Singapore to grant mandatory day off for maids

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A file photo dated 07 July 2002 of maids having a good time catching chicken they breed in the yard at a training center in Singapore. Singapore will require a mandatory weekly day off for maids starting next year, the government said Monday, March 6, 2012, in a move that will affect more than 200,000 domestic helpers in the affluent city-state. AFP PHOTO

SINGAPORE—Singapore will from next year require a mandatory weekly day off for maids, the government said Monday, in a move that will affect more than 200,000 domestic helpers in the affluent city-state.

“The new weekly rest day requirement will apply to (foreign domestic workers) whose work permits are issued or renewed from 1 January 2013,” the Ministry of Manpower said in a press release.

Non-governmental groups and the governments of the countries the maids come from had been waging a campaign over the past decade for Singapore to grant them a weekly day off, a right already enjoyed by domestic helpers in Hong Kong.

Employers will have to reach a “mutual agreement” with their maid if they want her to work on her rest day for which she will be compensated.

The manpower ministry said the new ruling would boost their productivity and make Singapore an attractive destination for potential helpers.

The Philippine embassy in Singapore welcomed the announcement. There are about 65,000 Filipino maids in the city-state, according to embassy estimates.

“This progressive policy change by MOM is a clear recognition that the rights of domestic workers are just as important as the rights of any other worker in Singapore,” said charge d’affaires Neal Imperial.

The Transient Workers Count Too group called the decision a “significant move forward” in advancing the rights of domestic helpers.

“This has been long overdue and signifies the first step to put domestic workers on par with other workers who contribute to the economy significantly,” said group vice president Noorashikin Abdul Rahman in a statement.

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