Everyone Needs a Day Off
By John Gee, President, TWC2
Some things seem so obvious that they should not need any justification. Everyone needs time off work? Of course they do: what is there to explain?
This common sense approach does not seem to apply for around half of their employers when it comes to domestic workers from other countries. They don’t give their employees days off. It is as though they are a species apart, uniquely excluded from the considerations due to everyone else.
Most people value their weekends as a time to spend with their families, their friends or be alone, if they wish. They may go out, lie in late in the morning – any number of activities, or inactivities, come to that. They leave the weekday routine behind and have more say over how they spend their time. This is not just a chance to rest physically, but to revitalise mentally. It meets a real need, and when they return to work the following week, they are better able to cope for having had a break.
It is another story for domestic workers who don’t have time off. They may well find themselves busier at weekends than on weekdays. They certainly don’t have the chance to rest both physically and mentally, to have a change of scene and do whatever they feel like doing. No wonder many become depressed and dispirited.
If a person just works every day, what is the point of life? There should be chances to enjoy oneself, to learn more and have new experiences.
At Transient Workers Count Too (TWC2) we must have heard just about every argument against giving domestic workers a day off. There are the ones about employers not wanting to risk their bonds if the worker runs away, the desperate need for their presence seven days a week to look after the young, old or disabled, or those about how she might ‘get into bad company’, have a boyfriend or be ‘spoilt’ in some way. There are answers to all of these arguments for those ready to listen.
There are those who simply find it too convenient to have someone waiting on them at all hours, and maybe they will only change their ways when they have no choice.
But others may be ready to rethink their position, especially if they can be persuaded to give more thought to their workers’ feelings and wishes. Trying to convince employers to see their workers in a more empathetic way is one of the approaches TWC2 takes in trying to encourage them to give their domestic workers a weekly day off.
One initiative this year was the production of a poster headed ‘She’s not just your maid: her name is Lita’. Lita stands in the centre, looking forward, with the images to each side of her of the people at home and in Singapore whom her labour supports. Showing her as a woman caring for her own family invites empathy; most viewers could certainly identify with that. The poster also subtly contradicts the image of domestic workers as being irresponsible and needing to have their actions controlled. Having the commitment to support a family at home suggests a considerable level of responsibility.
The poster appeals: ‘Show your appreciation: Give her a day off.’
TWC2 hopes that more and more employers will decide that this is the right and humane thing to do.
Help us get spread the word. Get a copy of the poster – it’s free – and put it up at your workplace or organisation.
We’ll mail a copy to you if you send us $2 worth of postage stamps. Or pick up a copy either at the TWC2 office or at AWARE.
Transient Workers Count Too (TWC2)
5001 Beach Road
Golden Mile Complex
#06-27, Singapore 199588
T: 6247 7001
F: 6396 0759
Helpline for migrant workers: 1800 888 1515