Mobile: what’s the fairest deal of them all?

The tricky problem of domestic helpers’ use of mobile phones…

In its last newsletter, the NGO “TWC2” was telling an appalling and very sad story about a domestic helper who was killed by her employer because she was using a handphone…

I guess that none of us reading this blog would come to such an extreme behavior. However, how do we manage the use  of mobile phones by our domestic helpers?

What should be do and say?What is the best deal?

  • No handphone at all? Then how can she reach us in case of an emergency such as our child hurt at the playground?
  • Handphone at all times?  Then how can we make sure that she doesn’t give private calls during working hours? By the way, does she have “working hours”? In my opinion working hours should be precise, clearly differentiated from resting time, at least to provide her with specific times for her personal matters (calling her family, friends, going to the post office to send money etc). My own helper works from 9 to 12 AM and from 2 to 6.30 PM with all Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays off. It may sound very little work load to some of you but she is very keen to work more when we have guests or any special event (it represents about 30 extra days in the year). I think this is fair and consistent with Western values of reasonable working hours. And it also provides my whole family with so much more privacy and intimacy!

Getting back to the mobile phone issue, the problem here is that handphones saved these ladies from loneliness. Frankly speaking, what would you do if you were alone in Singapore, far from your family and friends,  stranded in a tiny room after work with absolutely no one to talk to ? Maybe some of you would read, listen to music, rest or pray. But would you do it every single day without any sadness in your heart, without any desire to talk to someone? Not so sure, no?

But the problem is also that some of them use it in an addictive way. I’m sure you have seen some of them hanging around in a playground, sitting in a corner, a mobile phone stuck if not glued to their ear and having a more than vague look at the children they are in charge of. We all have seen such a scene at least once. And of course, we all hope that our “nanny” is not behaving this way with our own kids!

So maybe we can have a balanced fair and firm attitude:

  • Manage to allocate some free time at least 4 times a day: morning before the start of the day, lunch time, afternoon rest, and evening after work day;
  • for those who are in charge of children, handphone always on in your pocket when you are outside the house ; but absolutely no private call during working hours; it means that at all times, I should be able to get through, your line should not be engaged.
  • for those who have no children to take care of, no handphone during work hours; keep all your private calls for after work hours;
  • it also means that when we have a meeting with our helper, our own mobile phone should be on silent mode; we should not pick up a call while we are talking to her about work issues…it’s a matter of respect, isn’t it?

Hope this helps…let me know!




About helpagency

French expatriate in Singapore since 2005, dealing with FDWs issues since 2008, offering training for FDWs (Children Health Urgent Care course)
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