No weekly day off for most new maids

SINGAPORE - The majority of employers are not giving newly hired maids a weekly day off despite a rule mandating this kicking in from Jan 1.

This means they are instead opting to give additional compensation for the days off to maids hired, or who have their work permits renewed, from Jan 1.

A check with six maid agents showed that about 70 per cent of their combined 400 or so customers hiring maids this month will probably not give any rest day at all in the first three to four months of work.

But the bulk of these employers have agreed that if the maids continue to perform well after this initial period, they may agree to give at least a day off a month.

The agents said bosses view the first three to four months as a probation period to gauge performance and if the maids can be trusted not to fall into bad company when they go out.

Some agents said they also discourage maids from asking for a day off in their first few months of work as they would still be unfamiliar with Singapore and would not have much money to spend.

Employers have to fork out about $70, on top of the maids' basic pay of about $450, to get them to work on the four rest days they are entitled to a month.

That works out to $17.50 for each day off. Some agencies are also getting employers to pay above the market rate, or about $20, for each day off that their maids work. The agents hope the move will make employers feel the pinch and prompt more of them to give their maids days off.

Comfort Employment director Benny Liew said: "Other workers are paid more for working on weekends or rest days to recognise their efforts. Such a practice should be extended to maids too."

Agents pointed out that maids hired before Jan 1 are also asking for rest days but employers are not budging so far.

Orange Employment Agency owner Shirley Ng said employers are unwilling to relent "because this has been the practice all these years". It will take time to change their mindset, she added.

Bosses willing to grant time off said they do so to improve workers' employment terms and retain them.

Housewife Esther Law, 45, did not give her Indonesian maid, Ms Anjar Sari, 27, any days off for the last two years.

But the latter will get two Sundays off a month from next month as part of the terms in the new contract which she will sign next week.

She will be compensated for the other two Sundays worked.

Said Madam Law: "I want her to have a good rest after working hard. If she is happier, she will stay on to work for me."

There are 208,400 maids in Singapore, with most from Indonesia and the Philippines.

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