Foreign domestic helpers working in Malaysia will soon get one day off a week as part of a bid to improve working conditions for domestic helpers from overseas, according to Human Resources Minister S. Subramaniam.
His ministry plans to amend the Employment Act to make it compulsory for employers to provide maids with a day off per week, a move that would make it the first country in the Southeast Asian association of ASEAN states to do so.
The Malaysian Bar commended the Human Resources Ministry's announcement, with its president, K.Ragunath, stating that this was a small step forward in upholding the rights of domestic workers who were prone to severe abuse and labour exploitation because they received scant protection from legislation, unlike foreign workers in other sectors like construction.
“It is crucial that this proposal be implemented by amending the Employment Act because the imposition of a statutory obligation will allow the Ministry to enforce the provision and prosecute those who breach it," he said in a statement on Thursday.
He also urged that more is needed to be done to protect the rights of these workers, as “currently, numerous terms of the Act are specifically inapplicable to domestic workers”.
Domestic workers, he said, were not entitled to paid annual leave, sick leave or limitations to the number of hours they should work.
Subramaniam said the day off would be jointly determined by employer and employee and the domestic helper could choose to forgo the rest day as long as they were compensated for it.
"The ministry will make it mandatory for all domestic helpers to sign (a) contract of employment containing provisions like salary, the name of employers, their workplaces and the compulsory one day off a week," said Subramaniam.
"We may be able to implement it this year," he added, but did not give a date as to when the law would be amended.
Last month, the government said it was coming out with new laws to protect domestic workers from sexual harassment, non-payment of wages and poor working conditions.
AFP, Foreign maids in Malaysia to get day off: minister, 18 June 2009, http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5gRFZtlFN_IxKXTTTPZU1P...
Bernama, Off Day For Maids Should Be In Contract, Says Malaysian Bar, 18 June 2009, http://www.bernama.com/bernama/v5/newsindex.php?id=419090
The Star, Many against day off for maids, 19 June 2009, http://thestar.com.my/news/story.asp?file=/2009/6/19/nation/4149312&sec=...