Domestic workers are integral to many of our homes, but are you making sure the person who keeps the wheels of the house turning while you’re at work is being treated fairly?
Read on for five ways you can make a difference in her life.
The small details count
If you think about how lovely it is to have small perks at your work, the same holds true for your domestic worker. Tiny details can make a big difference, such as giving her the household’s Wi-Fi password so that she can listen to music on her phone while working, and by creating a dedicated space where she can put her handbag or bag down and safely keep items like toiletries to freshen up with after a long day’s work.
“Many domestic workers live lives that are more challenging than most of us could ever imagine, so think of things you can do to make her life easier,” says Aisha Pandor, CEO of SweepSouth Connect, a new on-demand home services company in Nigeria. “For instance, if you are able, pick her up at the public transport drop-off point closest to your home. It’s an empathetic gesture that saves her time, allowing her to spend more quality time with her family.”
Create a relationship
How much do you know about the individual who – very often – is at the heart of your household? A social and economic power imbalance already exists between you and your domestic worker, so make a real effort to bridge it. Ask her about her life, her family, and what keeps her awake and worrying at night. A great way to build a positive relationship is by recognising areas she excels in and giving positive feedback on work done well.
Upskill your domestic worker if you can, with a cooking course, driving lessons or a course in first-aid and CPR. Learning a new skill is not only empowering, it helps her become more employable should anything happen to affect her employment status with you. If you can’t afford to pay for a course, pay it back by giving your domestic worker an hour in her working day with you to do a free course, and assist with online registration. Another lovely gesture is to give her any points or credits you’ve accumulated from retailers at the end of the year to help her buy groceries or Christmas gifts for her family.
Is she safe in your home?
Domestic workers are often alone at your home during the day, shouldering a lot of responsibility to keep the property safe and protect any children or pets left in their care. Have regular talks about safety and security protocols so that she knows exactly what to do in case of an emergency, and have the numbers of local emergency, medical and police services on display.
Always inform your domestic worker about any contractors coming to work on your premises during the day and caution her to never open the door for strangers, regardless of the story they give. The media is full of reports of criminals conning their way into homes then assaulting and tying up domestic workers before ransacking the house. Take every safety precaution you can – your domestic worker also has a family she wants to safely get home to at the end of the day.
Make sure that what you pay is fair
Domestic workers are some of the most vulnerable members of the labour system, says Aisha. “Each year we conduct research into the living and work conditions of domestic workers, and our last report shows that 48 percent of the domestic workforce are single parents and 65 percent are the main breadwinners in the household. They are often trapped in a cycle of poverty, struggling just to make ends meet and put food on the table, so it’s heartbreaking that many of them are still being exploited in terms of long work hours and poor pay. Make sure that you pay a good wage for good work.”
There are many ways, big and small, in which you can make a difference in your domestic worker’s life, says Aisha. “Small acts of kindness, some of which are incredibly easy to do, can make a huge difference to her.”