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8 Tips For Healthy Communication With Your Domestic Helper

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When employing a domestic helper, it’s important to develop a healthy and positive relationship with them.

Some positive employer-helper relationship factors are:

  • They feel they are integral to the household.
  • They get sufficient rest.
  • They have normal standards of privacy. 
  • They have a stable social network they can reach out to (e.g. other helpers, family members)

Alongside these factors, we should also establish good communication techniques to help better instruct our helpers and get them assimilated in your household.

Here are some tips we suggest that can foster effective communication with your helper:

1. Set Clear (& Fair!) Expectations

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As an employer, it’s very important for you to set clear and fair expectations for your helper. Sit down with them and discuss what is expected of their duties and their responsibilities.

Detail your priorities, down to the nitty-gritty. The faster you explain what needs to be done in and out of the household, the faster they have time to adapt and get into a routine and be able to perform their duties well.

Tip: Give your helper a timetable or task list to help her visually see what she needs to do on a daily basis. If there are changes, be sure to update it appropriately and inform your helper.

Below are some domestic helper duties/task list templates that can help you to communicate your expectations clearly:

2. Encourage Them To Learn

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As you spend more time with your helper, it’s good to encourage them to broaden their skills alongside their normal routine.

When guiding your helper, it’s important to lead in example by:

  • Teaching them how to operate equipment, ranging from kitchen appliances to the vacuum cleaner
  • Teaching them where to store things neatly (e.g cleaning tools, cloths)
  • Teaching them how to cook certain recipes — especially if you have family members who are peckish.

Tip: Motivate your helper to learn through healthy encouragement and praise. Do not overwork them if their current schedule is packed.

3. Make Them Feel Included In The Household

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It’s a common mistake for many employers to communicate well in the first week, and then tail off as time goes on. Often, this makes the helper feel excluded from the household and can contribute to a negative employee-helper relationship.

The best way to tackle this is to make your helper feel included in the household. This means treating your helper with mutual respect just like any other individual. This includes:

  • Checking in on their physical and mental health — Important if you want your helper to fulfill their duties!
  • Talk more than just duties — Inquire on how their family is doing, what they like to do in their free time.
  • Lend a listening ear — Listen to your helper’s concerns and try to solve things in a rational manner.

4. Respect Their Privacy

Respecting your helper’s privacy shows that you respect her boundaries. Let your helper keep her important documents, such as her passport, travel documents and workers permit.

Taking their sensitive documents can breed distrust between you and your helper, and can distract them from their responsibilities.

In return for respecting their privacy, ask them to respect your family’s respect as well. Some examples include not touching personal belongings.

Rights Of A Domestic Helper

Singapore has its designated set of ground rules when it comes to the rights of a domestic helper.

To prevent abuse, below are some regulations provided by the Ministry Of Manpower that an employer must follow:

  • Provide adequate rest/off-days
    • Entitled to a weekly rest day if the permit was issued after 1 January 2013
    • Agree on a weekly rest day (to avoid arguments, have it written on paper)
  • Provide adequate medical care
  • Work conditions are safe for the helper to perform their duties well
  • Provide appropriate shelter
    • Sufficient ventilation
    • Able to protect their modesty (e.g. not sleeping in the same room as an adult male)
    • Separate room (adequate space, privacy)
  • Provide basic amenities, including:
    • Bedding — mattress, pillow, blanket 
    • Toiletries — toothbrush, toothpaste, soap, shampoo
  • Provide adequate meals — 3 nutritious meals per day

For the full list, refer to the Ministry Of Manpower’s webpage on rest days and well-being of domestic workers.

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5. Put Yourself In Their Shoes

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Be empathetic, try to understand the perspective of your domestic helper: they’ve come a long way from home, leaving their family (sometimes children) to earn income.

That’s definitely not an easy task, and a tremendous feat if any.

That’s why it’s important to note if your helper is homesick, and not to berate them for it. Give time for your helper to be able to adapt to their environment.

Note: If you think it is getting in the way of their work, talk it out and come to a compromise.

6. Perform Acts Of Kindness

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It’s good to perform acts of kindness to show appreciation to your helper. You don’t have to do grandiose things, rather show them that you care about their well-being with small actions.

Here’s a list of things you can do to show your gratitude:

  • Give praise where praise is due 
  • Celebrate their birthday 
  • Provide constructive feedback for them to know what they can improve on
  • Treat her to a nice meal out
  • Allow time off on special holidays — Consider religious holidays like Hari Raya Puasa and Christmas
  • Involve them in family activities

7. Resolve Conflicts Appropriately

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With every relationship, there will always come a time when disputes arise. In cases like this, you must remain objective and try to resolve them with a clear mind.

Below are things to consider during conflict-resolution:

  • Proactive communication — To lessen potential conflicts, establish an open line of  communication to let your helper know that you are able to communicate.
  • Listen to their side — Knowing both sides speeds up making compromises or solving conflicts. 
  • Reach out to the agency — Opt to talk to agencies as they have after- employment services that can help mediate conflicts.

8. Don’t Resort To Scare Tactics

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The worst thing to do when building a helper-employer relationship is instilling an unhealthy amount of fear in your helper. Doing so culls effectiveness for healthy communication, let alone normal conversation.

Too much fear can cause your helper to unnecessarily be on edge within and out of your household and may cause them to falter in maintaining their duties. They’ll be too scared to talk to you honestly, further harming your relationship.

All in all, the key to healthy communication is to maintain a positive employer-helper relationship. Show that you’re open for communication and teach them so that your helper will be more inclined to their best at work. Tell us below which tips you followed!

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