Do you know your house keeper or is she the magical fairy who comes into your home and disappears after the job is done?

According to statistics there are 1-1.5million people in South Africa working in the domestic sector, covering domestic workers, gardeners, nannies and special care workers.

I have visited many households to either work out a schedule for the domestic or to train them in a specific area the employer found wanting. I found interesting relationships between the employer and domestic, ranging from being friends & having tea breaks together, “Madam’s & Eve’s”, and others not having any knowledge of their domestic. Some are exploited, working long hours for meagre pay and are often on the receiving end of the bad moods of their stressed out employers. I was also amazed at how many employers do not have a contract for their worker and are ignoring the labour act.

The question most often posed is: “Where do I find a reliable, honest and experienced domestic worker?” Unfortunately there is no easy solution, but I have attempted to find an answer.

What are you looking for when employing a domestic?

  • Honesty
  • Punctuality
  • Thoroughness
  • Appearance
  • Experience
  • References
  • Reliability
  • Expertise – Child minder, housekeeper, cook, driver, gardener, caring for sick, disabled or the elderly.
  • Full time / Part time/ Live-in / Live-out position

Where do you find an experienced, reliable, honest domestic?

  • The web: www.findadomestic.co.za is a user friendly site to advertise and/or to find a domestic worker in your specific area that suits your specific needs
  • Agencies: Some provide placement of screened / referenced staff and do UIF registrations and provide a contract, e.g. Marvellous Maids, Edu Babe.
  • Word of mouth: Talk to friends & colleagues. Enquire if they are satisfied with their domestic, if they are ask them to ask their domestic for a referral.
  • The classifieds: Look to find one that meets your requirements and arrange an interview.

WARNING: DO NOT EMPLOY JUST ANYBODY OFF THE STREETS, BECAUSE YOU ARE DESPERATE, WITHOUT INTERVIEWING AND CHECKING REFERENCES, AS THEY ARE ENTRUSTED WITH OUR MOST PRECIOUS POSSESSIONS, OUR HOMES AND CHILDREN.

Acquaint yourself with the legislation concerning domestic workers

Basic conditions of work such as hours of work, overtime pay, salary increases, deductions, annual and sick leave and minimum wage is covered in the legislation.

See:

  • The South African Labour Guide it provides a summary of the legislation
  • The Sectoral Determination 7 of the Basic Conditions of Employment Act on the Department of Labour web site

The first interview

  • Take time! – This is the most important step in employing a domestic. If you use an agency, ensure that you do your own interview and do not trust their expertise, the person is going to work in your household and only you know exactly whom you can work with.
  • Get as much information as you can about the applicant. (Id number, copy of Id, personal contact details and next of kin, references and previous work experiences). Demonstrate personal interest about marital status, family members, language, origins, religion, health and financial responsibilities.
  • Communicate openly! Ask open ended questions.
  • Assess the person to see if they have what it takes to work with and for you. Follow your gut feel. If you like the person and you think that she may lack expertise in certain areas, she can always be trained.
  • Thank her for coming and tell her that you will be contacting her.
  • Check up on references

On Employment

  • Take time! Tell her about your family, your house, your needs and expectations.
  • Give her written particulars of employment or a contract  (Sample – Domestic worker employment contract from the department of labour). Agree to a probation period and both sign the documents.
  • Give her a work schedule and show her what is expected of her, where and how things are kept. Don’t expect her to know everything.
  • Supply new uniforms and tell her your expectations about personal appearance
  • Give her your house rules, e.g. answering the phone, admitting people to the property etc.
  • If you are happy with her performance after the given probation period register your employee for UIF, HERE .

Staying in contact through good communication

  • If you never see your domestic ensure that there are ways and means how you can stay in contact. Use a message pad or stay in telephonic communication.
  • Try to have face to face open communication from time to time, this reinforces a good relationship
  • Find out how things are going?
  • Have casual communications and demonstrate personal interest, share family experiences.
  • Address poor performance or late arrivals immediately so that she notices that you pay attention to details and correct unacceptable habits.
  • Do not take out your feelings on your employee! Take time out and discuss it after you have cooled down.
  • Instil pride in her work; give praise when praise is due.

I don’t think that anything can beat my excitement and happiness when my “Ivy” returns after her well earned annual holiday; it feels as though a special friend is returning home.

Wishing you a happy and rewarding relationship with the newly discovered face in your home – the domestic, we can not live without, and if you are still not quite happy; train her, guide her and talk to her.

Heidi Meyer

Professional organiser

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