Maids and madams

The holidays are over. It is that time of the year when madams look for domestic workers, and good domestic workers are a rare breed. It is important to have them for keeps if you are lucky to get one.

Stephanie Dawson-Cosser of Choice Child Care, an agency for professional nannies and child minders based in Pinegowrie, Johannesburg, says the best way to find a good domestic worker is to find her through a professional agency.

"The good thing about professional agencies is that they do all the groundwork for you. Candidates are screened to determine their suitability for the job."

These already-screened maids usually come at a high price. If you cannot afford the services of the agency, how do you spot a good maid? Qaqamba Klaas, who is the managing director of Intsika Business Consulting, a human resource consulting company in Eastern Cape, says the easiest way to spot a good maid within a few days of employment is to notice the maid's comments.

"A good maid will comment about things like the cleanliness of the house and the weight of the baby, but a bad maid will comment about your clothes, make-up and sometimes even ask for the clothes you no longer wear."


Make house rules

Klaas says to make the lives of all concerned easy, before the maid arrives, they should prepare a list of house rules.

"The rules are not designed to abuse the maid, but to help her understand your expectations.

"Rules on things like tasks, food, friends and visitors should be laid down clearly. Be as specific as possible. Explain to your maid the first day she arrives at your house. Ask yourself, are you able to do all those tasks ? If you cannot, then don't expect the maid to be able to do it.

"Do not expect the maid to know how you want things to be done.

"For example, tell her exactly how much washing detergent to use, how many times you want her to rinse the clothes."


Klaas advises maids to avoid quarrels as far as possible.

"Some madams are ill-treating their maids or, in fact, boasting about how they treat their maid miserably.

"If your maid lives with you, be prepared to take care of her basic expences for body care (soap, oil, toothbrush and toothpaste, etc), food and travel.

"Do not lose your temper on your maid for small issues. If you find that a particular task has not been done, ask her why it has not been done, but don't make her life miserable. Listen to their side of the story as well. Also, don't pile her with work."

Klaas adds that madams should never directly accuse their maid of theft if they notice the loss of money or valuables. "Look around the house to see if it has been misplaced. Only if you are sure there has been a theft, confront her."


"Give your maid her legal days off. If it's a public holiday, she is sick or has an emergency at home let her go. Remember she also has family," says Klaas.


"You should treat the maid like family, but she should know that she is there to work. If the maid is happy she is likely to be good to your kids. Make sure that your kids respect her, like any other adults at home," says Klaas.


Klaas adds that the madam must make sure that the maid has enough food and some rest. According to Cosatu, domestic workers tend to work long and irregular hours and are often required to be on "stand-by".

About 18 percent of full-time domestic workers work more than a 45-hour working week. About 9 percent of full-time domestic workers do 56 or more hours a week.

Klaas says some maids are made to work for friends and other family members for nothing and some employers often do not pay any overtime.

"This is very wrong and unconstitutional. Employers must remember that maids are human beings that need to be treated with dignity. They should treat their workers the way they would want to be treated by their employers."