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Singapore: Recognises Basic Right To A Weekly Rest Day

Time to recognize domestic work under the labour law

1. Think Centre (TC) welcomes the latest announcement by the Ministry of Manpower to legislate a weekly rest day for migrant domestic workers. TC further welcomes the recognition that a rest day is essential to the psycho-social well-being for domestic workers. It is a positive development that will align Singapore closer to international labour standards (1); and it also represent Singapore's commitment to effectively implement the 2007 ASEAN Declaration on the Protection and Promotion of the Rights of Migrant Workers (2).

2. As with all good things there are caveats that should be flagged and addressed before the weekly day off is being fully implemented.

3. In particular there are concerns that in an effort to balance the interests between employers and migrant domestic workers, employers may find it more convenient to compensate domestic workers to forgo their rest days. Especially since domestic workers are already receiving relatively low monthly salary.

4. TC reiterates that a weekly rest day is not a privilege to be granted at the discretion of any employer but a basic labour right to be enjoyed by all workers.


5. MOM should collaborate with a broad spectrum of civil society groups concerned with migrant workers, including informal associations or groups organised by migrant workers, to support the development of social initiatives to engage domestic workers productively on their off days.

6. There should also be caution with regards to the proposed Settling-In-Programme (SIP); it should not be utilised to socialise or condition migrant domestic workers as to what constitutes appropriate behavior, particularly in the realm of personal relationships.

7. Singapore should work progressively to recognise and include domestic work under the auspices of the Employment Act rather than the current Employment of Foreign Manpower Act.

# # # #

(1). In June 2012, the International Labor Organization’s (ILO) adoptedthe Convention No. 189 on Decent Work for Domestic Workers which requires governments to provide domestic workers equal protections including for working hours, minimum wage coverage, overtime compensation, daily and weekly rest periods, social security, and maternity protection. Singapore has not recognised domestic workers under the labour law as such they do not enjoy the same level of basic labour rights protection.

(2). ASEAN adopted in 2007, the ASEAN Declaration on the protection and promotion of the rights of a migrant workers ¬ the declaration requires both the sending and receiving ASEAN member states to be responsible for protecting the rights of migrant workers.



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