Due to the circuit breaker and previous social distancing measures, many Singaporeans have switched to working from home or have unfortunately lost their jobs. However, there are segments of the population who are as busy as ever. This includes foreign domestic workers (FDWs), who are currently playing an integral role in keeping many Singaporean households clean and families taken care of. Unfortunately, domestic workers are also one of the most vulnerable working segment, due to a combination of a lack of awareness and having to engage in risky errands for their employers. To help reduce COVID-19 spread among domestic workers, there are new guidelines that employers and workers must follow. Below, we compiled a mix of tips and current government guidelines to help employers keep themselves and their helper healthy and safe.
New Hires Must Follow the Stay-Home Notice
If you are working from home and need extra help with household chores and caretaking, you can still hire an FDW. However, the MOM advises that you employ a domestic worker who is currently in Singapore, as the as the chances of approval for bringing in a worker from abroad are very slim. If you did manage to get a new domestic helper who is currently not in Singapore, then she will be subject to a 14-day Stay Home Notice (SHN). This is a 14-day quarantine period that requires your new worker to stay indoors at a dormitory, hostel or hotel before she'll be allowed to start working at your house. If you need help finding accommodations for your new worker, you can reach out to the MOM or enlist the help of an employment agency.
Settling-In Programme and Medical Exams Must Still Be Completed
If you have recently hired a domestic worker, she must still undergo both the Settling-in Programme (SIP) and the medical examination (6ME). To alleviate any anxiety about doing the SIP, the MOM has stated that all FDWs who attend the SIP would have completed their 14 day Stay-Home Notice. There are also precautionary measures, such as temperature checks, to ensure the safety and health of everyone participating in the programme.
Cost of Home-Based Medical Packages Provided by Doctor Anywhere
Your worker may also be due for her 6ME. In this case, you can opt for the home-based 6ME service, provided by Doctor Anywhere, instead of taking your worker to a GP. This can help alleviate stress about exposing your worker to COVID-19 in a medical environment. You'll need to accommodate at least 10 working days between the date stated on your worker's 6ME form and the screening date. A staff member will call after 2 days to schedule the appointment. If this serivce appeals to you, you should note that the home-based medical service isn't just for the 6ME. You can also use it if you want to get your worker or your family vaccinated against the flu. You will not have to go to a clinic to pick up the test results as they'll be available to you when they're ready.
Medical Expenses Will Be Covered If Your FDW Contracts COVID-19
Typically, if your domestic worker falls ill, you will need to pay for her recovery. Because of this, many FDW employers are concerned that they would need to pay for their worker's hospitalisation if they get infected with COVID 19. Dont' worry, the government will pay for treatment at any public hospital, provided your FDW did not travel after March 27th. If your worker gets sick with COVID 19, she should go to the hospital with her MOM-issued work pass and any other relevant documents, since she won't be eligible for the free treatment without them. All other medical emergencies or accidents will be covered by your maid insurance.
Encourage Your Worker to Stay Home on Her Rest Days
According to the Ministry of Manpower, it is strongly advised that your FDW stay at home during her rest day. Since your domestic worker may need to run essential errands, you can consider changing her rest day to a weekday. This ensures that she'll be running those errands when there are less people outside. Furthermore, you should ensure that you educate her on keeping a safe distance from people, not shaking hands and not congregating in crowded areas like Lucky Plaza, City Plaza and Peninsula Plaza. Temasek Foundation will also be sending masks to the residential addresses of domestic helpers starting late May, which can help replenish low stocks of supplies you and your worker may be facing.
However, keeping your domestic helper at home on her rest day doesn't mean that this is a chance for her to continue working. You should let her rest and consider including her in any fun family activities as she most likely misses her friends and family during this period. If she does need to work during her rest day, then she should be paid accordingly for the full day.
Arrange for Alternate Travel Dates for Non-Essential Home Leave
Unfortunately, now is not the best time for your domestic worker to travel back home. First, if you worker travels during this advisory period and gets sick with COVID-19, the government will not pay for her hospital treatment. Second, it puts everyone at risk, from you and your family to her and her family back home. Instead, you should discuss postponing your worker's home leave to a time in the future.
If your worker has to go home for emergency reasons, then she should be well versed in proper safety precautions and monitor herself for symptoms. Upon return, your worker will also be issued a 14-day Stay Home Notice. She can serve this mandatory 14-day quarantine either at your residence or in an alternative location. If she stays at your residence she will be permitted to work. If she stays in an alternative accommodation, you will have to keep an open line of communication with her and continue to pay her COVID-19 FAQ. However, she will have to pay for any alternative accommodations herself.
Keeping Your FDW Healthy Is a Priority for the Safety of Your Home
Your domestic worker is responsible for taking care of some of the most vulnerable people in your household. She is also the one who will be responsible for keeping your home sanitary. Because of her crucial role in taking care of your household, you should do whatever you can to keep her healthy. This ranges from proper education on hygiene and social distancing to finding alternatives to typical errands that can put her at risk. For instance, instead of sending your worker to a grocery store, consider getting grocery delivery instead. You should also supply her with masks so she can safely venture outside if there are essential errands to run. Lastly, while it may make sense to ramp up cleaning and disinfecting efforts, you have to be mindful of your domestic worker's workload. During this time, it's imperative to educate, bring awareness and teach your FDW to work smarter—not harder—to mitigate additional stress and anxiety.