Our Roles as Maid Employers

If you’ve hired a maid to help you look after your baby, you’ve given her a huge responsibility. You want a good relationship with her. Wherever she is from, whether you have a foreign maid or a local one, she deserves to be happy, to feel appreciated and cared about. You want her to have your baby’s best interest at heart, and one sure way to do that is to have her best interest at heart.

The suggestions and examples below for managing your maid are in no way comprehensive. Each family is different and only you know what works best for your family and lifestyle. However, if you aim to create a mutually-beneficial relationship with your maid, then you’re off to a good start.

How can I build a good relationship with my maid?

Once your new maid has arrived in your house, it is worth trying to make the relationship work. It is much less disruptive for your baby if she can have the same carer all the time. It also makes financial sense for you, as a foreign maid can work here as long as you keep renewing her visa every year. Renewing your maid’s visa every year will cost you far less than hiring a new domestic helper and paying another round of levies and fees.

Your maid lives in your house, but she is still an employee. In the first few months, you may want to keep things quite formal: she is the employee and you are the employer. Later, she may become an integral member of the household, but that is likely to take some months or even years.

In the meantime, think about your own job and employer: the terms and conditions that make it a favourable workplace (or not!), the factors that keep you motivated and the little extras that make going to work a pleasure. How to replicate these in your home setting for your maid.

How can I be a better employer?

There are many different ways and means you can provide your maid with work conditions that will help her do her best for your baby.

Reasonable terms of employment – Malaysian labour laws specifically exclude domestic helpers, but that does not mean you cannot provide terms that will enable her to stay fit and healthy, and have the energy to provide the best care for your baby.

  • What are her working hours?
  • Will she be able to get eight hours’ sleep each night?
  • Will she have time to cook her own meals and favourite foods?
  • Will she have any leisure time at all?

Decent living conditions – Generally, most employers provide their maids with her own room complete with a bed and pillow, a cupboard or drawers, a fan. Radio or TV are considered extras. Your maid should also have her own bathroom as she will need to do her laundry there as well. Some maids have their own handphones (you can specify that personal calls are only allowed after she has finished her work for the day); if not, do allow her opportunities to call home on a regular basis.

Incentives for a job well done – Everyone responds to incentives; think of yourself putting in the necessary to get that bonus. Similarly, let your maid know that if she does her job well, she can eventually expect more days off, a small cash bonus or a TV or radio in her room.

A clear job description – Is she hired specifically to look after your baby? Or will she, like many maids here, also be expected to sweep and mop the floors, wash the dishes, make the beds, iron and generally keep the house tidy? Some people also expect their maids to walk and bathe the family pet, tend the garden as well as wash and vacuum their cars.

You must be clear about your expectations, but remember if she has to do too much, she may not be able to provide the quality care you want for your baby.

A schedule or timetable – Once your baby is settled into a routine, you may want to consider drawing up a schedule, especially if you have older children who have their own extracurricular and after-school activities. This way, everyone in the house knows what to expect every day, and your maid knows exactly what she needs to get done.

Mutual respect – If you hire a foreign maid, there may be some cultural and religious differences. Do all you can to accommodate them. Where you cannot compromise, make your position known to the maid agency.

Job training – Even if you found your maid through a recruitment agency that was supposed to provide training, your household, set up and layout are still new to her. Rather than just say you’d like her to mop the floor, show her how you would like it done. Show her how to wash the breast pump, how to operate the steriliser, where to store them. Some of these mod cons will be unfamiliar to her. You will also likely need to explain food hygiene.

How can I help her be a better employee?

Many families who are hiring a maid to look after a baby look for women who have worked as a maid before, either in Malaysia or another country. Many employers also prefer to hire women who have their own children. Whether or not your maid comes to you armed with personal or professional experience, it will pay to:

Supervise closely in the first few weeks – Spend some time working together, so that your maid can learn routines and preferences from you, and you can see how she relates to your baby.

Upgrade her skills – The more your maid knows, the better care she can give. Consider signing her up for a first aid course, take her with you to a breastfeeding class or support group, or if you find her cooking skills not quite up to expectations, why not send her for a few lessons? These steps can go a long way in making her feel like a respected professional. In the end, that’s what you hope for in any caregiver.

Communicate – Ask her to repeat your instructions to you just to make sure she understands them. This is especially important if there are language barriers. Arm yourself with a dictionary for your maid’s language and refer to it together.

Within your own extended family, be clear about who can give instructions to your maid, so that she is not overwhelmed by demands from too many people. This will also help your maid prioritize her tasks and responsibilities.

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