Privacy for Your Domestic Helper and You
When you hire a helper, you have an extra person in your house. She is not exactly your family member who you can share more intimate moments with, but she is in the house 24 hours six days a week! How can you respect her privacy and at the same time let her understand that your privacy should be respected too?
Respecting your domestic helper’s privacy
The first rule is that you should never keep your helper’s personal document, such as her passport and her bank booklet. You might feel like you need to monitor your helper’s financial situation, but you must understand that she is not a child anymore, and therefore can manage her own finance.
Secondly, you should try not to bother your helper after her working hours and never bother her on her rest days. You should give her some private space to talk to her family and friends, manage her finance or do some leisure activities.
Thirdly, allow her to close her room door and never set up cameras in her room! You might feel like you need to monitor every single action of your helper but it is very wrong to do so because you are infringing upon her private space. It is also illegal to set up cameras without a reasonable excuse for doing so, and Office of the Privacy Commissioner for Personal Dataiisnvestigation. How would you feel if your employer is watching over you 24/7?
A lot of employers do not like it when their helpers use their home address to receive mails and packages. However, you should understand that your helper also has her private life, and she also lives in your house, so she has nowhere to receive her mails if not in your house. There is not much harm in letting your helper receive posts in your house, and it might be just the circulars of her church, or a Christmas card from her family.
Preserving your privacy with a domestic helper at home
You might feel like your own privacy is gone after you have hired a helper. When you want to watch television with your family then suddenly your helper comes and sits down. When you want to have an intimate conversation with your partner then suddenly your helper appears at the door and asks you whether she can go back to her room now. When you want to have some quality time with your child in the park then your helper volunteers to come with you too. In a lot of cases it might be embarrassing to refuse her or tell her not do it because it might appear rude. However, to nurture a healthy relationship between you and your helper, you must take this step.
Firstly, the most useful thing you could do is set up a schedule for your helper. It should list very clearly what is the time she should spend with your children, and what is her rest time. You should explain to her very clearly that her rest time is your family time, and also her family time as she can talk to her family back home. You can also ask her to stop minding your children the moment you arrive at home, such as, when you arrive home, your helper can say to your children, “your Mum is here, Auntie Josephine will go back to her room now!” There would be a clear boundary between her work time and her private time, and also between her work time and your family time then.
Secondly, provide entertainment for her. She might tell you that there is a Filipino drama she likes on television, and she wants to watch it during her free time. You understand that she would want to watch dramas from her country, but you also want to watch television with your family. What you can do instead is record the show and give her an hour to watch the recording during the daytime, or lend her your laptop to watch online in her free time in her room. Alternatively, you may consider buying a television that she can have in her room.
Thirdly, regarding the children, you can tell your helper that you will shoulder the full responsibility of taking care of your children on your days off, so she would only need to take care of the chores. Your helper will be very grateful, and you will also be able to have some private time with your children.
Lastly, if your helper does not like going out on her rest day because she has no friends in Hong Kong, or she would rather save up money, that can be a little bit tricky. What you can do is you could sign her up for classes to improve her financial management, cooking or Cantonese etc. on her rest days, where she could meet friends and learn new skills that could in turn benefit you.
While hiring helper, keep the issue of privacy in mind to ensure that your helper’s workplace is safe for her and still feels like a home to you.