“Maid agencies are calling for clearer guidelines on the mandatory weekly day off for foreign domestic workers to ensure the smooth introduction of the law next year” (Have Clearer Guidelines On Mandatory Day Off, Say Maid Agencies, Mr. Saifulbahri Ismail).
The news report “Have Clearer Guidelines On Mandatory Day Off, Say Maid Agencies” (April 7, 2012) by Mr. Saifulbahri Ismail: the mandatory weekly day off for domestic workers in Singapore has been a tremendous step forward. Amidst some on-the-ground discontentment and opposition, it is certainly positive to observe some agencies expressing genuine, sustained concern for the welfare of these workers in the long run. In particular, the proposal for a mediation mechanism for disputes is well-intentioned; this platform could prove to be beneficial for both parties, especially for the clarification of major disagreements or the addressing of grievances.
Nevertheless, I think it is unnecessary for laws or regulations to be defined to address the smallest of details; in fact, such introductions could potentially heighten the propensity for micromanagement, and increase the possibility of spontaneous conflict between workers and employers. Enforced, pedantic adherence to these stipulations could also make interactions or conversations more awkward, because many employers do view the worker as a member of the family. Based on the postulation that most Singaporean households do have the ability to manage these relationships competently, additional legislation could seem out-of-place.
Faith And Flexibility, Not Micromanagement, Needed
In my opinion, further discussions on the legalistic definitions of what a “day off” represents seem painfully cumbersome and counter-intuitive, because I would think that employers do know where and when to draw the line. Some employers I know have always given their domestic workers a day off every week, so the impending change is simply perceived as a formality. They have established a long-term, constructive relationship with their workers, are very flexible with their arrangements. This faith does not come immediately, but through years of give-and-take this developing trust can prove to be immensely advantageous
Naturally, the aforementioned mediation mechanism should only come into play when there are extreme deviations, or when either party takes advantage of this conviction and flexibility without being completely cognisant of the ramifications of their actions.
In essence, it seems more logical – and favourable – for stakeholders to progressively strike equilibrium between idealism and pragmatism: there could be very broad recommendations that could be communicated to new workers, but it would be more meaningful to allow both parties to work plans out – based on commitments, special occasions or unforeseen circumstances et cetera – on a private and individual basis. This methodology can clearly strengthen relationships continuously, and make for a more conducive working and living environment for all.
A version of this article was published in TODAY.