Domestic Help

Labour is cheap in Malaysia and there are many people who maximise these opportunities to get others to do the more menial tasks in life – domestic cleaning and cooking, driving cars, cleaning cars, gardening, painting and household repairs. Most of this work is not done by Malaysians and the country depends on foreign workers (from Indonesia, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Philippines and Cambodia) to complete these tasks. Such people generally live in the house with you, and most larger houses and apartments have accommodation specifically intended for live-in domestic help. Live-in maids also often take on childcare duties. Some Malaysian women provide domestic service on a part time basis. You can find out from your neighbours or Malaysian friends about this.

In planning to hire help, you must consider if you are open to having a “stranger live with you”. She will probably get to know you better than some of your friends or relatives. She will see you at both extremes – at your best and at your worst.

So it’s best to keep the relationship strictly on an employer-employee basis while maintaining mutual respect. Some maids may get a little nosey every now and then, so it’s important to set clearly defined roles and boundaries.

Some expats will move straight into an existing house that may already have staff employed. Failing that, there are employment agencies for sourcing help.

It’s always safer to acquire full-time help through agencies, unless you know and trust a local who has highly recommended one person. The agency will also be able to arrange the appropriate visas and paperwork for foreign maids. As there are very few Malaysian women who work as maids, you are likely to employ an Indonesian or Filipina maid. The former is subject to strict rules and regulations according to Malaysian law, while the latter is allowed more freedoms. Many Indonesian maids will only speak their own language, which is very close to Bahasa Malaysia, whereas most Filipinas speak reasonable English.

The agencies will help you find “the right one” for a fee. You will be given a host of resumes to look through before making your choice of the maid you want. It would be advisable to request a meeting with the maid before making your final decision. This is particularly important if your maid will be respnsible for looking after your children.

Domestic labour, as mentioned earlier, is very cheap in Malaysia. Salaries and working conditions differ depending on the level of experience and nationality of the maid:

Indonesian maid
– Minimum salary RM350 per month
– Work 7 days a week
– Safer for employer to open joint bank account with maid in case she leaves without notice
– Salary to be banked into her account at the end of every month as she is not allowed to carry cash for the first two years working in Malaysia

Filipina maid
– Minimum salary RM700 per month
– Work 6 days a week, Sundays off
– Not necessary for employer to open joint bank account with maid as there are no restrictions on her carrying cash

Part-time maids are also available via agencies. The frequency of work per week depends on your needs. Charges are different but it averages at about RM80 to RM100 per session of about 3 to 4 hours each time.

Within the first few days of your maid moving in, the training should be slowly taking shape. Take it seriously and be methodical. If she’s able to write, get her to note down her daily / weekly / monthly tasks. Breaking it down will help both you and her to pace yourselves on the things to be done. Keep a copy for yourself too. Never assume she will know exactly how to perform these tasks. Specify what cleaning equipment or products to use when doing what. The cleaning routine should also be listed out seperately.

The use of appliances must be explained and demonstrated to her to avoid unnecessary repairs. In being specific, you can easily ensure if she is following your instructions or not. The first few weeks may require monitoring from your part. There will always be language differences to compound the communication problems, so check that things are understood.

Setting limits and taking charge on when and how things are done is vital in working with your maid. Decide and confirm your telephone rules with her. Is she is to take down messages for you or do you prefer the answering machine to do its work when you are not around? How long and how often can she be on the phone? Is she to share the house phone or should you get her another or even ask her to get her own? It can be quite disconcerting for you to keeping answering incoming calls for your maid, especially when she receives more calls than you do. Be sure of your rules before presenting them to her so you don’t appear less serious about them.

Another consideration is hygiene practices. You should clearly define your interpretation of hygiene because if she has never worked with an expat family before, she may unclear about what is hygienically acceptable. For example, clarify how you like your raw meat to be cut and how food should be stored in the fridge.

Common courtesies prevail such as “good morning”, “please” and “thank you”. It would be good to teach your children to treat her with respect and good manners. Complimenting her on her good work or when extra initiatives have been taken is never a loss. Remember that she is most likely an expatriate herself, facing her own worries and problems living away from her own family.

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