First weekend out for maids, but hot spot hangouts not crowded
Maids can still take rest day on Sundays but are strongly encouraged to do so on weekdays, MOM clarifies
After more than two months of not seeing each other, yesterday was a sort of reunion for two Indonesian maids at City Plaza.
Ms Reni Lilis and Ms Supiati were thrilled to be able to hang out after being stuck at home since the start of the circuit breaker on April 7.
But their friends were missing from their usual Sunday haunt because they had to take their rest day on a weekday.
In an advisory to employers last Wednesday, the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) said foreign domestic workers (FDW) who wish to spend their rest day outside should seek the consent of their employers to do so on a weekday when public spaces are less crowded.
This led to confusion and concern among FDWs and migrant worker advocacy groups who wondered if it was a double standard to not allow maids to take their rest day on a weekend.
In reply to The New Paper's queries, an MOM spokesman yesterday clarified that while employers are strongly encouraged to arrange for FDWs to take their rest day on weekdays, FDWs can also continue to take it on weekends.
The spokesman also said that if a FDW agrees to work on her rest day, the employer should offer compensation in lieu of the rest day.
FDWs were also advised to adhere to the prevailing safe distancing measures when they are out. They should not gather or loiter in public spaces.
MOM inspectors conducting checks will disperse large group and outdoor gatherings.
To manage and reduce crowds, remittance agents at City Plaza, Lucky Plaza and Peninsula Plaza are now required to implement appointment systems and queue management arrangements for customers to conduct remittances on weekends and public holidays, the spokesman said.
When TNP visited Lucky Plaza and Peninsula Plaza from 1pm to 3pm yesterday, both malls were relatively quiet.
A worker at Kabayan Remittance at Lucky Plaza who wanted to be known only as Ms Flory said: "It was crowded in the morning from 9am to noon. But it wasn't so busy for the rest of the day."
SingPost Centre and City Plaza were more crowded when TNP was there between 4pm and 5pm.
But the crowds kept to the rule of groupings of not more than five, with most of them in pairs or trios, as well as keeping the required metre distance apart from other groups.
Enforcement officers who were keeping a watchful eye saw no need to intervene, except to remind the occasional maid or two not to sit on the ground outside City Plaza.
Ms Supiati, 34, who goes by one name like many of her compatriots, told TNP in Indonesian: "It has been work every day for the last two months.
"Some days I get moody because my employer is always home. I can never have peace of mind or just take a day off.
"I missed my friends, many of whom I haven't seen for a long while. But I am not angry, I am just hoping the situation will improve further."
Her friend, Ms Reni, 38, said her employer reminded her to return home early after running her errands of remitting money to her family and buying food and other essential items.
"I was told to get home before 6pm, instead of the usual 6.30pm to 7pm. But I am ready to head home now though it is just 4pm. I am calling it a day."
The two friends said they were disappointed that many of the familiar faces they would usually see every Sunday were not around yesterday.
The other 20 maids TNP spoke to yesterday also said it was their first day out on a Sunday since the circuit breaker.
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Ms Ehma Di, 30, a Myanmar maid, said at Peninsula Plaza that she had been working everyday for the last three months.
"But I got to come out today to remit money and do some shopping. I am not meeting any friends as my employer advised me not to yet," she added.
Indonesian maids Endang Sulis, 46, and Prina Wati, 40, had a quick lunch together after remitting money at SingPost Centre.
Ms Endang, who has been working here for 13 years, said she was happy that maids have the option of taking their rest day on weekends.
But she added: "As Covid-19 is still around, it may be better to wait until the situation stabilises further. If everyone met up on weekends, it may get too crowded."
ADDITIONAL REPORTING: WONG YANG