10 April 2012

Q&A on the Weekly Rest Day

10 April 2012

The debate over a weekly rest day for Foreign Domestic Workers (FDWs) has resonated strongly with different groups – FDWs, employers, employment agencies and NGOs.

FDWs play an important role in the lives of many families in Singapore. We believe that ensuring their emotional and mental well-being will go a long way in improving the quality of care that our loved ones will receive, and granting FDWs a regular off- day is one of the few ways this balance could be achieved.

We’ve been collecting and analysing the feedback. Since June 2011, we’ve consulted over 1500 individuals which include employers, employment agencies, NGOs and FDWs, on this issue through various means such as in-depth interviews, dialogue sessions and even through our Facebook Page. This figure does not include the emails received through various MOM customer channels.
Since our announcement on 5 March that the weekly rest day will be legislated, we have received much feedback and would like to address some of the key concerns raised by FDW employers.

Flexibility of the Weekly Rest-Day Requirement

As an FDW employer, how would the weekly rest-days affect me?

Some employers have said they are concerned that the implementation of a rest-day would only serve to increase their burden especially in cases when employers experience difficulties managing without their FDW.

If you are facing such difficulties, you may:

a) Mutually agree upon which day of the week the rest day should fall, so that you can make alternative care arrangements in advance or

b) Mutually agree with your FDW to opt for compensation in-lieu of a rest day.

Can I choose not to provide my FDW with a rest-day until she finishes paying off her loans?

Under the proposed amendments to the Employment of Foreign Manpower (Work Passes) Regulations (EFMR), you and your FDW can mutually agree in writing to opt for compensation in-lieu of any or all rest days. This agreement can be part of a contract. The contract may state that you and your FDW have mutually agreed that she will give up her rest days for compensation in-lieu up to a specific date when she has settled-in or paid off her loan, then subsequently how many days she wishes to take or forgo for compensation.

Even if the contract states that you and your FDW have mutually agreed that she will give up all her rest days for compensation in lieu, both of you may subsequently agree to vary the terms of that contract to allow her to take some rest days when she is more settled. Similarly, if she had initially opted for rest-days, but subsequently wishes to give up some or all of them for compensation in-lieu, she may do so once you have agreed.


Why hasn’t the Government reduced the FDW levy to help offset the rise in costs?

Given Singapore’s size and resource constraints, we cannot allow an unlimited inflow of FDWs. The levy is put in place to ensure that only employers with a genuine need and the financial capability should hire an FDW. The levies collected goes into a Consolidated Fund to finance Government expenditure in general.

To help families who hire FDWs to care for young children, elderly and disabled family members, the Government has given a FDW Levy concession of $95 a month. These families pay a concessionary levy of $170 instead of the full FDW levy of $265.

$120 maid grant – help for families with elderly and disabled family members as announced by MCYS on the 9th of March.

To help families with elderly and disabled family members who may require constant care-giving, MCYS will give a $120 grant per month to households with a per capita monthly income of up to $2,200, and employ an FDW to look after an elderly family member who cannot perform 3 or more Activities of Daily Living (ADLs) or has severe dementia. This is over and above the FDW Levy concession of $95 per month for households with elderly. The FDW Grant will be administered by the Centre for Enabled Living and will take effect in the 3rd quarter of 2012.

The Government has also provided a wide range of assistance schemes for such families including the foreign domestic worker levy tax relief where the employer can claim tax relief for twice the levy paid, eldercare and childcare subsidies, as well as other marriage and parenthood incentives.

Security Bond

Will my security bond of $5,000 be forfeited if my FDW violates Work Permit conditions or goes missing on her rest day?

We would like to reassure all employers that we will not forfeit your security bonds if your FDW violates her own Work Permit, for instance if she moonlights on a rest-day or gets pregnant. Even in cases where the she absconds and cannot be located, only half of your security bond will be forfeited if you have made reasonable efforts to locate her.

MOM has, in actual fact, forfeited very few security bonds each year. Since the new security bond conditions were introduced in 2010, no security bonds have been forfeited in full for missing FDWs.

There are numerous NGOs that offer skills training programmes and organise leisure activities for FDWs on their rest day. You may wish to find out more about these programmes and encourage your FDW to participate in these programmes if they are interested.

MOM’s efforts to protect employers against irresponsible FDWs

What is MOM doing to protect employers against irresponsible FDWs?

We understand the challenges that you may face in selecting and handling your FDWs. To protect employers against irresponsible FDWs, punitive actions will be taken against FDWs who infringed the Employment of Foreign Manpower (Work Passes) Regulations (eg. by working illegally for another employer or in another occupation) or making false allegations (eg. falsely alleged that she was ill-treated by her employer).

To help you in selecting a suitable FDW, the employment history of FDWs who have worked in Singapore is available in MOM’s Work Permit online application system. It is also a requirement for employment agencies to provide prospective employers with the employment history. However, it is neither viable nor appropriate for MOM to require all employers to provide the reasons for termination of a previous employment relationship and to make the reasons readily available on the web.

If your FDW had behaved irresponsibly, you can make a complaint to MOM and leave their contact details. Prospective employers in future would be alerted to the complaint lodged when they apply for a Work Permit for the FDW. The prospective employers can then contact the previous employer for more details and decide if they still wish to employ the FDW.

For more FAQs on the mandatory rest-days for foreign domestic helpers, visit our website.  

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