The stringent measure put in place by the government to contain the spread of the Covid-19 outbreak could put migrant workers at risk of facing harsh punishments for breaching government orders that they may not be fully aware of, said the Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics (HOME) on Saturday (22 February).
In a statement on its website, the non-government organisation for migrant workers welfare and rights, said that it is important to consider the imbalance of power between employers and low wage migrant workers on work permit, pointing out that many of these workers rely on their employers to provide them with timely and accurate information on government advisories and laws.
“Indeed, it is the responsibility of employers to keep them informed,” stressed the organisation, adding that it is difficult for the workers themselves to stay updated when most of these announcements are made in languages that migrants workers may not understand.
HOME shared that most migrant workers may not have access to media outlets and if their employers expect them to be at work, they may feel obliged to comply for fear of losing their jobs. Additionally, if a worker has recruitment fee debts to pay off, the pressure intensifies.
The organisation called for these circumstances to be taken into consideration should any penalties be meted out to migrant workers for breaching government measures.
Beyond that, HOME also called for the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) to make efforts in informing migrant workers of their rights under the Employment of Foreign Manpower Act which stipulates that they should be paid their basic wages even if their employer has no work for them.
HOME brought this up in reference to the Stay-at-Home Notices and Leave of Absence that the government has implemented to prevent a wider spread of the virus.
The organisation acknowledged the efficacy of such measures but are also concerned about migrant domestic workers who have been denied rest days are forbidden from leaving their employers homes for fear of them contracting the virus.
HOME noted in its statement that it has been approached by migrant domestic workers who have been prevented from leaving their employer’s home since the outbreak arrived in Singapore.
The organisation explained, “They were unsure if they will be paid by their employers for not taking their rest days and were worried because they have been prevented from running important personal errands, such as remitting salaries to their families.”
“While we acknowledge the fears and concerns of families, especially those with young and vulnerable members, we urge employers to be flexible and understanding in managing their MDWs’ rest day arrangements and to address their worries,” it said.
HOME also reiterated calls by the MOM, Foreign Domestic Worker Association for Social Support and Training (FAST), and the Centre for Domestic Employee (CDE) that migrant domestic workers should not have to work if they are forbidden from leaving their employers homes on their rest days.