My attention was recently raised by a discussion on a facebook group of French ladies living in Singapore. Some of them were asking advice on what to do on Chinese New Year with their helper: give 3 days off? Give less days, maybe only 2 ? Pay extra money if she works on an off day?

Surprisingly to me (surprinsgly yes, because in our country, France, the general rule is a week end with 2 days off and nobody complains in the month of May when we have up to 4 days off in a row! And no employer there would dare to request their nanny or their “femme de ménage” or housecleaner to come on a Public Holiday  for work), some of them said that they would ask their helper from time to time to work on an off day explaining that this was the only way for them as parents, to have a good break.

Waouhhh! Have a good break while the helper is at work? Really?  Then what about the helper guys? When do you think she can have a good break too? Do you really think that she can do a good job when she works 7 days in a row without any off day? Frankly speaking, what about you? Would you be at your top performance in your job on a Monday morning if you had been continuously working on saturday and sunday? I really doubt.

For me, I know that I would be doing a poor work. And I know what I’m talking about: as a medical student , I’ve been asked to work 36 hours in a row, or 7 days in a row without rest. That was when I was  on call overnight, working all night in the Emergency Room and the next morning at 8AM, back to my department with my patients. And I can tell that this next day after a night in ER felt like an eternity and I was desperatly craving for rest and sleep. Hopefully, I was not a surgeon with patients’ life in my hands!

So to me, it’s no different from a helper’s situation: she has a physically and mentally demanding job. She needs rest. For her, for you, for your family, she needs rest. It’s not even a matter of deserving rest; no, just a matter of body and brain needs instead.


And for those who still doubt about giving all 3 days off for CNY and consider paying extra money for extra work, this was posted in the Straits Times on January 16th , 2014:

  • Pay maids double for working on rest days

    A RECENT media report claimed that more maids are being given rest days.

    However, I still hear of employers who deduct the maid’s salary when she takes a day off, or refuse to provide rest days at all and do not pay her the day’s salary in lieu.

    One errant employer even sent her maid to her sister’s home in Malaysia to do chores on her day off, and paid her less than a day’s salary.

    A maid’s salary is around $450 for 26 working days a month, or $17.30 per day.

    Employers who pay the salary in lieu of a rest day tend to round down the amount to $17. This is akin to short-changing the maid. Why should they round down when the maid’s pay is already so paltry? Why not round up to $20 instead?

    Maids who work on their rest days should be paid double instead, as is the case for workers claiming payment for work done on a rest day.

    Most employers of maids are employees themselves. Don’t they demand to be paid extra when their employers require them to work on their rest days?

    Raymund Koh Joo Guan

About helpagency

French expatriate in Singapore since 2005, dealing with FDWs issues since 2008, offering training for FDWs (Children Health Urgent Care course)
This entry was posted in Management of a domestic helper and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to HELPERS on their OFF DAYS: REST NEEDED!

  1. Karien says:

    Interesting website! (found you throughout the SEW fb page…) I work for HOME myself, so very familiar with the domestic workers situation… great effort to have this website. I blog myself too, but haven’t written much about my work, if you like check this post:
    Before I worked at the HOME office for a while, helping with the case work. Very interesting, but the stories you hear are heartbreaking…

    • helpagency says:

      Dear Karien,
      Please forgive my late reply, I’ve been terribly busy this past week.
      I’ve been volunteering with Home too a few years ago: I was a visiting doctor in their shelter, providing health counseling and advice to the ladies there: very interesting but as you said, heartbreaking quite often. When the shelter moved to east coast, that was too far from my place and I stopped my weekly visits. Today I focus on services to employers, mostly expatriates from the French community, with the hope that maybe they treat their helper in a good and fair manner (which is not nalways the case, even if I’ve never seen so far cases of abuses similar to what we both have seen with locals). I offer 1s aid classes (I’m a medical doctor). I also offer cooking classes (because I’m French and I love cooking!); I noticed that through attnding these classes, the helpers improves greatly their self-confidence and that is to me a great victory!
      So I feel like being a drop of water in an ocean of needs but it’s with drops that you create a river!
      At Home, I quite often see Sister Sisi (Margaret). Btw, she is expecting from me a feedback on a health course and I’m very late! As often as I can, I give time to Home for health classes (the last one was in November).
      I hope to meet you someday whether at Home office or for a coffee.

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