By Terry Xu / Photos: Jolovan Wham
Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics (HOME), a local non-government organisation (NGO) celebrated Labour day at East Coast Park on Sunday with approximately 200 migrant domestic workers from Indonesia, the Philippines and India, calling for better protection of their rights.
The celebrations were held on Sunday because most of them were denied their public holiday off on May 1st. There is no compulsory day off for Foreign Domestic Workers (FDWs) on holidays in Singapore.
Although Part IV of Employment Act says workers should not work more than 8 hours a day or 44 hours per week, it is stated on Ministry of Manpower (MOM)’s website that domestic workers, both foreign and local, are not covered by the Employment Act. The ministry explains that it is not practical to regulate specific aspects of domestic work, i.e. hours of work, work on a rest day and on public holidays.
Only with the recent implementation of the weekly rest days for FDWs by MOM in January 2013, all FDWs were finally entitled to one rest day every week. Prior to this, there was no legal requirement for employers to allow their FDW to go for day offs.
Executive Director Jolovan Wham says that the even with the legislated weekly day off, many domestic workers are still denied days off and could be fired for requesting it from their employers. 'The government does not protect domestic workers against unfair dismissals', he added. 'Domestic workers should be covered by the Employment Act. All the rights we take for granted, such as public holidays, annual leave, sick leave, limits to working hours and overtime pay should be extended to them. They should not be discriminated against," he said.