Like many households in Hong Kong, you have probably hired or are planning to hire a domestic helper. Although domestic helpers are a blessing to many families, not all of us actually have experience in management. Particularly in this situation, living with an employee can be a challenging experience, and so you might be wondering what are useful and acceptable boundaries that can be set, as well as how to set them clearly.

In this article, we will assist you in drafting house rules for domestic helpers, and specific helper guidelines that will help to create a harmonious environment at home.

Every household has its own rhythms and habits. A new domestic helper may have difficulties with the house rules of your family. Even if she has a lot of experience, she will need time to learn your way of doing things. A good rule of thumb is that the earlier you discuss house rules, the better it will be for all. It is good for the domestic worker to know your expectations, but at the same time you should be flexible with regard to the nitty-gritty details, because no one can do it exactly as you do. You should therefore discuss the house rules during the interview or within the first days of your new domestic helper joining your family.

General guidelines

The first aspects that will come to mind are the nature of tasks you expect her to do, such as organisation, time management, kids’ routines, etc. But as you live together, other points will come up, such as personal hygiene, mobile phone usage, safety-related matters, lending money and so on. These may seem insignificant or tedious, but anticipation is the key here; the more you discuss on the first day, the more likely it is that you will avoid problems afterwards.

  • Home security Ensure that your domestic helper understands clearly how she should handle her key and when she should bolt the door. For instance, 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 mobile phone and internet use — but be reasonable. Let your domestic helper know at what times she can check her phone (e.g., during her break) and at what times she cannot (e.g., when she is looking after the children).
  • Grocery shopping Should your domestic helper keep all the receipts, or keep track of all the expenses in a notebook? You may want her to keep all the grocery shopping money in a dedicated bag, for instance.
  • Working hours and privacy You might feel like your own privacy is gone after you have hired a helper. However, in order to nurture a healthy relationship, you must discuss this matter and set up a schedule for her so that she knows when she should work and when she can enjoy her time off. With regards to children, you should tell your helper that you will shoulder the full responsibility of taking care of your them on your days off, so on these day she will only need to take care of the chores. Your helper will be very grateful, and you will also be able to have some private time with your children.

Tasks: make sure your domestic helper understands your ways

  • Brands Let your helper know which brands you prefer. If she is unsure, you should take pictures for her of your preferred brands.
  • Cooking If your family has special dietary requirements, you should discuss these as soon as possible in order to avoid issues over food. When it comes to cooking skills, some helpers are amazing chefs, others might not have that skill. If the latter is the case, you could enrol your helper in cooking classes; the HelperChoice Academy organises these types of classes every month in Hong Kong.
  • Cleaning Work out what needs cleaning and set a schedule in order to make sure that 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 Do you separate clothes by colour or fabric? Which items can be hand-washed only? Which items does the helper needs to iron? How should she handle baby clothing? These are important guidelines to establish.

Rest day arrangements

Legally, your domestic helper is entitled to a 24-hour day off every week, but with regard to issues such as curfews, staying out on the night of rest day, etc., there is a grey area. Therefore, we advise you to discuss the issues with your helper and come to a mutually convenient arrangement. Employers often have concerns about what their domestic helper is doing on her day off. Therefore, make it clear whether you will allow your helper to stay out for the night on her rest day.

You should make the basic house rules for domestic helpers as detailed and specific as possible, but try and keep them simple too so that your helper doesn’t get confused. To find more useful tips about domestic workers, do not hesitate to have a look on HelperChoice blog.

HelperChoice is an ethical platform connecting employers and domestic workers in Hong Kong, Singapore and the Middle-East.

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