Here is the transcript of our Facebook Live on Thursday 26th March to help our community of migrant domestic workers go through COVID-19 challenges.
I am Marie, Uplifters Founder and CEO. Here is Jenely, the Uplifters Community Building Officer.
Uplifters is a non profit organization dedicated to empowering underprivileged communities with online education and peer support. We offer a free online money management course for domestic workers. You just need to click “ Send Message” on our Facebook page to enroll. https://www.facebook.com/uplifters.community/
This is the first episode of our Antivirus series and we are very happy to be here with you tonight.
These are challenging times for all of us and especially for our community.
Our objective with this Antivirus Video Live is to
- Reply to your questions if we can or collect them and consult with professionals afterwards so we can answer them later
- Just be there together, provide comfort to each other in these difficult situations, we will go through it together. Uplifters is first and foremost a community and we will go through these difficult times with you.
Here are the questions and most common issues we have heard from the community. We will differentiate Hong Kong and Singapore as the laws and situations are different.
We will discuss questions related to your job, and especially your days off, to your financial situation, to your family and finally to your mental health.
- If my employer suspects I have contracted the virus, can he fire me without notice?
This is not a valid reason for termination without notice but of course you need to make sure you don’t contaminate the family. Discuss with your employer how you will apply the quarantine procedures and if you still get terminated, contact NGOs, the Immigration Department in Hong Kong and the Ministry of Manpower in Singapore (list below).
- If my employer contracts the virus, can I refuse to work? Anyone who has the virus must take the necessary quarantine measures. Employers must also ensure the safety and health at work of their employees. You may terminate your employment contract without notice if your employer fails to do this, due to reasonable fear of disease. But we recommend instead to discuss the situation with your employer and make sure your safety is not at risk.
- My employer is overseas while I am at their place of residence in Hong Kong and Singapore. Should they pay my salary even though I have no work? Yes as you are in your normal place of work so, by law they need to pay your salary. However as always we always recommend you to discuss the situation with your employer rather than losing your job because you went straight to MOM in Singapore or the Labour Department in Hong Kong. Do not hesitate to ask for advice to your agency and NGOs listed here.
- I am stranded in the Philippines or Indonesia. Does my employer owe me my salary? The legal answer is no but of course you can still discuss with your employer who may be willing to help in this exceptional situation.
- My employer doesn’t know how to remit my salary while I am in the Philippines or Indonesia? Here is a list of remittance companies for employers in Hong Kong compiled by the NGO Enrich. https://enrichHong Kong.org/which-best-company-remit-money-my-family-back-home
- I am stranded in the PH and want to cut bills (e.g. mobile) in Hong Kong, how? Please ask specific questions in our Facebook group or contact one of our moderators so we can post on your behalf. The answer depends on the company and contract you have. https://www.facebook.com/groups/migrantdomesticworkerscommunity/
In Hong Kong and Singapore it’s now recommended that domestic workers stay home on their off days.
Note: In Singapore employers are allowed to pay domestic workers to work on rest days while it’s illegal in Hong Kong. Employers need to provide a replacement day.
In Singapore the Ministry of Manpower authorises light duties on days off while in Hong Kong the Labour Department specifies the domestic worker is entitled to 24 hours of interrupted rest (but that’s not always applied).
- When I stay at home on my day off, my employer asks me to work and doesn’t pay me or replace me with another rest day. Should I do the work then?
First we will repeat the importance of good communications with your employer. We will provide resources on how to communicate. You can explain to your employer that you need to rest in order to work well the rest of the week. You need to find arrangements with your employer as we know it’s especially challenging if you don’t have your own room.
As long as the government authorises it, you can also discuss going out for a walk / running your personal errands, ensuring that you will be careful and avoid mass gatherings. Your employer needs to be confident that you don’t put them at risk.
- My employer tells me that I can be sick even if I have no symptoms, is it true? Yes it’s true that’s why we all need to be very cautious.
More than ever you need to be very cautious with your money and if possible save to build an emergency fund in case you don’t have one yet. We expect economic difficulties in the coming months and we will all be impacted.
If you need to borrow money, go to licensed money lenders, abide by the law (Singapore has more restrictive laws) or better you can discuss the situation with your employer who may be willing to help so you avoid being charged interests (but don’t consider your employer as a bank :)) If not done yet, join our free money management course! Just click Send Message on our Facebook page.
- How do I make my family understand the dangers of this virus and keep myself and them away from fake news?
Share with them articles from official sources. Do not immediately believe everything you read on the Internet. Confirm first with reliable sources.
- How do I keep them safe while I am here?
Remind your family to practice good hygiene and stay at home as much as possible.
Show them the videos we made on proper hand-washing.
Stress the importance of eating healthily and if you can, connect with them more.
- How do I make sure they have food and money during the lockdown period?
Discuss the financial situation early enough with them so you can figure out a plan.
- My children are scared and worried about me.
Guidelines from the World Health Organization on helping children cope with stress during the outbreak:
- Children may respond to stress in different ways such as being more clingy, anxious, withdrawing, angry or agitated, bedwetting.
- Give them extra time and attention.
- Remember to listen to your children, speak kindly and reassure them.
- Provide facts about what has happened, explain what is going on now and give them clear information about how to reduce their risk of being infected by the disease in words that they can understand depending on their age.
- I’m afraid of getting infected or maybe infecting others.
- I’m stressed and uncertain about what the future will bring.
- I’m tired or having difficulties in falling asleep or relaxing.
- I’m angry or sad because so many things happen that you cannot control.
- I’m worried about the safety of my family in the Philippines/Indonesia.
We recommend the leaflet from Mind Hong Kong on how to maintain your mental health
- From Mind Hong Kong
In a nutshell:
- Try to manage feelings of uncertainty. Try to separate what is in your control and what is out of your control.
- Try some breathing and mindfulness exercises to help you relax.
- Get outside or go for a walk.Choose a less crowded area or a time when you know there are less people.
- Keep active/moving.
- Incorporate an activity from each of the “5 ways to wellbeing” (Give, Connect, Be Active, Take Notice, Keep Learning) into your day.
- Take a break / Switch off from the news.
- Learn to recognize and acknowledge feelings of loneliness. If you aren’t able to go out, try alternative ways of making contact with others. Phoning, texting, video calling or emailing friends and family can help you feel more grounded and remind you that there are people in your life who you can connect with.
Signs that we might be becoming overwhelmed by anxiety:
- Noticing your mind being preoccupied by stressful events (like how coronavirus is
- affecting our lives)
- Becoming more sensitive towards news or information regarding the situation
- Having trouble staying focused and/or concentrating on work
- Having trouble falling asleep or feeling restless
- Shallow breathing, faster heartbeat
- Constantly checking social media or news sources for information
IMPORTANT CONTACT DETAILS
in Hong Kong
Emergency hotline: 999
Social Welfare Department:
Philippine Consulate in Hong Kong
Consulate General of the Republic of Indonesia
24-hour emergency medical services: 995
Ministry of Manpower:
65 6438 5122
Organisations in Hong Kong
Help for Domestic Workers:
Mission for Migrant Workers (Case guidance, welfare, shelter & food assistance):
The Samaritans 24-hour hotline (Multilingual): https://www.facebook.com/SamaritansHongKong/
(852) 2896 0000
Caritas Family Crisis Support Centre:
Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions:
NGOs in Singapore
Centre for Domestic Employees
H.O.M.E (Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics)
+65 6741 1725
Samaritans of Singapore: