AN ACTIVIST group wants to change the law to make it compulsory for employers to give their maids weekly rest days.
The Working Committee 2 also wants the government to use the maid levy to help abused maids while their cases go through the courts.
The group, led by nominated MP Braema Mathi and others, also calls for new attitudes on what should be considered bad behaviour towards maids.
Physical abuse is just an extreme example, it said in a report obtained by The Straits Times.
But the range of practices that should be deemed improper includes any that citizens or residents of Singapore would find unacceptable if anyone attempted to inflict it on them, said the report.
These include overwork, denial of time off for rest and relaxation, late payment of wages and making maids go against their religious practices.
The report, entitled Support Systems For Foreign Domestic Workers, will be discussed with maid agencies, embassies and the government.
The group has also prepared another paper detailing other proposed legislative changes.
The proposals include having a standard contract for all maids, covering them under the Employment Act to protect their rights and enhancing punishments against maid abusers.
Maids are now not protected by the Act, which requires employers to give workers rest days as part of the standard employment terms.
The government has argued it is impractical for maids to come under the Act because the nature of domestic work makes it hard to enforce eight-hour work days and overtime.
Such legal requirements would severely hamper the employer-employee relationship, it said.
But Bernard Ong, manager of Net Resources maid agency, welcomed the mandatory rest day idea.
Our maid salaries are less than half those in Hong Kong and Taiwan, so we need other incentives to motivate the maid to work harder, he said. The Straits Times/Asia News Network