Indonesian maids in Malaysia to have weekly day off

Posted at 09/03/09 3:57 PM

KUALA LUMPUR - Indonesian maids working in Malaysia will be given one day off a week and be allowed to hold onto their passports, the home ministry said Thursday, in a new deal triggered by a string of abuse cases.

Indonesia imposed a ban on sending maids to work here in June, after a 43-year-old Malaysian woman was charged with causing grievous bodily harm by beating her Indonesian maid and scalding her with boiling water.

Malaysia's Home Ministry said in a statement that the new terms were agreed by senior Malaysian and Indonesian officials who met in August.

"The meeting has agreed that Indonesian maids will be allowed to keep their passport when they are working in this country," it said.

Currently, employers typically hold onto maids' passports, to prevent them running away or to exercise control over them.

"The Indonesian maids also will be given one day off a week," it added.

The ministry said the committee thrashing out the new working conditions will hold a fourth meeting in Jakarta this Saturday, which will tackle the hotly debated topic of maids' wages.

The issue of wages has remained unresolved despite talks that have been held intermittently since 2007.

Malaysia -- one of Asia's largest importers of labour -- depends heavily on domestic workers, mainly from Indonesia, but has no laws governing their working conditions.

The government in May announced plans for new laws to protect domestic workers from sexual harassment, non-payment of wages and poor working conditions.

Currently Indonesian maids typically work seven days a week for as little as 400 ringgit (113 dollars).