministry of Manpower (MOM):

MOM has been monitoring the implementation of the weekly rest day requirement since it took effect for foreign domestic workers (or FDWs) with work permits issued or renewed on or after 1 January 2013.

Specifically, MOM interviewed more than 2,000 FDWs who arrived to work in Singapore for the first time in 2013. It is encouraging to see that 37 per cent of the FDWs interviewed received a weekly rest day. In comparison, a 2010 survey of more than 900 FDWs showed that only 13 per cent of FDWs received a weekly rest day. We also found that about 61 per cent of those interviewed received at least a monthly rest day, compared to 53 per cent in the 2010 survey. FDWs who forgo their weekly rest days have to be compensated with additional payment, as required under the law.

In the lead up to implementation on 1 January 2013, MOM carried out extensive public education campaigns for existing employers and FDWs and employment agencies. This included an information kit and rest day implementation guide, mailed to all FDW employer households.

Employment agencies were briefed and given a recommended template for facilitating the written rest day agreement between FDWs and employers before commencement of employment, to allow expectations to be clearly communicated upfront.

All first-time employers and FDWs are informed of the weekly rest day provision through the mandatory Employer Orientation Programme and FDW Settling-In Programme.

We understand that FDWs and employers usually attempt to resolve any disputes and secure mutual agreement on the rest day arrangement between themselves, or through their employment agencies. Parties should openly discuss their concerns.

Nonetheless, FDWs who do not receive rest days in accordance with the written agreement with their employers, or compensation in-lieu for working on a rest day, can seek assistance from MOM.

By 1 January 2015, the rest day requirement would have been in place for two years. This means that all FDWs will be on new employment contracts that will have to abide by the requirement. MOM hopes to see the rest day arrangement work well for employers, their families and their FDWs.

A rest day provides FDWs a reprieve from their duties, much like how all of us need a break from our work. Ultimately, this will contribute to more well-adjusted FDWs who can better perform their jobs, benefiting our Singaporean families.

The Ministry will continue our efforts to educate and help stakeholders manage the rest day requirement, as well as work with partners to provide avenues for FDWs to spend their rest days productively.