Caring for their care givers

CaregiverAsia is setting an example for local businesses through its progressive employment practices for freelancers

Being in the business of caring for others, it is perhaps not surprising that CaregiverAsia is among the first local enterprises to adopt sustainable employment practices in Singapore that seek to improve the welfare of its workers.

The provider of home healthcare services works with more than 10,000 freelancers, providing services from home nursing and therapy services to babysitting, companionship and home cleaning. It also specialises in healthcare recruitment and the placement of healthcare professionals and locums into leading healthcare institutions.

To ensure its freelance contractors are taken care of, the company has put in place a comprehensive set of sustainable employment practices. For a start, the company identified four areas in which employers could do more for freelancers, including legal protection, financial safety nets, training and upgrading, and community and mental wellness.

“As freelancing becomes a profession of choice for many Singaporeans, these issues must be addressed to ensure that freelancing is a viable career choice, made up of competent, qualified and proud individuals,” said Ms Yeo Wan Ling, founder and chief executive officer of CaregiverAsia.

For starters, many freelancers do not have access to legal resources so they end up in work arrangements with no legally binding arrangements between them and their clients.

They also lack financial safety nets. Unlike regular salaried employees, freelancers are not covered by the Work Injury Compensation Act (WICA) and do not have insurance coverage in the event of disability and death caused by accidents at work. In addition, many freelancers practise without professional indemnity insurance, exposing them to professional risks during their service.

When it comes to training and upgrading, freelancers do not have easy access to structured training and upgrading, unlike employees in institutions with yearly learning plans. Finally, they face tremendous time and work pressures, especially in the field of providing care services to others.

Providing protection and support

To address these gaps, CaregiverAsia organises monthly mental wellness workshops and group counselling sessions, in partnership with the Association of Psychotherapists and Counsellors Singapore (APACS), to support caregivers’ mental wellness.

These sessions, in addition to activities such as onboarding sessions of new caregivers, provide an opportunity for freelance caregivers to connect with their peers and form a community for mutual support and learning. Tackling the issue of legal protection, the firm makes sure that all bookings on its platform are covered by an agreement that includes scope of service, service variation, payment terms and dispute resolution.

On financial safety nets, the company provides its registered caregivers with professional indemnity insurance, which protects them from legal liability arising out of any claim made against them for rendering of, or failure to render, medical services which results in bodily injury, sickness, illness, mental injury or death of a client.

Upgrading skills

To encourage career growth, CaregiverAsia also offers a comprehensive list of training courses for its freelancers. They range from one-hour lunchtime talks to WSQ (Workforce Skills Qualification) courses and specialist diplomas.

The firm’s various efforts reflect the greater emphasis that some employers are placing on sustainable employment, as economies everywhere face up to the global forces of digital disruption and rapid change. On Nov 22, the Singapore Business Federation released a report titled “Sustainable Employment – Achieving Purposeful Business Success Together” which highlights key recommendations and potential opportunities to foster a vibrant economy and inclusive society.

It calls for companies to take purposeful action on sustainable employment, as Singapore faces an ageing population and other challenges. Already, in companies such as CaregiverAsia, the efforts have made a difference.

Said caregiver S. Sumitra, a nurse with 11 years of experience: “I love having the freedom and flexibility to work as a freelancer. Best of all, CaregiverAsia does not charge any agency fee – I keep what I charge.”

Another caregiver, Mr Raymond Wee, a medical escort with 10 years of experience, said: “CaregiverAsia helps me maximise my time to care for others; I can also put my experience to good use!”

The company hopes to inspire other employers to take the first step to develop more sustainable employment practices. Its experience can signal to other freelancers and freelance platforms the type of standards needed to be put in place for freelancers, said Ms Yeo.

“Companies can review their policies and practices, and empower more inactive employees to return to or enter the industry and transform the way employment has traditionally been.”

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