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Expats who come to Hong Kong usually find it foreign to hire a live in help. We are so used to doing things on our own from cleaning the house to getting the kids ready for school everyday. Living with a stranger in your home with your family can be a challenge. This also means having someone you don’t know stay in your house, trust with your children and your belongings for 2 or more years.
However, the work that comes with moving into a new place, getting settled, finding your bearings, managing new routines and taking care of the family is also a different challenge in itself which is why mothers who had initially vowed to never hire a domestic helper eventually see the advantage of getting an extra hand.
For expats who are new to Hong Kong and those that have yet to arrive, we hope you find this guide useful when you finally decide to hire a live in domestic helper.
HOW or WHERE TO FIND A DOMESTIC HELPER
There are requirements before you can hire domestic help in Hong Kong. According to the government, one needs to be a Hong Kong resident with a monthly household income of no less than HKD15,000 or have assets that are equal to said amount. The contractual period of a domestic helper is 2 years but they can stay with you for a longer time if you both agree to extend the contract.
There are two ways of finding a helper. One way is you can go to a recruitment agency and source from them there or look at personal ads and hire directly. You can start by going through this expat forum site to find agencies and get recommendations from fellow expats.
You must enter into a standard employment contract as specified by the Director of Immigration and apply to the Immigration Department for an employment visa for the helper. In terms of Minimum Allowable Wage, the cost is currently set at HKD4,110 per month.
You’re also obligated by law to get them Domestic Helper Insurance. There are many affordable ones we can recommend for you.
BENEFITS OF HIRING DOMESTIC HELP
There are certainly pros to having extra help in your household. Based on stories from expats, the most notable benefit is having the freedom to go or do whatever you like at a drop of a hat. You can explore the city or go out at night without worrying about chores or the kids. This also means having more time for yourself to engage in new things in a new country.
Another advantage to having a live in helper is that your family will be served with healthier meals because they will take the time to cook fresh vegetables and produce as opposed to eating out or serving something from a can.
The house will always be cleaned, the laundry folded and ironed and the kids supervised.
HOW TO CHOOSE THE BEST CANDIDATE
An employer will get to conduct one or two interviews with a candidate before making their final choice. Here are questions you can ask in order to make the best choice.
1. References make it a lot easier to choose which helper to hire. You can get this from their previous employer or from their agency. Speaking to there former employer is highly recommended.
2. If they are transferring from another family or abruptly ended a contract with a former employer, investigate the reason why.
3. Ask if she’s married or have children. This will give you an idea of her skill set and her motives for entering this type of job.
4. Check how well she speaks English by asking her a simple question like how she prepares food for her own family. Language barriers can be frustrating.
5. Ask about her future plans and why she’s doing this job. Is she doing it to send money back home or to earn enough money to start her own business? Try to talk about how you two can work to help each other. Building this initial relationship will give you a feel of how it will be like when she’s working for you.
6. Find out if she likes kids and know about the things she’s good in doing. This will help you adjust your expectations as well as tell them your own.
7. Hire someone who’s been certified for first aid training. This is especially important if you have children. In connection with this you can also ask how she disciplines a child. You won’t have the same child rearing philosphies so keep her in line with your own rules.
8. Finally, it helps to trust in your instinct. If you feel an instant connection or ease with a candidate, go with it. Walk away if you feel that you will have issues with this person in the long run.
GETTING ALONG WITH YOUR HELPER
In order to make the best out of having an outsider live with your family you also have to be aware of how you should conduct yourself for a drama free working relationship. A few tips we’ve gathered from other expats are the following:
1. Show appropriate empathy for them. Remember that they are away from their families and you should be sensitive to this kind of situation. Find a balance between being their boss and an empathetic person.
2. Learn to be patient if they don’t immediately understand how you want things done. There is a cultural difference that needs to be crossed but once you are both comfortable, this should make for a harmonious way of managing the household. They are not perfect but they are always willing to learn. You have to be specific but not too uptight to lessen the stress for the both of you.
3. Be cautious with your valuables. There is a big gap between the things that you have and what they are used to seeing back home. Learn to be sensitive.
Do not expect a trouble free experience on your first try in finding a helper. But it is possible to lessen the stress with these info from people who have been through it.