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 their 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. 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 she is comfortable with your house rules before hiring a domestic worker and processing with the recruitment contract. You can discuss the general house rules during the interview, then get into the details on the first days that your new domestic helper joins your family.
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, loaning 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.
- Write down the working hours, days off and the hours. In Hong Kong, a domestic worker 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.
- Rest day arrangement. Employers have a lot of concerns about what their domestic helper is doing on her day off. Make it clear whether you allow your helper to stay out for one night on her rest day.
- Home security. Let your domestic helper understand clearly how she should handle her key and when she should bolt the door. If the 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?
- Mobile phone usage. Include a section on the usage the mobile phone and 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.
- Grocery shopping. The domestic helper should keep all the receipts, 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.
- 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 helper potential consequences if she cannot pay off the loans, or send her to a financial education class.
- Let the helper know which brands you prefer. If she is not sure, she can take pictures of your preferred brands.
- Work out what needs cleaning and set a schedule to make sure your 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.
- Laundry and ironing. Clothes should be separated by colour or fabric; which items can be hand-washed only; which items the helper needs to iron; how to handle baby clothing.
Leaves and holidays
Employers must follow the local domestic helper-related labour law to arrange leaves such as sick leaves, annual leaves, home leaves for their helper: when the domestic helper is entitled to a leave, whether the leave is a paid leave and whether you will afford the helper’s travel expense. Read more about regulations of domestic helper leaves in Hong Kong and in Singapore.
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 helper doesn’t get confused.