Phase 2: Helper Claims Employer Restricts Her From Taking MRT, Meeting Others; Seeks for Compassion
"Some employers take advantage of the message or use it as a threat," Bhing wrote.
Having to stay home for close to two months can be an isolating experience for anyone, and more so for domestic helpers who are required to stay indoors, even on their rest days during Phase 1 of Singapore’s reopening.
This came in as an advisory to employers on 21 May 2020 after many domestic helpers were found at hotspots such as City Plaza, Lucky Plaza and Peninsula Plaza, according to The Ministry of Manpower (MOM).
Hence, Phase 2 of reopening where further restrictions ease, is something encouraging for these domestic helpers as they can finally head out on their rest day, as stipulated by MOM in a recent advisory (17 June).
However, not all employers appear to be empathetic to these helpers’ situation, according to Ms Bhing Navato, a domestic worker herself.
She shares the plight of a fellow domestic helper who sought her advice in her Facebook post (18 June), a day before the opening of Phase 2.
Not allowed to Take MRT nor Meet Others
Bhing said her friend had only wanted to seek her employer’s permission to head out on her day off, a requirement for all foreign domestic workers stipulated by MOM.
“Maam just want to ask about my off? Cos this sat is my off. Can I go outside? (sic)” her friend wrote.
While her friend’s employer responded with a yes, allowing her to head out, her freedom came with limits.
She was not allowed to take the MRT nor meet others.
Her employer also justified it saying that “employers [have] the right to control movement of helpers during Phase 2.”
There were also a couple of other restrictions as recorded in the screenshot sent by her friend, of the alleged conversation between her friend and her friend’s employer.
In summary, here are some rules laid out by the employer:
- Allowed to head out around Stadium
- Given 3 to 4 hours to eat and buy food
- Not allowed to take the MRT
- Not allowed to meet others
- Adhere to dress code policy (as highlighted during the interview with her employer)
- Have to change at MRT toilets if she wants to wear anything specific, but is required to return in “decent clothes”
Claims Some Employers Take Advantage of Advisory Message
According to Bhing, many domestic helpers have to bear the brunt from the advisory messages being put up.
“Some employers take advantage of the message or use it as a threat,” Bhing wrote in her post, whether it is during the Circuit Breaker, Phase 1 or now even in Phase 2.
With this example, she seeks to highlight some employers’ unreasonable demands that could come with using these messages as backing to “control movement of helpers”.
She explains that while some domestic workers will simply give up from the pressures, there are still others would comply to their employers’ demands to retain their jobs.
In her post, she pleads for MOM to “listen to cries of these hidden vulnerable domestic workers”, and take time to speak to them and with compassion.
“We are not robots. We have feelings.”
“There are some of [the foreign workers] who are crying every night. Some are confused. Some are whispering while talking. Some are just wanting to give up. Rest day is our only consolation. Seeing friends even just one friend will give us happiness.”
As much as everyone else is looking forward to hanging out with friends and dining out, the same goes for these domestic workers.
“Because if you are listening with your heart… you will not exclude us in the joy that many locals, expats, S-pass and E-pass (holders) are feeling right now. Domestic workers are human beings. We are not robots. We have feelings,” Bhing wrote.
In a TODAY report on 22 June, many domestic workers reported feeling “very homesick” while staying in during the Circuit Breaker and in Phase 1.
But being able to head out after two months provided them with the much-needed respite, despite certain restrictions still put in place.
This includes group activities, reduction of time spent outside, and sharing food.
MOM Stipulated Rules for Foreign Domestic Workers (FDWs)
While FDWs are urged not to gather or loiter in public spaces or visit crowded places such as City Plaza, Lucky Plaza and Peninsula Plaza, there is no mention of them not allowed to take the MRT nor meet friends.
In the latest advisory, MOM also encouraged domestic workers to take their rest days on a weekday wherever possible, to avoid crowds.
And in the case of Bhing’s friend, while MOM states that FDWs should inform their employers of their whereabouts, it does not mean that her employer holds the rights over where she should or should not go.
But of course, as with the general public, there are certain guidelines for foreign domestic workers to adhere to:
- Observe safe distancing measures and put on a mask
- Observe good personal hygiene; avoid sharing food, drinks and other personal items
- Reduce time spent outside and keep contacts on a rest day to a minimum
- Comply with safe distancing measures at malls and public places, with a maximum of five per group
In the event of FDWs requiring to remit money in these highly populated areas as mentioned, they are advised to make prior appointments or do so electronically.
To help safeguard the health of everyone, MOM highlights that they will carry out on the ground inspections and will disperse large group and outdoor gatherings.
They also warned that FDWs who do not cooperate, run the risk of being fined and having their work passes revoked.
You can view the latest MOM advisory here.
During this trying time, it is important for us to exercise empathy as much as we can. Some, if not many of these FDWs have their own families and lives, but are here to make a living and support their loved ones.
Lead image source: iStock