Things You Need Talk About With Your Helper During the COVID-19 Outbreak
"In view of the introduction of social distancing measures, we strongly encourage FDWs (Foreign Domestic Workers) to spend their rest day at home during this period," the MOM notes in an advisory released recently.
With Singapore recording well beyond 500 cases of COVID-19, it is time to have a talk (if you haven’t already!) with one of the most important members of your family: your domestic helper. Even though government mandates and rules for maids in Singapore have not changed since the outbreak, and they are still allowed to have their rest days out of the homes of their employers, the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) “strongly encourages Foreign Domestic Workers (FDWs) to spend their rest day at home during this period.”
Rules for maids in Singapore during the COVID-19 outbreak:
Rest day arrangements
Talk to your maid about the possibility of exploring her rest days at home instead of going out, for her safety and yours.
“In view of the introduction of social distancing measures, we strongly encourage FDWs (Foreign Domestic Workers) to spend their rest day at home during this period,” the MOM notes in an advisory released recently.
Meanwhile, Minister of Manpower Josephine Teo, took to Facebook to share her gratitude on an instance of social responsibility practised by her family’s domestic helper, Carmen.
“For over 20 years since she came into our lives, Carmen has been going to church on Sundays,” noted Minister Teo. “This morning, she decided to stay home and take part in the service through live streaming.”
If your helper agrees to spend her rest days at home instead, you are required to refrain from assigning any work to them. Should your helper decide to forgo her rest day, she should be compensated as per a usual workday, in lieu of the rest day.
If your helper has important personal errands she has to run that she reserved for her rest day, encourage her to do so on a weekday instead, to minimise being exposed to crowded public spaces.
Encourage your helper to avoid gathering in public spaces, and attending large gatherings and parties, should she insist on spending her rest days out of the house.
You should also remind her before she leaves your home, to reduce physical contact by not shaking hands, practise social distancing even among friends, and avoid sharing food, drinks, and other personal items. She should also be reminded to sanitize or wash her hands regularly with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand rub and avoid close contact with those who display flu-like symptoms.
Discuss with your helper and reach a mutual arrangement with regard to how she spends her rest days safely. Help her understand your concerns and that this is a temporary arrangement to safeguard her and the family against possible risks during this period.
Rules for maids in Singapore during the COVID-19 outbreak: Home leave
The MOM recommends that helpers postpone home leave until the global pandemic “situation stabilises.”
Discuss with your helper if this can be enforced, and if any plans to travel back to her homeland made previously can be rescheduled for another time. In the case of emergencies, helpers should be informed of the new Stay-home Notice (SHN) imposed on all arrivals upon their return.
All Foreign Domestic Workers (FDW) coming into Singapore are to serve a 14-day SHN upon arrival, during which they will not be allowed to leave their place of residence.
All FDWs must comply with SHN rules, including responding to MOM’s phone calls, WhatsApp video calls or SMSes within 1 hour, not entertaining any visitors in their place of residence, minimising contact with others and maintaining a record of persons they have come into close contact with.
Failure to comply with SHN rules with be met with disciplinary action including revocation of work passes and suspension of work pass privileges.
Good practices to follow
There are a few measures that the whole family must follow to minimise the risk of contracting the COVID-19 infection. Discuss with your helper and ensure that she is aware of the practices that any caregiver of babies, young children and the elderly should pay particular attention to during this outbreak.
Discuss these guidelines with your helper in order to protect herself and those under her care:
- Encourage her to wash her hands frequently with soap and water, or an alcohol-based hand rub, especially after being in highly-populated zones such as the wet market, supermarket, and after using public transport. She should also be encouraged to shower and change into a fresh set of clothes to minimise risk of cross-contamination
- Speak to your helper about the importance of covering her mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing, and disposing of the soiled tissue in the bin immediately afterwards
- Encourage her to avoid sharing food/drinks, utensils, and personal items
- Remind her to continually encourage those under her care to follow these guidelines. More specific guidelines for children can be found here, and guidelines for the elderly can be found here.
- Remind her to wear a mask and notify you immediately if she is feeling unwell or develops symptoms like cough or shortness of breath. It would be wise to visit a doctor immediately in this instance, but do call your medical practitioner or the hospital beforehand to avoid any unnecessary exposure
- If she is unwell, allow her ample rest and minimise contact with those under her care
As a general practice, encourage everyone in the household, including your helper, to take their temperature at least twice a day, and check for any respiratory symptoms.
Remind your helper to be especially alert, and highlight to you any unusual respiratory symptoms about those under her care who may not be able to appropriately communicate for themselves, such as young children, and the elderly.
Hiring new helpers during this period
The MOM mandates a 14-day SHN for all new FDW’s, at an alternative accommodation such as dormitories, hostels or hotels. The helper would also have to have a Singapore mobile number with an internet connection and with WhatsApp installed, and be contactable by the MOM, and comply with all SHN rules and regulations.
Further, you should arrange for her to reach her accommodation to serve out her SHN as soon as she arrives at the airport, as well as arrange for food and daily essentials to be sent to her throughout the SHN.