‘Let’s give domestic workers one day off a week’

Domestic helpers on their off days. (AFP)
Domestic helpers on their off days. (AFP)

Minister of State for Community Development, Youth and Sports Halimah Yacob said the government would support giving domestic helpers one day off every week but that Singapore was not ready to sign an international convention granting the workers greater protection.

Speaking at a community sports festival at Singapore Polytechnic on Sunday, Yacob said that domestic helpers should not be made to work excessive hours as that would affect their health and well-being.

In a news report by The Straits Times, Yacob said the government should consider passing a bill to allow domestic workers to take one day off a week, adding: "If a rest day a week is not possible, then these workers should at least be compensated in cash."

For employers who may be concerned about coping without a domestic helper for a day, she advised that they pick a day that suited their routine and it did not have to be a Sunday.

"It forces households to think carefully about how to organise their work. I don't believe that household work is so complex that we cannot organise it like how we do in the office. We organise work at the office so people can take a day off," she said.

She also urged employers to consider hiring part-time helpers on their domestic helper's rest off days.

Commenting on the new treaty for protection of domestic helpers by the International Labour Organisation, where she is the Workers Vice-Chair, Yacob said that Singapore takes its international obligations seriously and hoped that Singapore would "take stock of its laws and policies and progressively make changes" to be in line with the treaty.

Singapore was among one of the few countries that abstained from voting on the Convention on Decent Work for Domestic Workers.

Yacob noted that one of the basic assumptions of the convention is that domestic workers should not be treated differently from other workers.

"If other workers have one rest day a week to recover and recuperate, domestic workers also need that," said Yacob.

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