Domestic helpers are a blessing to many families, but managing them can be challenging. Drafting house rules for domestic helpers and specific helper guidelines will create some much-wanted peace.
Every household has its own rhythms and habits. A new domestic worker joining your family may have difficulty with the house rules used in your family. Even if she has a lot of experience, she will need time to learn your way of doing things.
General points of house rules for domestic helpers
The general rule is the earlier you discuss house rules the better. It is good for the domestic helper to know your expectations, but be flexible with the nitty-gritty details because no one can do it exactly as you do. It’s better to make sure the domestic helper is comfortable with your house rules before hiring her. You can discuss the general house rules during the interview, then get into the details on the first few days that your new domestic helper joins your family.
Key items in house rules
Include not only the number and nature of tasks you expect her to do but also rules such as personal hygiene, mobile phone usage, safety-related matters, borrowing money and so on. This may seem tedious, but the more you discuss on the first day, the more likely it is that you will avoid problems afterwards.
Work conditions and rest days
Write down the working hours, days off and the hours
Although there is no regulation on the working hours, we suggest you provide the domestic helper with adequate rest such as breaks during working hours.
Domestic helpers in Hong Kong and Singapore are entitled to 1 rest day per week. Usually, the rest days fall on Sundays. In Hong Kong, a domestic helper’s weekly rest day should be at least 24 hours consecutively according to the law. Thus, setting up a curfew would be a violation of the law. Also, you cannot pay in lieu of your domestic helpers’ rest days in Hong Kong. But this practice is allowed in Singapore.
Rest day arrangement
Employers have a lot of concerns about what their domestic helper is doing on her rest days. If you are worried, communicate with her in advance on her rest day plans. Yet remember that she is a grown-up and has her freedom on activities. The common domestic helper rest day activities include church visits, sports or hiking, and hanging out with friends.
Mobile phone usage
Include a section on the usage of the mobile phone and the internet, but be reasonable. Let your domestic helper know at what times she can check it e.g. during her break and at what times she cannot, e.g. when she is attending to the children.
Keep the receipts
The domestic helper should keep all the receipts for grocery shopping, or even keep track of all the expenses in a notebook. You may want her to keep all the grocery shopping money in a dedicated bag.
Be clear on your preference
Let the domestic helper know which brands you prefer. If she is not sure she can take pictures of your preferred brands. Clothes should be separated by colour or fabric; which items can be hand-washed only; which items the domestic helper needs to iron; how to handle baby clothing.
Create a work schedule for your domestic helper
Work out what needs cleaning and set a schedule to make sure your domestic helper knows when she should clean what parts of the flat. Setting a schedule is a major part of ensuring that you get the best cleaning results.
Leaves and holidays
Employers must follow the local domestic helper-related labour law to arrange leaves such as sick leave, annual leave, home leave for their domestic helper: when the domestic helper is entitled to a leave, whether the leave is paid leave and whether you will afford the domestic helper’s travel expenses.
Let your domestic helper understand clearly how she should handle her key and when she should bolt the door. If the domestic helper leaves the house to buy some food, should she close all the windows or leave them open? Can she bring people over the house when your family is out of town?
Loaning and borrowing money
Domestic workers are usually the major financial support of their own family. Encourage your domestic helper to discuss with you first if she has financial difficulties due to family emergencies (or other reasons) to avoid her getting loans from loan sharks. You should also educate your domestic helper potential consequences if she cannot pay off the loans, or send her to a financial education class.
You can make the basic house rules for domestic helpers as detailed and specific as possible, but try and keep it as simple as possible so your domestic helper doesn’t get confused.
Review the house rules regularly
After your domestic helper start working for a while, you may spot what she should improve. Regular feedback on her work performance is important to remind your helper of your expectation and keep her work up to your standard. You can set up a monthly meeting where you both review her performance and add new house rules if you feel the need.