COVID-19 has been especially challenging for domestic helpers.
While most Singaporeans may have been at home and away from their offices for a couple months now, there is one group of people who have been stuck at their workplaces the entire time.
They are none other than domestic helpers.
The pandemic can be especially challenging for domestic helpers in Singapore. More family members staying home means more meals to prepare and more household chores to complete.
The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) advised that even in Phase 1, domestic helpers should remain at home, even on their rest days, to prevent the spread of the virus.
With an increased workload and not being able to connect and relax with friends, domestic helpers may find this period very stressful.
We speak to some youths to find out how they and their families are supporting their domestic helpers during this trying time.
Reducing helpers’ workload
Roanne Ho, 22, said that with both her and her parents working from home now because of circuit breaker measures, her helper has to cook almost twice the number of meals as she did before.
The marketing intern said: “To reduce her burden we try to order food delivery more often so she doesn′t have to prepare so many meals.
“We also all try to chip in with housework, like doing the dishes after we eat, and being mindful to not leave a mess around the house.”
Kimberlie Lim, 21, shared that her family also tries to ensure that their two helpers are not overworked by limiting their workload to primarily taking care of the two elderly family members at home.
“We try to split the workload evenly between them as well, so that they are not overwhelmed,” said the National University of Singapore undergraduate.
Making them feel appreciated and at home
As for my family, we have been trying our best to make our helper feel appreciated for the work she does for us.
My helper is from Myanmar and she has not been able to meet her friends on her off day, when they usually meet for a Burmese meal.
We found a Burmese restaurant that delivered to our house, and had her pick out her favourite dishes for us all to have for lunch one day.
On her 25th birthday last week, we ordered her favourite chocolate cake to celebrate.
Roanne’s family also celebrated their helper’s birthday during the Circuit Breaker. They bought her chocolate, cakes and some gifts.
Ensuring that helpers get proper rest
In line with MOM’s advisory, Roanne and Kimberlie’s families are ensuring that their helpers are still given their proper rest by not asking them to do work on their weekly days off.
Alternatively, if the helpers do choose to work on their rest days, they are compensated by the families.
Roanne also ensures that her helper gets her proper rest day at home by reminding her family members not to bother the helper for chores on that day.
“We make sure she has her personal space and time on her rest day to watch shows and catch up with family and friends,” said Roanne.
Supporting helpers through difficulties
Kimberlie also shared that one of her helpers decided to return to Indonesia to her family a couple months ago when her contract ended, but with travel bans enacted because of COVID-19, she was unable to do so.
“My mum made special arrangements to renew her contract so that she could still be employed and earn money, and not be stranded in Singapore without a job,” said Kimberlie.
Roanne’s family also made sure that her helper was properly protected from the virus by buying additional masks and reminding her to be safe while out on supermarket runs.
Many households in Singapore rely on domestic helpers; their work is valuable and indispensable to us. In this difficult time, we should try our best to support them.
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