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Migrant Domestic Worker rest days: Flexibility, open communication is key

  • The Straits Times (19 Oct 2022): "MOM should define what constitutes a rest day for maids"

We are glad that Mr Raoul Sequeira (“MOM should define what constitutes a rest day for maids”, Oct 19) supports the mandatory monthly rest day for our migrant domestic workers (MDWs).

The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) had considered the impact of the new requirement on households, and consulted various stakeholders such as employers, MDW employment agencies and Non-Governmental Organisations.

Different households have different needs and care requirements for their family. Prescribing specific working or rest hours would not be practical, and could instead be overly rigid for households and MDWs. We believe that the best option is to provide some flexibility in allowing both parties to reach a mutual understanding, instead of a one-size-fits-all approach.

For example, the rest day can be taken as one full day or over two half days, on any day of the week, as long as it is agreed between the MDW and her employer. MDWs may also choose to rest at home. Their employers should provide these MDWs with uninterrupted rest and refrain from assigning them household tasks. Both parties are encouraged to communicate openly about their respective needs and come to a mutual agreement. Currently, most employers provide their MDWs with at least eight hours off.

If both parties are unable to reach an agreement, they may seek assistance from a third party such as their employment agencies. They can also access free dispute resolution services offered by the Centre for Domestic Employees (CDE) and the Foreign Domestic Worker Association for Social Support and Training (FAST).

MDWs without at least one non-compensable rest day may call MOM’s MDW helpline (1800 339 5505) or reach out to NGOs, such as CDE and FAST, for advice.

Doris Kuek
Director, Foreign Manpower Management Policy
Workplace Policy & Strategy Division
Ministry of Manpower


MOM should define what constitutes a rest day for maids - The Straits Times, 19 Oct 2022

From Jan 1, 2023, all employers must give their domestic workers at least one rest day each month that cannot be compensated with cash (Maids to get one mandatory rest day a month from Jan 1, Oct 8).

The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) said the rest day can be taken on any day of the week and over two half-days, and encouraged employers to come to a mutual agreement with their domestic workers on the arrangements.

But in MOM’s press release, as well as the guide it released to help employers and domestic workers come to an agreement, it does not define what constitutes a rest day.

A specific definition is needed as employers and domestic workers may have different views on what constitutes a rest day – is it, say, 12 hours from 7am to 7pm, or is it 24 hours from 7am to 7am the next day?

Different households require different things from their domestic workers. Some may need them to start work as early as 6am, especially those with young school-going children, and end their work day at about 10pm after dinner and washing up. Some may even need them to care for the sick or elderly at odd hours of the night.

If the rest day can be divided into two half-days, unreasonable employers might tell the domestic worker to take a half-day of six to eight hours off, but still require her to complete the rest of the household chores upon her return on those days.

Hence, the domestic worker would be essentially doing the same amount of work on her half-day off. With such an arrangement, the domestic worker would certainly not be able to rest and recharge to cope with the next few weeks of labour.

Since domestic workers are basically on call or on duty for 24 hours a day, they should also be allowed a complete 24 hours off on their rest day. To protect the welfare of domestic workers, MOM should officially define a rest day as a full 24 hours off.

Raoul Sequeira