As from 2013, Singaporeans will be obliged to give their maids a day off every week. Although this doesn’t seem like a big deal (don’t most of us get TWO days off a week?), some locals are already griping. None more than our local maid agencies, which see foreign maids not so much as people but vacuum cleaners with legs. Human rights aside (I can’t believe I typed that), this article examines the impact of maids getting a day off…and why their employers have nothing to lose:
In Singapore, the maid industry is integral because many families aren’t single income; two working parents is a common and growing trend. Blame it on our cost of living. On top of that, Singapore has some of the longest working hours in Asia. That means for anyone with children or elderly parents, maids are not so much a luxury as a necessity.
The Cost Situation
Most maids earn $450 – $550 a month, and work a seven day week. That’s pretty amazing, because if I did their job I’d be chugging sleeping pills or swan diving off a building by week two. For employers, the cost also includes a levy ($170), and clothes, toiletries, etc.
The new government regulations don’t reduce the costs, but implement a mandatory off day each week. If employers want their maids to work a full week, they’ll have to make private settlements. But is the cost to employers really so steep?
No. And here’s why:
- Variable terms
- Time specific impact
- Potentially improved performance
1. Variable Terms
As our government’s specified, you can create private arrangements with your maid regarding their off day. That means you can change her schedule to minimize the loss of working hours (as if her work hours didn’t already match a plough-horse).
You don’t have to follow a strict one-day-a-week routine. How about compressing it so the maid gets two days off every other week? Or just shifting the maid’s off days to match yours? If you’re going to be home anyway, why can’t you take care of your children / aged parents / tropical fish on your own for once?
Also, you should selectively pay for extra work days, rather than put down a lump sum for a seven day week. For example, let your maid have her day off; but if something like a wedding or overtime work comes up, pay her for that specific extra day. This way, you won’t end up buying extra hours you don’t need.
State that you’ll make such arrangements before hiring. Otherwise, some maid agencies might use this against you in disputes. And remember to wash with Dettol after shaking the
parasite’s agent’s hand.
2. Time Specific Impact
I went door-to-door on Monday, and learned two things.
The first is that cats baring their fangs are not smiling. The second is that most maid employers (four out of five) don’t see any impact from one less working day. On weekends, most employers are hanging out with their children anyway. The maid not being around just means one less person in the car.
Likewise, there is virtually no difference in terms of housekeeping, not unless you have the most limited wardrobe in Asia (How many clothes do you need to wash)? When I was in college I cleaned my room once every…hell I cleaned it once. And since I’m not dead from some exotic disease, I dare say one day without cleaning won’t send Hazmat crews to your door.
As for pets, don’t even get me started. If you can’t be bothered staying home one day to look after your critter, why don’t you just give the damn pet to the maid? By now it probably likes her more than you.
Or me. Crazy-ass cat. *Looks at bleeding fingers*
3. Potentially Improved Performance
Due to limiting factors (like being human), a seven day work week reduces performance. Even if the work isn’t physically demanding, repetition causes fatigue. More so if someone’s forced to stay within the same four walls, day after day for months on end.
Overwork results in diminished concentration, carelessness, and irritability. This is precisely why our companies give us off days; if you’re going to pay someone, you want them working at their best. And peak performance doesn’t come from non-stop work and confinement. So if you want your money’s worth, give your maid a break.
But What Do They Get Up To On Their Off Day?
Try this: None of your business. Does your boss call you on Saturday and ask what you’re up to? Does he check your phone, or keep an eye on your relationships? You’re paid way more than your maid, and you wouldn’t put up with that.
And like any resentful employee, you can take it out on your employer. Except you’re restricted to nasty Facebook posts and stealing staplers, whereas your maid is entrusted with your child or elderly parent. She probably also has free reign of your house, and cooks your food. She is, by all definitions, not the right person to piss off.
Feeding your maid’s resentment guarantees you won’t get your money’s worth. A happy employee really is a productive employee. But before feeding that line to your boss, practice what you preach.
Do you already give your maid a day off? Comment and tell us how it’s going!
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