Domestic Helper Management Essentials and Problem-Solving

Treating your domestic helper fairly can bring you a lot of benefits such as saving you time and money for finding a replacement, and having a helper who will work more efficiently and even go an extra mile in taking care of your family in return. However, manage a domestic helper can be tricky as she is your employee but also a part of the family. No worries, we will walk you through the stages of a domestic helper’s employment period and point out where you can pay attention to.

Before your domestic helper’s arrival

Prepare the helper room

The living arrangement is one of the main questions any employer will raise. You must know that in Hong Kong and Singapore, domestic helpers must live with their employers by law.

The live-in rule

A legal aspect that can be tricky especially in Hong Kong, as it is one of the most densely populated cities in the world. Going compact and creative when it comes to arranging space are absolute musts. For many Hong Kongers, coping with limited space has become the new normal. Things get a tad more complicated though for those among us who are employing a live-in foreign domestic helper – as live-outs are illegal – and who need to make extra living arrangements.

What other employers do

Our living arrangements survey from 2018 in Hong Kong revealed that 70% of the job offers on our platform include a private room, 16% shared with a kid, and 10% shared with another helper. In Hong Kong, domestic helpers must not sleep in the living room because this is lack of privacy. As an employer, you are required to provide your helper with a proper bedroom or living quarters. Many apartments come with a “helper room” or “maid room” which are smaller, sometimes with no window nor air-conditioner. To prepare your domestic helper room, you can install a sofa bed or buy a custom made bed. Also, ensure proper ventilation in her room by offering at least a fan for the hot summer months.

Can you install a camera at home to monitor your domestic helper’s work?

Many employers want to make sure their homes and loved ones are safe while they are away, therefore installing a video camera to monitor what is happening at home.

It is legally permitted for an employer to install video cameras in their household as long as it does not threaten the domestic worker’s personal privacy. However, the law clearly states that the use of video cameras should remain reasonable. There should be no cameras in the area where the helper sleeps, where she changes her clothes as well as in the bathroom. To be on the safe side, it is recommended to keep helpers informed about the installation of cameras in the household as not doing so can constitute a violation of their privacy.

Your domestic helper’s first week

Welcome the helper to her new job

Starting a new position is a stressful situation for any employee, and also for employers in this case as domestic workers are required to live in with you. The first few days of your domestic helper will be crucial as you will have to show and explain to her clearly what you expect and she will have to take her marks.

House rules and duties

Leave your domestic helper some time to settle and make sure to introduce the house rules to her. The best thing to do is to take a day off on her arrival and prepare a guidebook with the job duties, daily schedule and house rules. That way you will be able to show the new helper your home, as well as the neighbourhood and take her to the wet market. Also, it is important to talk about online privacy and mobile phone usage with her.

Work safety

Domestic helpers may not realise the potential dangers of working at a high-rise building – especially when it comes to window cleaning and hanging laundry. As an employer, you have the responsibility to mind your domestic helper to follow the guidelines of cleaning the outside of any window. We suggest you keep an eye on the helper when she performs the task to avoid any accidents.

Manage your domestic helper’s performance

Help your domestic helper organise her working day

Domestic helpers with years of experience will be more likely to be autonomous when it comes to organising their daily tasks. If your helper is less experienced, you will have to help her manage her work and assign her tasks. While some employers prefer micro-management by either planning down to the last minute or down to daily chores, others choose to give them a global tasks schedule and carte blanche.

When your helper does not reach your expectation

Every employer-domestic helper relationship will, at some point, encounter some issues because she does not take initiatives or due to other factors such as the cultural difference. Fortunately, you can anticipate those common helper problems and always find a solution to overcome them.

Overcome the language barrier

One obstacle to a good employer-employee relationship is definitely the language barrier. You might want your domestic helper to improve her English, her Cantonese or her Mandarin to simplify the communication, especially if she is working with elderlies. As an employer, you can greatly help your helper improve her language skills by supporting her throughout the whole process or even signing her to language classes.

Overcome the cultural difference

Whether you are originally from a developed country, chances are that you have been raised in a totally different way than your domestic helper. Different culture sometimes will lead to a lack of understanding between you and your domestic helper. Fortunately, there are many ways you can deal with cultural differences.

Evaluate and develop your domestic helper’s skills

Prepare the helper to take care of your baby

Expecting a baby is one of the most common reasons why families hire a domestic helper for the first time. When choosing a helper, you will most certainly look at her past experiences with children and references. However, all mummies and daddies struggle to leave their child with a stranger. Start by showing her how you want things done and how you do them, little by little she will gain more independence on taking care of your little ones.

By paying attention to your children’s behaviour, did it change or not since the helper joined your family? In which way? You will be able to evaluate if the helper is taking good care of your children.

Prepare the helper for elderly care and special needs

Another very common reason for hiring a domestic helper is if you need a caregiver to look after an elderly or someone with special needs. To make sure your domestic helper is doing it right, give her a few caregiving tips or enrol her in caregiving classes.

Help your domestic helper organise the cleaning tasks

We all have different standards when it comes to cleaning, so do domestic workers. Make sure you show her your expectations, how you like things to be done and at which frequency. Helping the helper organise her cleaning tasks will also permit avoiding any conflicts on this topic.

Does your domestic helper cook healthy food?

Cooking is one of the main domestic helpers’ duties, depending on your origins you will generally more likely want your helper to cook Western or Eastern dishes. Some families also have special diets and therefore should explain to the domestic helper how to cook a healthy meal with these restrictions.

Develop your domestic helper’s skills by training

Why is training for domestic helpers important?

Domestic helpers are often hired for a certain position because they have experience, for example, she has taken care of babies before, or she is a great cook. But you might want your domestic helper to take further training in order to get more skills as well as certifications, great recognition for her and a good way for you to make sure that her work will meet your expectations. Training dedicated to domestic helpers is very common in Hong Kong and Singapore, whatever the topic.

Send her to cooking classes to learn new recipes

Not all domestic workers are chefs, if you would like your domestic helper to improve her cooking skills, do not hesitate to enrol her in cooking programs in Hong Kong or Singapore.

Why you should send your domestic helper to a first aid course

Your domestic helper’s job is focused on taking care of your children or elderly? In this case, we recommend you to enrol her in first aid training, this will help you be less stressed in case a medical emergency situation comes up, you know she will be able to take action immediately, avoiding the worst.

Manage the employment relationship

Mutual respect and privacy

The employer-employee relationship can be hard to cope with at the beginning, especially if you have never hired a domestic helper before.

Privacy at home

The usually small size of the apartments added to the live-in rule can be perceived as an invasion of your privacy. Set rules when it comes to working hours to make sure that you have enough private time with your family and that your domestic helper has enough time to rest.

Online privacy

You might have noticed how often your domestic helper uses social media, especially Facebook. It is, of course, a great way for her to stay in touch with her family back home, but sometimes she might overshare her life working abroad, including pictures of your family, and not be aware of her profile’s private setting. Some employers might realise that their kids birthday parties have been shared on Facebook and liked by dozens of people they don’t know. To avoid this situation, make sure you discuss what you agree or do not agree to share on her social media, and make sure she understands everything about online privacy.

What about eating together with the domestic helper?

One of the main questions employers will raise when hiring a helper is: should she dine with the family or not? There is no defined answer to this but keep in mind that this should not be a unilateral decision made by you. Some employers think that they should treat the domestic helper as part of the family, therefore eating with her every day. But it is okay for you to prefer to have a more private dinner with your family. In fact, some domestic helpers would rather have their dinners alone so that they can enjoy personal time after a long day of work.

Domestic helper’s role with the kids

Employing a domestic helper to take care of your children can be really frustrating as she will be the one spending the most time with the kids that you might feel left on the side or your kids prefer the helper than you. Don’t worry, many parents experience this situation, just keep in mind that the bond between your child and your domestic helper is absolutely normal, you should discuss with her early in this relation to make sure she sets boundaries with the kids while you are away.  

Acknowledging your domestic helper’s work

There are special times in the year when you might want to reward your domestic helper for her hard work and her dedication to your family’s well being, such as her birthday, Christmas or Chinese New Year.

Incentives for good work

You can give your helper a bonus or consider raising her salary if she performs well. Whatever the situation, discuss this with her and let her know what she should expect in terms of rewarding her work. The general practice is towards giving the helper a bonus or some gifts rather than increasing the salary regularly.

Special arrangement during employment

When you are on leave

Depending on your family’s situation, when preparing your holidays you might wonder what your domestic helper will do during your vacation abroad. There are different possibilities: you could let her stay at your home, take her on holidays with you or let her take her annual leave. The most important part of this decision is to communicate with her and understands what she would like as well.

When your domestic helper is on leave

If your helper is on sick leave

Being sick happens to the best of us. Unfortunately, during the employment period, your domestic helper will likely be sick at some point. Even if it is a minor infection she will certainly ask for some time off or even sick leaves. And no matter how unexpected it is or how complicated the situation might be for you, it is crucial – and your responsibility as an employer – to assist your domestic worker to get good medical care and not let her work while she is sick.

The alternatives to handle the household

Your domestic helper entitled to a certain amount of holidays according to the local law. As she plays a crucial role in your household stability, manage the household without your helper might look like a challenge, but don’t worry, there are alternatives such as part-time local domestic help or nanny services existing! Remember that you cannot hire a domestic helper work visa or permit holder to work part-time for you.

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