Monday, April 10, 2006

To rest or not to rest

MaidsMany people who know no better (and that includes me) express shock when they learn that a majority of our paid domestic helpers (more commonly referred to as maids) are NOT given a single day off in a week. Judging by how they seem to congregate in droves along Orchard Road during the weekends, you'd think that maids do have off-days. But I now know that many maids do not enjoy this off-day - something most Singaporeans workers (including employers of these maids) enjoy as a civil right.

So it all seems unfair to these maids, until you realise that maid employers are financially liable for their maids' behaviour outside of their house. A common concern is that maids may get romantically involved and, with one thing leading to another natural thing, a third party may pop out at the wrong time. This will involve the loss of a security bond of $5,000 for the employers should their maids bear even one child. So now I understand why our employers are reluctant to give their maids off-days. If I were in their shoes, I would most likely do the same.

So we cannot compare ourselves with that of the maids' because both have different employment terms and conditions. Both have different 'status' - one is likely a bona fide citizen or a permanent resident, in which case the powers that be cannot care less if these go forth and multiply. So I think that MOM's decision not to impose a mandatory rest day is a wise one. A financial compensation given in lieu of this off-day, is also a fair thing.

All this is easy for me to say because I have never employed a maid. Sometimes, I think that employing a maid is more trouble than it is worth, having witnessed, in the cases of relatives and friends, the troubles and inconveniences that employing a maid can bring to the household. Yes, they do fulfill the task of caring for the children and the aging parent, but they are not automatons that will do every bidding exactly as you would want them to. They are human beings with prejudices, insecurities, hopes and dreams, just like you and I. Not all problems arise from the maids, some originate from the employers. There is enough anecdotal evidence that suggests that the cost of employing a maid goes beyond money alone. Tax incentives aside, employers are often strained by emotions (dis-satisfied with job performance, juvenile behaviour from both the maid and employer, etc.), time (supervising the maids, attending to legal matters, etc. etc.) and long-term behavioural issues such as the growing over-dependence of children on maids.

And you thought office politics is stressful...

No comments :