Questions about managing Household Staff

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Sanation

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Hi

Can anyone please clarify what 'expenses' a live-in maid should have paid on her behalf. Is it expected for us to pay for her daily toiletries such as toothbrush & tooth paste, shampoo & conditioner, etc?

What about feminine hygiene products? Should we also be paying for them?

Our maid doesn't want to wear a uniform (who could blame her!) and I have no intention to force her to wear one. Instead I would like to purchase some suitable clothes for her to wear when working (we have an office at the house and receive a few visitors, but not many, each week). What would be deemed a reasonable amount to spend?

Given the cost of the uniforms I have seen at the supermarkets range from RD$300 - RD$650 each, would RD$1,000 be sufficient for 2 changes of clothes?

How many uniforms would a maid usually receive?

Any information you can share would be appreciated.
 

J D Sauser

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Nov 20, 2004
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I think it all depends on how much you are paying her/them for her/their services.
Prices have been quoted as low as RD$ 2000.oo a month. I think that in the case of such ridiculous pay (and I am not implying that this is what you are or will pay) I think that yes, you basically become responsible for that person's every day's needs. In some cases this may even include taking in her child (and taking care of it too) and her/their basic health.
The way you can observe it in Dominican households which still keep in-house personnel, is that they become something like a 3rd class family member which have to compete hard in statute with the family pet and house hold appliances. Some of the maids quarters I see build in some high class houses... well, I don't know how to qualify them... as a closet with a toilet or just plain a guest bathroom with room for a narrow bed... some don't even have a window. Many times the wash machine seems to have a nicer spot to "sleep". Basically legal slavery.
As a foreigner you would be well advised to do better than all the above.
Now, I know, that's not a specific answer to what you asked but it goes great lengths to show you how some of the in-house personnel is being treated. I would urge you to strive to do better than that. Some have been successful at gaining a lot of devotion and loyalty, especially by giving some attention to their kids... like access to a good school and some health coverage.

I think that this is a country where in-house service still can be very affordable, even when trying to be a little generous and to do the right thing, without going over board either.


... J-D.
 

beeza

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Nov 2, 2006
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I agree. Loyalty, one of the most important traits for your domestic staff cannot be bought. It has to be earned. Start them off with a basic salary and explain that any extras you pay and what they are for. My maid doesn't live with me, she commutes, so I pay her for her transport. I also pay her for her lunch. These are on top of her salary and paid separately.

After a while see how things are with your staff. If you are happy with them, you might want to review how much you pay them. But instead of increasng their salary, maybe think about a healthcare plan or education for their children.

That way, you can explain how you are helping their lives rather than just giving them cash, which they may not use as effectively. They would still probably be considered as poor and would find it hard to justify paying out on such things. But they will realise that you want to help them and the two way trust relationship builds.

I consider myself very lucky with my maid. She is so honest, hardworking and kind. There have been several occasions when I have found money on my bedside table. Once, it was 3000 pesos that I had left in my trouser pockets and had been through the laundry. I would have been none the wiser that I had lost the money....but that's another story!

She takes my clothes home with her and mends them. She even reupholstered some cushions that my dogs had eaten. I thought she had thrown them away, but she did it in her own time at home.

In return I look after her and her family. I took her daughter to hospital when she was sick, I pay for her medication and now I employ her son as my gardner.

We have become friends, but we still manage to keep the master / servant barrier intact.
 

Sanation

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Thanks for the reply, JD.

We are paying considerably higher than RD$2,000 per month (in fact we are usually told that we are overpaying our staff!). She has a lovely room (I picked her out a brand new orthopedic bed and beautiful bedding much to the disgust of our Dominican Project Director).

She is treated with dignity and respect.

I am aware, though that a happy medium needs to be found, hence my original questions. I certainly don't want to be taken advantage of, nor do I want to take advantage of her.

I would welcome others to share their knowledge on the topic.
 

Adrian Bye

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You need to be a little tough so there is a level of respect.. You may be going overboard by buying a high end orthopedic bed for them. If they don't respect you, they will take advantage of you when the moment comes. Do you know where her family lives? Do you have a copy of her cedula? Have you told her you are prepared to spend up to RD$300,000 in lawyers to take serious action against them if they steal from you?

If they respect you, then you can pay them more. And I think thats a good idea, because these people are your inner circle and you want them to be incredibly motivated and not prone to suggestions of abuse from friends and family that may come up from time to time.

I pay my latest maid $7k/month, up from $6k. I also pay her cellphone. Its about right, maybe a little generous, for Santiago. I may give her another raise later on this year, we'll see. How much do you pay your maid?
 

Skippy1

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Domestic servants seem to be a hangover from the colonial times. Do you really need them nowadays?

I could not imagine having any myself as I fundamentally disagree with any form of slavery legal or not.

Non live in staff are a different issue as it affords some privacy and the ability for them to have some dignity outside the home. Some thoughts from my wife who is Dominican as follows:
Pay an hourly rate where they are able to work longer hours if required for extra pay, time in the home not travel time.
Defined responsibilities and clear job description.
Regular reviews for performance along with a bonus for exceptional above and beyond the call of duty behaviour.
Dignity and respect both ways essential.
Encourage self improvement ie education or other skills with additional rewards.
Health plan a must staff and children and maybe if you are forward thinking a pension plan.
Make an inventory of all your possessions and check once every few months.
Do not allow friends and family to visit or stay in the house while you are away especially boyfriends etc.
If you have a gun in the house make sure they do not know where it is or have access to it.
Pay as you go cell phone and card pay each week so they are not using your home phone to call NY.

as stated not my list.

Skippy1
 
J

John Evans

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why not just supply a little gift set of personal items occassionally then it wont be expected
 

DrChrisHE

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Jul 23, 2006
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I don't agree that we are beyond needing to employ house staff IF they are paid well and treated respectfully as employees and people. In our case, we are five people, a large long haired dog and two cats living in amongst constant construction. During the times we have not had a maid here, life has been rather miserable. We did NOT have housekeeper staff in the US so we are not used to this but have found it very necessary here. We do not require a uniform and in my opinion, the traditional black and white frilly maid uniforms are rather demeaning. I do provide some clothing but it is up to her as to what she wants to wear. She is able to wash her work clothes and other things she wears to work (she changes here) in our machine and on our time.

As for payment...our housekeeper doesn't stay overnight. She works 9-5ish (meaning sometimes she gets here late or leaves early but as long as she gets the work done, it's all good.) She has a room that is less than ideal but has a toilet, shower, chair and can be locked. We pay for her shampoo, soap, toilet supplies, lunch and I also give her medications for her hypertension (she's only 19), birth control, vitamins, and medicines for her kids (2 of them) as well as vitamins for her whole family. Sometimes I'll give her a phone card so she has minutes to txt me (or when she's at the house she is able to use our phone.) We have taken her shopping and we give her food as well as specific items such as milk for her kids. She eats breakfast and lunch at our house, and at times takes home dinner. We have her cook 5 meals a week only. Our pay rate is 3500 for TWO weeks (which works out to more than 7000/mo). During December, she gets an extra month's pay. When our eldest leaves for college in two months, I'm thinking of giving her his bike (which she likes to borrow) because she lives close enough to bike and spends 240/wk on motoconchos. In SPM, for unskilled labor (our housekeeper has a 7th grade education, is marginally literate and had virtually no skills including cooking when she started) the rate of pay we give is considered fair--not extravagant but not pathetic. With the extras, I feel like I am able to meet some more needs that I want to make sure are being met.

We pay for vacation time and holidays but I will only pay sick days IF she calls me to tell me what is going on (I don't like it when people fail to show up because I worry about them.) All I ask is a text msg or quick ring (which I'll call back) to let me know what is going on.

We do not permit visitors. We have entrusted her with increasing responsibility and she has even watched our pets (during the day time) when we've been away.

People tell me I let our housekeeper get away with a lot, but she is very honest and if I put the effort into repeatedly teaching her something, she eventually learns. She cares for our family and tries very hard to be considerate. It has taken me almost two years to get used to the concept of having household help and specifically how to give very specific instructions on what I expect. One cannot assume that the way we've always done it will be obvious (as many of the threads have discussed.)

Good luck and ask away if you have more questions.
 

Adrian Bye

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DRChris exactly echoes my own experience. I don't think I would continue living here if I didn't have a fulltime maid. My time is too valuable to spend half a day every 2 weeks running around paying bills in person and dealing with the other hassles which spring up regularly.
 

DrChrisHE

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One more quick comment...I found my family complaining about our housekeeper's cooking and had consulted the DR1 board with some success. Instead of continuing to grumble, I made up my mind that I would spend one meal a week teaching her how to cook a specific meal that our family liked. The issue really is that we get tired of rice, beans and chicken/meat. So, I actually found that she was excited about this idea because her mother died (stroke) when she was 14 & she hasn't had much in the way of practical learning for life (her words not mine.) This has worked out VERY well. During the times I cook with her, I try to double recipes and freeze one meal (which was a completely new concept for her probably due to lack of decent freezers in her area.) We are not people who ask our housekeeper to make us breakfast or lunch or run to make a sandwich (we know many ex-pats who snap their fingers & expect 'the help' to jump.)

I'm with AdrianB...without the housekeeper, we'd be out of here very fast. But then again, we didn't move here to retire and had other motives than many for being here (Dh's job, learning Spanish, & exposing our kids to life in a developing country.)
 

DRob

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Aug 15, 2007
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In Santo Domingo I found two cooking-books with French, Spanish and Italian food.
I give this to my wife and every day she is studieing in this books.:bunny:
In a thread about managing household staff, you post about giving your wife some cookbooks.

Potentially very illuminating post. Either you view your wife as household staff with benefits, or you are attempting to save the costs by having your wife and/or you do it.

Possibly both options, but either way, I eagerly await your response.
 

donnaparadise

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I think Chris just about nailed most of it.

I've had live-ins and I've had day maids. With a live-in, she had her own bedroom with a TV and after dishes were done at night, was not expected to do anything else. I did not allow visitors, other than her mother, but if she needed time to do something or go somewhere, I was pretty flexible.

I bought all her personal products and her medicines. If her kids were sick, I took care of them too. I liked to do the grocery shopping but would take her with me and always bought a extra bag or so so she could bring it back home with her on her day off.

I paid her her double at Christmas and periodically, if she did something extra, like helping when we moved, I'd give her some extra.

I treated her well, but didn't make her my best friend. It is important to retain some distance, I think. I can't count how many family members would have broken legs, need to go to the hospital, fell of their passola, etc., etc. I told her I would take care of her needs but I was not going to support her family.

She worked for me for almost 3 years until she found a German guy to marry and move away. She always used to tell me she liked Old Guys and she finally got herself one. lol
 

DrChrisHE

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Jul 23, 2006
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Yes, Donnaparadise...quite right about the friend vs. employeer role although I caution anyone who wants to be upfront and TELL their maid this. I had to explain this to my housekeeper and she burst into tears telling me I was the closest thing to a mother to her. So tread lightly!

We also give unexpected bonuses for things like moving, watching the house, etc.

Also, I need to clarify one of my earlier points...when I said our housekeeper's room had a lock on it, I meant for her privacy...NOT TO LOCK HER IN (you twisted person--you know who you are!;P I figure if one person told me this privately, then some of you must also be thinking it (it's one of those things I tell students--ask away because you're speaking for someone else too!)
 

donnaparadise

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I absolutely agree, Chris. Many Dominicans will consider you 'family' or the 'bestest friend in the whole wide world' and can be very loyal if they care for and about you a lot. However, best to be warm, friendly, let them know what is expected and keep your distance as far as personal things are concerned.

It was difficult at the beginning for me because at the time I didn't speak Spanish and needed her to do things for me, however I would go just so far because I wanted to keep as private as I could. I eventually did learn Spanish and don't need anyone to talk for me anymore and feel a whole lot more comfortable dealing with house staff, staff in my store and everywhere.
 

DRob

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Aug 15, 2007
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In a thread about managing household staff, you post about giving your wife some cookbooks.

Potentially very illuminating post. Either you view your wife as household staff with benefits, or you are attempting to save the costs by having your wife and/or you do it.

Possibly both options, but either way, I eagerly await your response.
And sometimes, silence is a response in itself. :tired::tired::tired:
 

DrChrisHE

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Jul 23, 2006
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And sometimes, silence is a response in itself. :tired::tired::tired:
You guys remind me of the relatives who buy their mother a dish washer for mothers' day or the husband who bought his wife a vacuum cleaner for their anniversary;) Not judging you but my spouse learned about those types of gifts about two decades ago (thankfully.)
 

dv8

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Sep 27, 2006
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i can't imagine having a live-in maid. i would feel uncomfortable in my own house...

but, miesposo's mum has always had maids, both live-in and daily. i understand she pays above the normal rate plus some occasional money when she makes good deal at work. any clothes allowed at home, all meals provided. in case of maids leaving (pregnancy, getting married etc) she provided liquidation and helped with "starting new life".

i have a chance to observe their household now since we are waiting for our apartment to be finished while staying with in-laws and i can see that i treat maid, housekeeper rather, differently than the rest of the family. they are used to having staff (at times even several people) and they treat domestic staff not necessarily with disrespect but much like kids treat their mothers: "give me this", "take this plate", "do that"... i am more respectful and polite, somehow.

as far as the food goes - miesposo eats double portions for which i tell him off every day. i eat almost nothing as it's rice every day and i hate rice. for the future - our maid will not cook because firstly rice+beans+meat bores me to death and secondly i see that maids tend to cook for the army, enormous amounts in one go!
 

Chirimoya

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Dec 9, 2002
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i can't imagine having a live-in maid. i would feel uncomfortable in my own house...
Same here. Although both my parents grew up in homes with live-in maids, I didn't. I have had the same person for eight years now. She comes in twice a week and does cleaning and laundry. I do most of the cooking but she helps with some things like rice - I am hopeless at making Dominican rice - and will do stuff for me on demand. When she has cooked, she has done a tremendously good job.

One of the saddest parts of leaving Santo Domingo will be saying goodbye to her. When we told her the news, she said that she would use the liquidation money to develop her own small business, making snacks and cakes and selling them from her home. She is a sensible person as well as a good cook, so I'm sure this will go well for her.
 

Christie

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Apr 4, 2008
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I see that a few people have mentioned liquidation money? How much is this liquidation money? We have had a daily maid for about 8 months. But we will only be here for about 1 more year and then will go back to the States. Our company is paying for all of our living expenses including for the maid and I know we pay her more than the "norm". But I would like to know ahead of time what is expected when we leave, so that she is not left in the lurch. Any info on this would be appreciated.

PS. We are moving to Santo Domingo and she lives here in Santiago and wants to continue working for us but doesn't plan to move there. Do we have to pay her transport fees weekly? Or should she use the $ we pay her for this.
 
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