Domestic helper cleaning the kitchen

If you’ve never hired a domestic helper or foreign domestic worker (FDW) before, it can be a daunting task. After all, you’re inviting a complete stranger into your home to live with you and help you take care of the daily house chores.

Your helper will also be interacting with the kids, even if it’s not their primary task — which makes it all the more important to find one that can get along with the family.

Hiring a Maid: 10 Things to know

Here’s what you should know before you commit to hiring a helper, and how to make the process easier for yourself.

Creating a job description for domestic helper

Create your helper’s job description

It may sound formal, but scouting a suitable domestic helper will be easier if you construct a job description for her.

Write down everything that you need done, listing the chores that she needs to perform on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis. Be clear about her scope of duties, her working days, compensation, mode of employment, and days off.

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Looking up on information about domestic helper

Check with helper’s previous employers

Speaking to previous employers (when possible) will give you a good insight into your helper’s capabilities and performance. Be sure to ask about her preferences, what she does on days off, any strengths, and bad habits.

However, keep in mind that every family is different and don’t make your decision solely on a recommendation.

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Ask your friends and family to vet your domestic helper's profile

Ask another family member to help with vetting

Since your helper will be interacting a lot with your family, it’s good to bring someone else along for the interview. The helper should be able to interact comfortably with them, especially if they’re an older family member who may need more help in future.

Before the interview, check in with your family member on what both your expectations are and get aligned on your priorities and deal-breakers. This helps to minimise any disruptions caused by nit-picking or different preferences.

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Making the right decision on domestic helper

Be on the lookout for anything too good to be true

Be on the alert for cheap paperwork processing and employment agencies that sound too good to be true.

Cheap employment agencies may save you money in the short term, but will only create headaches in the long term. Wherever possible, read reviews of the agency first.

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Look out for more than one domestic helper candidates

Interview a few candidates to be sure

The more candidates you interview, the more you will know what you are looking for — we recommend at least three or four, especially if you’re hiring a helper for the very first time, to get an idea of their capabilities.

At times you may be tempted to sign a helper on the spot if she is particularly good, but don’t hesitate to insist on a second interview if you’re in doubt!

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Domestic helper taking care of child

Bring your child with you if possible

If you need a helper that will assist with childcare, bring your kids with you when interviewing. The ones who try and make a connection with your child are the ones to put at the top of your list. Employ the same tactic if you need a helper for elder care.

When interviewing a helper for this purpose, check if they have had experience doing something similar, and watch their facial expressions as they respond.

Those who respond with enthusiasm when describing their past experience likely had a positive relationship with their employer’s family, while those who are indifferent or put off by potential childcare/eldercare may not be a good candidate.

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Domestic helper cleaning the kitchen

Ask your helper about her lifestyle

Ask your potential helper if she has any hobbies and what she enjoys doing when she is not working. Her answers will give a really good clue to her character.

Some helpers may prefer to stay in on their days off. Do take note that it is also mandated by the government to give a domestic helper one day off every week.

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Doing your research about domestic helper

Check maid’s transfer and work history

Always check your helper’s transfer and work history on the MOM website. If she is leaving a contract early then find out why, and even if she is transferring from a completed contract, do check her reasons for moving on.

Investigate thoroughly so you’re not left disappointed. To access her records, you’ll need the following:

  • Her full name or FIN number
  • Her nationality/citizenship
  • Her date of birth

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Domestic helper cleaning the kitchen

Ask maid to rank tasks in order of ease

Suggest some tasks your candidate would be expected to do within your household, and get her to rank them in order of confidence or capability. This helps you get a sense of what she’s good at and whether she’ll be a good fit.

If you are looking for someone who can cook healthy and delicious meals for the family, for instance, but she’s better at ironing, then chances are the fit is not going to be great for either of you.

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Doing your research about domestic helper

Get up to speed on helper’s rights

Aside from paying her monthly salary, you also need to know your responsibility as an employer. If it is your first time hiring a helper, then you need to attend an orientation programme.

It’s also advisable to read up on your rights as an employer and hers as an employee.

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This article was first published in The Singapore Women’s Weekly.