Joseph Lappin and Charlie Thompson from our Employment team recently spoke to Luxury London to provide a guide to the dos and don’ts of hiring home help. This is a summary version of the original article, available to read on the Luxury London website in full here.
Whether it’s a large family or a career that means you’re constantly on the go, having reliable, trustworthy and capable domestic help can be the difference between chaos and calm when it comes to your personal life. But it’s important to remember that a unique employer-employee relationship comes with personal staff.
Do have a structured recruitment process
It may be tempting to save money by not involving an agency and instead relying on your network but bear in mind that an agency can provide an extra filter and layer of sophistication to the process. Agencies that specialise in domestic help will have seen it all so will be able to spot a red flag from a mile away while also giving you someone to complain to (and help get things back on course) should they go wrong.
Do have a proper contract
Perhaps the biggest mistake you can make when employing domestic staff is to agree to a casual arrangement where nothing is formally written down. Even if you know your employee well and consider them a friend, circumstances and relationships can change, so grey areas should be avoided at all costs.
“For any member of staff, it is sensible to have an ‘in case of emergency, break glass’ plan,” Charlie explains. “If the employment terminates unexpectedly, there are practicalities which need to be addressed urgently – not just finding a replacement, but also ensuring that the departing staff member leaves smoothly and returns important items such as keys and security passes. It makes sense to have a checklist ready in advance.”
Do choose a lead employer
It may seem obvious for a couple to jointly employ staff but, if you’re hoping said staff will stay with you long-term, it’s important to consider what changes could occur in your family dynamic.
For example, what will happen if you decide to divorce or one half of the couple moves to a different country for work? Joseph and Charlie advise that it can be common for domestic staff to get caught in the middle of couples who are separating so for the benefit of your workers and your family it is best to decide at the beginning what would happen in these circumstances.
Do consider any special requirements
On paper, the duties of a nanny, cook or cleaner may seem unambiguous but you may quickly find that situations arise that you had not previously considered. You should not, for example, rely on a nanny to babysit or do household chores unless stated in their job description. Asking them to do so once employed could lead to resentment and ultimately high staff turnover.
Many domestic employers may also expect their staff, particularly chefs and au pairs or tutors, to travel with them. Along with communicating this well in advance and ensuring your staff have all the necessary documents for travel, it is also vital that both parties are clear on what will be expected from staff while abroad.
Don’t keep quiet if you’re not happy
It is a sad inevitability that not every employment situation is going to work out. Whether it’s poor performance or just a straightforward personality clash, problems are bound to arise in even the most clearly defined working relationship. It is important, however, that you address any issues quickly and professionally. This not only gives staff a chance to rectify the problem but also prevents the situation from escalating any further.
Don’t assume you’re the perfect employer
Just as it is imperative that staff are made aware of any performance issues in a timely matter, it is also important that employees have a clearly defined process for addressing HR issues or grievances, be they with another employee or with you as their employer.
And while employment disputes arise at all sorts of companies and in all kinds of situations, it can be difficult not to take complaints personally or to allow your own feelings to bias disputes between two employees. Joseph recommends that, if a problem cannot be resolved informally, the best course of action is to appoint an HR consultant or employment lawyer who can investigate and make a judgement independently.
You can find further information regarding our expertise, experience and team on our Employment page.
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