Maids in Singapore to get a weekly day off from 2013
The Singapore government has announced that maids working in the country must get a weekly rest day.
The new regulation will take effect from 1 January 2013 and apply to all foreign maids whose work permits are renewed or issued after the date.
The move came after a longstanding campaign by activists and governments of the maids' countries.
There are more than 200,000 maids in Singapore, mostly from the Philippines, Indonesia, India and Sri Lanka.
"A weekly rest day is regarded internationally as a basic labour right," said Minister of State for Manpower Tan Chuan-Jin, who announced the new rule in parliament on Monday.
He added that from 2007 to 2010, a "significant majority" of maids who had suffered injuries at work or committed suicide did not get off days.
However, employers will be allowed ''time and flexibility'' to adjust to the new requirement, according to a statement from the ministry.
Employers in the South East Asian nation also have the ''alternative option'' of offering compensation in lieu of the off-day, if mutually agreeable with their maids.
The calls for a mandatory rest day for maids working in the island nation have been going on for a decade.
One non-profit organisation that has been at the forefront of the debate, Transient Workers Count Too, welcomed the ''long overdue'' move in a statement.
However, the group urged the government to consider applying the legislation to all maids currently working in the country, and not only to new hires and those who renew their work permits from next year.
''Otherwise, there will be quite a significant population of domestic workers who will have to wait for a considerable amount of time before they have access to this basic labour right,'' said Dr Noorashikin Abdul Rahman, the group's vice president.
Maids in Hong Kong, another country in Asia that employs a large number of foreign domestic helpers, already enjoy a rest day each week.