- Develop a full understanding of cultural differences
- Be extremely patient !
- Dispel any prejudice !
- What should you do to find a Domestic Helper in Singapore?
Develop a full understanding of cultural differences
Gaps between cultures lead to misunderstanding…
For example, take a sick person in the Philippines or Indonesia: she gets a massage as the first treatment. But what would you say if a domestic helper gave a massage to your sweet son or daughter who has a 39°C fever in lieu of calling you or giving some Panadol?
Western specificity can be a useful tool…
Use your Western background as an explanation or reason for doing this or that. For instance, “In our American / British / German culture, we use to do things this way…” This is a wonderful way to frame a request as reasonable instead of fussy and questionable.
Cultural roots and background never fade away…
This is true for employers as well as for employees. Even if a helper has been living in Singapore for a long time, you may be surprised by an attitude, a decision, a word in which her culture suddenly erupts provoking a seriously destabilizing effect on your relationship.
Cultural differences are a source of enrichment…
With a live-in domestic helper, you can’t get closer to Asian culture. Through her, you will discover a way of life, history, traditions, customs, and etiquette, all valuable when you travel across Asia. For a helper, working with a Western family is a great opportunity to upgrade her skills and enhance her chances to find future employment.
Be extremely patient!
Take enough time to estimate your needs and write a schedule of tasks
List all tasks you wish your helper to carry out.
Whenever possible, estimate the amount of time required for each task by doing it yourself at least once (you may notice that the local heat slows down the speed of work, even for people acclimated to tropical weather); managing all household tasks on your own for some time may be complicated, but it is the only way to objectively appreciate the load of work you can fairly require a domestic helper to take on.
Then write a list of tasks you will hand over to her. This schedule is the job description commonly used in any company and is very useful for avoiding misunderstanding later and also for regularly assessing quality of work.
Remember that you are the boss of the ‘Family Company Pte Ltd’, and to meet your expectations, your helper must become a highly qualified professional!
Take your time before hiring
Your household is at stake if you fail in the hiring process. You are looking for someone who is going to live 24/7 under your roof, sharing every single minute of your daily life! Your domestic helper holds a key position in your family; therefore, you must manage your recruitment and hiring process the same way a CEO would: take sufficient time to write the job description and conduct interviews. Whenever you feel hesitation or doubt about an applicant, wait and talk with other candidates.
It can take two months or more from the moment you start your recruitment process to the moment you find the most appropriate helper. This is even more true since domestic helpers have very little availability for interviews: only once a week on Sundays or, for many others, only once a month, on their only Sunday off. If you want to see the same candidate twice, the two appointments may be a month apart. It would be a regrettable mistake to miss an excellent candidate because she can’t make the interview sooner.
Devote a lot of time to the training of a newly hired helper
It is definitely very time consuming, but you won’t regret it! Even a helper with 10 years’ experience needs training. Allow at least three months before a domestic helper becomes fully operational. Consider the training period not a burden but a necessity for filling the gap between Western methods and values and those of a helper.
A detailed schedule of tasks is a helpful tool. You may also consider writing all cleaning methods in a notebook (task, name and amount of product, tools used, frequency, etc.); this is an efficient support for memorization, and it also avoids many misunderstandings.
Most of all show her how to do. No training is valuable without these four fundamental steps: explain, demonstrate, observe, correct. Always think about how much a time a company dedicates to the training of its newly hired staff. It should be the same with your helper. The more you train, the more likely you and she will succeed.
Dispel any prejudice!
The great helper of your friends may not be as great with your family…
Your family and your friend’s family are different and so are your expectations and methods. When you interview the domestic helper of people you know, remain objective and apply the same selection criteria as with any other candidate.
Don’t take letters of recommendation for granted…
In Singapore, when an employer wants to terminate the contract of a helper, he/ she has no other choice than transferring her to another employer or repatriatig her, but he/ she must pay the cost of transportation; therefore, an employer reluctant to spend money might write a recommendation full of praise.
Lack of a letter of recommendation doesn’t mean a less valuable employee…
Many local employers rely on maid agencies to transfer helpers and therefore don’t write recommendations even when they are happy with them. In addition, some employers do not want to be contacted because of their privacy, so they won’t be inclined to write a letter of recommendation.
Experience with an expatriate family may not be an asset for a helper…
Some helpers are said to be spoiled after working for an expatriate family. They can become too confident, excessively articulate, or harder to manage. They should get a long-term training period as well.
Zero experience with an expatriate family is not a handicap…
On the contrary! Employees who have worked only for local families are usually more flexible and more attentive to instructions and have a highly developed sense of ‘Asian service’. You might miss an excellent candidate if you focus only on the ones experienced with expatriates.
What should you do to find a Domestic Helper in Singapore?
1. Visit DWJobs website: www.dwjobs.org
This is a job listing website: no link to any employment agency, no fee for the candidates, no charge for you either.
2. Login and register with www.fairmaid.org
This ethical website is a not-for-profit website, free of charge for all users and has no competing interest with any employment agency in Singapore.
Its purpose is to help those prospective employers and domestic helpers who promise to engage into fair practices and behaviors, to get in touch directly without any middleman. They are therefore required to commit to a charter before they register. The website was created in 2009 by a Swiss expatriate.
3. Contact Anisya
Anisya is an online employment platform who connects domestic helper candidates and employers. Candidates have to pay a 50 SGD fee to register and to post their biodata online. Then they have no other fee (placement fee). An employer has no registration fee to pay.
Anisya is a licensed employment agency that works very differently from all other agencies. They are very close to the charity HOME (www.home.org.sg ) who provides support and shelter to migrant workers in Singapore. They share the same office premises on Waterloo street.
About the way Anisya works once the employer has found a helper on the platform, its website reports: “As an employer, you are free to do your own paperwork with MOM, or to do this through an agency. You are not obligated to use Anisya’s services. If you do use a maid agency, we do ask that you communicate this up front to the workers to avoid confusion and that the agency abides by Anisya’s policy of not charging a placement fee to the worker.” If the eplyer decides to use Anisya’s services to process the work permit application, the charge is 600 SGD, excluding insurances.
BE WARY OF FAKE AGENTS
Only agencies and people who have a registered license (number starting with letter C) are allowed to carry out a maid agency or act as a maid agent. The complete list of authorized agencies and agents is available on MOM website : http://www.mom.gov.sg
Any person who does matching of employer and candidates without a license is considered illegal agent and can be fined up to 5000 SGD
(up to 10 000 SGD and / or up to 6 months jail for 2nd offence).
3. Register with an ethical maid agency in Singapore:
A.PRATAMA Employment Agency: Bukit Timah Shopping Centre, Unit 02-45, 170 Upper Bukit Timah road, Singapore 588179. Tel: 6297 6913. EMail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Desmond and Susan deal mostly with Indonesian domestic helpers for newcomers. They have been running their agency since 2004 with great human values! They do their own recruitment without purchasing any biodata from overseas agencies. It means that they personnaly know their candidates. They are active members of the NGO TWC2 that provides support to migrant workers. Desmond and Susan can also process the work permit application if you are reluctant to do it on your own or for transfer FDWs whatever their nationality (Filipino, Myanmar, etc).
4. Take some precautions if you go through the services of an agency:
Sign a contract of services BEFORE the agency presents the first candidate. It is compulsory since April 2011! All costs should be detailed: breakdown of fees which means agency fees, cost of insurances, cost of work permit, placement fee if any and all extra costs. The conditions for a refund of fees should also be explained. Also the law makes it compulsory that the agency displays its fees in a consipcuous place in its premises. Check!
Don’t pay anything before you have made your decision for one candidate. The insurances should be paid only upon application for work permit; that means after you have made your decision on a candidate. And you settle the bill only when the domestic helper is transfered to your place.
Never more than 5 WP* cancelations per year !
An employer who has canceled more than 5 work permits for domestic helpers within one year will be blacklisted. He/ she may be banned by Ministry of Manpower from hiring any Foreign Domestic Worker.