Skip to main content

Be Reasonable About Migrant Domestic Workers' Workload

We refer to the letters from Jaya Anil Kumar (Challenging for maids with household and special needs caregiving duties, 27 Feb) and Colin Ting Fook Mun (Maids who are caregivers need support from employers too, 28 Feb).

We agree that employers play a critical role in guiding their MDWs on the caregiving duties required of them. Before hiring an MDW, an employer should make clear the duties she is expected to perform, and hire one who is deemed suitable for the work in the household.

If specific training is required for the MDW, the employer can choose from a wide range of caregiver training available in areas such as infant care and eldercare.

Employers should also be reasonable about the MDW’s workload. MDWs must be given adequate daily rest and one rest day a week, as mandated under the Employment of Foreign Manpower (Work Passes) Regulations.

Employers are encouraged to communicate regularly with their MDWs and support their well-being. This complements the Ministry of Manpower’s efforts to monitor the well-being of MDWs, such as post-placement checks, routine interviews and house visits.

Doris Kuek

Director, Foreign Manpower Management Policy

Workplace Policy and Strategy Division


Maids who are caregivers need support from employers too, 28 Feb 2024, The Straits Times

I refer to the Forum letter “Challenging for maids with household and special needs caregiving duties” (Feb 27) and the commentary “When caregiving became part of my identity” (Feb 27).

As a caregiver with a migrant domestic worker (MDW) at home, I have never detached myself and left it to our helper to manage on her own to look after my elderly mother. I am always there to support her when needed.

Employers of MDWs should provide the necessary support, in addition to training. I share the caregiving duties by taking over on weekends when I am not working, and also at midnight when my mother needs to go to the toilet, so that our helper can rest.

Constant communication with the MDW also helps when she needs a listening ear, and also helps us to look out for signs of stress. I check in with my helper every morning before I leave for work and in the afternoon through messaging, to ensure everything and everyone is fine at home.

Just as we caregivers need support systems to keep ourselves well while we care for our loved ones, our helpers need support from us employers too.

Colin Ting Fook Mun

Challenging for maids with household and special needs caregiving duties, 27 Feb 2024, The Straits Times

We refer to the report “3 weeks’ jail for maid who slapped and kicked employer’s son, 8, who has ADHD” (Feb 21).

Violence towards anyone, particularly vulnerable individuals, can never be condoned. However, it is important to highlight that migrant domestic workers (MDWs) tasked with caring for special needs children, or providing any kind of specialised care (including eldercare), often face a myriad of challenges, especially if they have to juggle caregiving duties with household responsibilities.

In Sakinah’s case, she had household duties in addition to caring for four children, one with special needs. Such MDWs are typically overworked. Due to MDWs’ exclusion from the Employment Act, there are no legal limits on working hours, and MDWs may have almost round-the-clock work, with negative impacts on their physical and mental well-being.

In the experience of the Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics (Home), MDWs with caregiving responsibilities often do not receive adequate training. They encounter difficulties in managing the care recipients’ unique needs, ranging from behavioural issues to medical care requirements.

Insufficient training can lead to heightened stress, frustration, and potential risks to both the care recipient and the caregiver. Sometimes, such MDWs are not even aware that they have caregiving responsibilities until they arrive at the household.

Lacking the necessary knowledge and support systems, MDWs may find themselves overwhelmed and ill-equipped to provide the level of care and attention the care recipients deserve, or deal with negative or unpleasant situations.

Stressors can also come from employers’ expectations. MDWs have told Home that they are scolded by their employers when children cannot get to school on time, do not finish food at mealtimes, or fail to complete their homework.

MDWs with eldercare responsibilities have similarly reported being blamed when medicines are not taken, or when patients are late for hospital appointments, even though such incidents occur due to the care recipients’ behaviour.

Singapore remains heavily reliant on MDWs for caregiving needs. Home maintains that a bifurcated work pass system, differentiating the role of caregiving and domestic work, will ensure clarity of roles, reduce overwork, and give MDWs who have to provide specialised care access to mandatory, comprehensive training so they can fulfil their crucial roles effectively.

There should also be readily available support mechanisms and greater legislative protections (such as mandatory weekly rest days) to prevent caregiver burnout.

Jaya Anil Kumar

Senior Manager (Research and Advocacy)

Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics