Domestic Helper Claims Employer Controls Movement, Shares Plight

As Singaporeans have now been given the freedom to head out wherever we please as most businesses open during Phase 2, please do spare a thought for domestic helpers, some of whom don’t have such freedom.

In fact, the ‘Circuit Breaker’ and Phase 1 has been a particularly tough time for domestic helpers, who were advised to stay at home even on their day off.

In Phase 2, some of them aren’t having any respite — a domestic helper was allegedly told by her employer that she had the right to control her movements during Phase 2, according to a fellow domestic helper.

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Domestic helper asked employer if she could go out on day off

Ms Bhing Navato, who’s not only a domestic helper but a published author and poet, took to Facebook on Thursday (18 Jun), the day before Phase 2 started, to tell of her friend’s plight.

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Apparently, the domestic helper asked her employer whether she could go out on her day off.

Her employer’s reply was that she could, but she could not use the MRT or meet other people.

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Employer says she has the right to control helper’s movements

More galling, the employer reportedly also told her that “employers (have) the right to control movement of helpers during Phase 2”.

Here’s a screenshot of the alleged conversation between the helper and her employer.

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Besides controlling her movements, the employer also wants her to conform to a “dress code policy” and change in the MRT toilet if she wants to wear something different.

MOM doesn’t say anything about not taking MRT

According to an MOM advisory that was released on Wednesday (17 Jun), it’s understood that domestic helpers can go out on their day off, and they can meet people in Phase 2.

However, they have to keep in groups of 5 or less, wear a mask, maintain a safe distance from one another and observe good personal hygiene — the same requirements for all Singaporeans who are going out in Phase 2.

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The MOM also says that domestic helpers should limit their number of contacts, shouldn’t gather in public or visit crowded places, and make appointments if they want to remit money.

They were also strongly encouraged to take their day off on a weekday instead, and get their employers’ approval to do that.

While they should inform their employers of their whereabouts, that does not translate to their employers actively dictating where they should or should not go.

There is nothing in the advisory about domestic helpers not being allowed to take the MRT.

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Some employers reportedly taking advantage of ‘Circuit Breaker’

Ms Navato used the exchange as an example of how some employers in Singapore were taking advantage of the advisories on domestic helpers during the ‘Circuit Breaker’, Phase 1 and now Phase 2 to control their domestic helpers and place demands on them that are not stipulated by the MOM.

She highlighted that as domestic helpers want to keep their job, they will comply with unreasonable demands or simply give up.

As they weren’t allowed to go out during their day off, many of them had a difficult time during the ‘Circuit Breaker’ and Phase 2, she said. Some were even crying every night.

For domestic helpers, they can’t wait to be able to go out again, as their day off is the only time they have for themselves – they can do what they like and meet even just one friend. It’s essential for their morale and mental well-being.

Thus, Ms Navato pleaded for the MOM to listen to the cries of vulnerable domestic helpers by taking the time to talk to them with a compassionate spirit.

That’s because, as she said,

Domestic workers are human beings. We are not robots. We have feelings.

After all, if the rest of us can partake of the freedom allowed in Phase 2, why should domestic helpers be excluded?

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We’re not better than them, they deserve the same rights

While we celebrate our new-found freedom in Phase 2, let’s not forget our domestic helpers.

Imagine you’re stuck in your workplace with your boss 7 days a week, 24 hours a day, even during your day off. How would you feel?

That’s the situation many domestic helpers faced during ‘Circuit Breaker’, Phase 1 and maybe in Phase 2 as well.

While the concern about crowds of domestic helpers congregating is a legitimate one, the same applies to all Singaporeans who formed crowds across Singapore as well.

Let’s stop thinking we are somehow better than them by refusing to allow them to receive the same freedoms that we have.

Featured image adapted from YouTube.