Hiring domestic helpers in Singapore is a daunting task for anybody, especially if it’s your first time. And what you may not realise is that maid agencies in Singapore charge the helpers a whopping fee which the employer pays upfront. Then the helper takes monthly deductions from her salary to pay it off. It’s a hardship for the domestic helper and usually ends up costing the employer a lot, too. That doesn’t seem very fair, does it?
JENNIFER YARBROUGH, an American attorney, didn’t think so either. Jennifer is one of those people with a big heart. She’s the Secretary of USA Girl Scouts Overseas (Singapore), and on the Executive Committee of the American Association of Singapore too. She likes helping girls and women and felt so strongly that domestic helpers here needed a little TLC that she opened a maid agency that does things a bit differently. She works out an arrangement that’s good for the helper – and the employer, too.
The White Glove Difference
White Glove is Jennifer’s maid agency, an agency that – you got it – doesn’t charge the domestic helper any fees. And they do a little match making, too.
“We also work really hard to make sure there’s a good fit between employer and helper, rather than just giving you the person who happens to be sitting in our office,” says Jennifer. “We only deal with transfer and ex-Singapore or overseas helpers, too, so we know they’re experienced. The ones who have worked here before know the lay of the land here in Singapore, how to take the MRT and that sort of thing.”
Perhaps one of the best things Jennifer does is use her lawyerly research skills to do thorough background checks above and beyond your typical agency. She does a social media check, gets references from former employers if available, and collects an extensive biodata to make sure she really knows the person she’s putting into your home.
Jennifer also has lots of recommendations for hiring and finding the right helper in Singapore. She even publishes a guide to help employers choose.
A key factor when hiring a domestic helper in Singapore
For starters, check out the candidate’s employment record. If the woman you’re interviewing has a string of short employments, there may be a problem. Yes, she might have a legitimate reason for the short tenures, but more likely, there’s a reason she’s hopped from job to job.
“My biggest recommendation for hiring a domestic helper in Singapore is to make sure the person you’re hiring has completed a contract before,” says Jennifer. “That way, you know they’re responsible and committed to their job, and nice enough to get along with a family. You want someone with a proven track record.”
Questions to ask when hiring a domestic helper
This initial meeting is your time to really get to know this woman – you should leave nothing unsaid or unasked. Here’s just a sample of the questions you can ask to make your interview productive – they’re taken from the White Glove Interview Guide.
- Why are you transferring families?
- Tell me about your own family.
- How is your health?
- Have you worked with children the same age as mine?
- What do you really hate doing?
- How would you handle a baby who didn’t stop crying?
- If my daughter fell off the playground and hit her head, what would you do?
- What’s your favourite dish to cook? Tell me how you cook it.
- Describe what you do to care for pets.
- Where do you like to do your marketing?
Your guiding light for the interview process when hiring a helper is to be as honest and upfront about what you expect her to do as your helper. To do that, you need to know what you want first. How involved with child-rearing do you want her to be? Will she hang with your family or retire to her own space after dinner? Will you plan the meals or will she? How clean do you want her to keep the place? What time do you expect her to come home on her day off? What are her work hours? The list of things to consider is long – and important to define.
Currently, the starting monthly salary for a Filipino helper is $650. For a transfer helper, you can expect to pay a minimum of $650, though the average is $750 to $900.
“You can also build incentives into the contract,” says Jennifer. “So rather than just saying you’ll always send her home every year or give her an automatic thirteenth month salary as a bonus, you can tell her from the start that if she does a good job, she’ll be eligible for a performance-based bonus or trip. I would also recommend not giving everything up front. It’s great that you can afford to pay the MRT card and get her the Filipino channel on TV, but maybe save some things as performance-based rewards.”
If you meet a helper you like, offer her a job right away. The good domestic helpers will often have several interviews in one day and may even have three or four offers by the end of the afternoon. So when hiring a helper, arrange your interviews in the morning and offer the job before somebody snatches her from you.
Being a good employer
Want a good relationship with your helper? It’s simple. Just be kind.
“One of the keys for being a good employer is you have to put yourself in your helper’s shoes,” says Jennifer. “Think from their perspective and realise they’ve come from disadvantage. They don’t have the same education that you have, and they’re likely to have a different point of view to you on a certain subjects.”
In addition, just because a helper is a transfer doesn’t mean she knows what you and your family want and need. Other families will have had different expectations. It may take a while for her to figure out your family’s specifics.
“Think what it’d be like if left your own kids to go to another country and raise somebody else’s children,” says Jennifer. “How much would you appreciate having a Wi-Fi connection and being able to contact them? So, if they have young kids, maybe they need to call them at 6pm at night while they’re still awake, and not later when they finish the day’s work.”
These are all things to consider when hiring a domestic helper.
Dealing with problems
No matter how well you and your helper get along, there will always be a few bumps in the road. It’s a normal part of living with other people.
If something big happens, calm down before talking about it. It’s a work relationship, right? If you were at work and you did something wrong, how would you feel if your boss yelled at you or constantly gave you only negative feedback?
“A good way to keep things from building up is to do quarterly reviews,” suggests Jennifer. “And when you do talk, try to balance the comments so you’re also giving positive feedback as well as constructive comments. Don’t just knock her all the time.”
Ask for feedback from her, too. You may think she’s being rude and not doing what you ask, but the truth is, maybe she just doesn’t understand what you want and is scared to ask you to clarify.
If you find the right fit, having a helper in your home can truly be transforming for you and your family. Following some of the simple suggestions mentioned when hiring a helper can be the difference between a good and bad experience.
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