Do you have house rules?
Yes, I have, all in English but realised I have to make my ex-Indonesian FDW understands, I went online to translate to Bahasa, presented to her and get her to sign. This applies to JA, my current FDW. She signed but she continues her bad habits and working style, disregards my instructions and house rules on purpose.
HOUSE RULE 1 - SECURITY
A case to share about having the house door locked
Donna was a first class live-in foreign maid, I thought. Like many maids from the Philippines now working in Singapore, she had a high school education plus some college and spoke English fluently. When she came to work for me she had 8 years of experience behind her and great reference from all 3 of her previous employers, a local and 2 expats. The references were genuine for clearly her employers were not motivated by their unwillingness to fork out the cost of repatriating her. They could not all three have lied about her cooking, for example. And she had taken care of a few children with ages ranging from newborn all the way up to 12.
She worked for me for two months and she was really a very good cook. She was equally adept with Chinese as well as western dishes, both of which I enjoy. However, she walked out on me after an incident. I had refused to give her a key to my apartment so that she could not sneak out when I was out. It was too early for me to trust her completely. I suppose my sixth sense was right. Yesterday she had to have "rempah" or freshly ground spices for preparing my favourite chicken curry. She had supposedly ordered it from our grocer and when the delivery man called, she went downstairs to collect her order, leaving the door to my apartment unlocked.
My 8-year old daughter was taking her shower, getting ready for school. When came out of the bathroom, she saw that the front door was ajar. Just then Donna walked in. When my daughter told me about it that night, I was upset. I thought I should put Donna on notice. Even though it was late, I could not control myself and I went to her room and knocked. It was only 9.30 p.m. so I thought she was still up. She pretended that I had awokened her but I did what I came to do. I did not care to hide my anger and irritation and said to her in a rather unfriendly tone: "If I catch you leaving the house without locking the door again, I will fire you and send you home." To avoid any arguments in future, I put my warning on paper and asked her to acknowledge it. But when she defiantly refused to sign, giving the excuse that she had to read what it was first, I lost my cool. Does it mean that I have to put up with her sneaking out again in future, leaving the door unlocked? When it became clear to me that she would not sign, I blurted out, "You damn well obey my house rules or get out of my house". I expected her to buckle, apologise and sign. She said, okay, but not tonight.
For the moment I let matters stand. The next morning I had cooled down and I thought that my outburst was sufficient to convince Nida that I meant what I had said. But when I came home later that day, I was shocked to find her waiting for me, with her luggage wide open, inviting me to inspect it. I was stunned. What I blurted out in anger the night before she took to mean literally. Well, I could not back down now and plead with her to stay. So I made a cursory check and let her go. I would not have found out that she had sneaked out if my daughter had left for school. What if she should in future sneak out only after my daughter had gone and there was no one to blow the whistle on her? I have heard so many horror stories about maids who would not change their ways because their employers were too kind or too soft. So I decided that I had to make a strong impression on her. How would you have handled it?
That expat employer was right to be concerned and worried. Since Donna would not acknowledge her mistake, you cannot be sure that she will not do it again. Her cockiness is an undesirable trait in a live-in domestic worker. But was she arrogant? Only you could tell by her demeanour at the time she left you. Give Donna some time to read, if she refused to sign/acknowledge her mistake, ask yourself with this kind of maid, do you want to entrust your daughter and the security of your home to for the next 2 years? Is this something very serious or are you willing to give FDW another chance to prove she knows her mistake and will not repeat?
If you've given your FDW choices that you regret, sometimes a maid can accept a negative comment from the agent more readily than from her employer because the agent is neutral or is supposed to be. Some agent have translators of the same nationality as your FDW, which means better communication. Get a 3rd party to mediate. I gave my FDWs chances to speak to their agents, with permission to use the house phone, in my presence. I don't just say "pack and off you go". It is often my ex-filipino FDW who said to me "not happy, send me back to agent". I had to remind the agents to tell FDWs the pros and cons, especially how much they have to pay agency if they want to leave my house .... 2 months transfer fee is how much peso to a FDW. The point is, I didn't eat FDW's money if she chose to resign. I don't stand to gain.
The smart FDWs are arrogant and hard to manage. Donna having worked for 3 employers over a period of 8 years and has a 'good employment record' that she can justly be proud of. She has been highly regarded by a local as well as by 2 expatriates. She might have been a good worker but I have never heard of an experience FDW doing something so dumb and irresponsible, like leaving the house door ajar! How true are her good employment records? Did you meet or speak to her ex-employers (the real employer not any imposter)? Most FDWs who have worked for expatriates have the same reason to leave "my expat employer is leaving Spore for good, I had to find new employer. This is my testimonial from them!"
My ex-Indonesian FDW closed my main door but didn't lock it. She thought it is fine. I caught this in action and told her it is unsafe to leave the main doors unlocked in Spore. Once you've turned your back, nobody near the door, some stranger or thieves could have walked in. My unit is of high human traffic, not hidden in a corner. Singapore hasn't reach a stage for citizens to leave their doors unlocked. In my house, FDW should not open doors to talk nor invite strangers home when employers are not home. FDW should not answer the door or employers' phone.
HOUSE RULE 2 - PERSONAL MOBILE PHONE
FDW shouldn't use personal mobile phone during working hours to avoid distraction and addiction to her phone. JA gets to touch her personal phone everyday, from about 7pm and keeps her phone full day, on every off day.
I cannot afford to let my FDW be engaged with personal phone 24/7 and neglects my girl with special needs. This has been one of my main requirements during my visits to the maid agencies. I interviewed transfer maids who are willing to agree to my 'harsh and inhuman' terms. FDW must pay for own phone costs. Cannot use the home phone or tell anyone employers' telephone numbers. Wasting money to make frequent phone calls are your personal choice.
HOUSE RULE 3 - DECLARATION
All money, phone and valuables have to be declared on first day of work and on each off days to avoid misunderstandings. If money or valuables are missing, by having a declaration, employers know how much money or valuables you're holding on hand. Helper can send money or things home but must pay own remittance, transport fees, etc.
Strictly no advance salary allowed. FDW is old enough to know how to save money for yourself and family. FDW has to learn where to spend her money, including glued to her mobile phone or buy sexy lingerie.
HOUSE RULE 4 - CLEANLINESS AND HYGIENE
Long hair must be tied up. Fingernails must be kept short and clean because you are touching our food. Your employer (me) is a good example.
Food or pacifier that dropped on the floor, do not pick and give my girl.
Separate cook and raw food. Do not mix bowls, knieves and chopping boards. I don't want food contamination. Keep our house pest-free.
Cover mouth with tissue or mask when coughing or sneezing/flu. Wash your hands thoroughly if used to cover mouth or when it is dirty.
This is what happens when M, my ex-Indonesian maid didn't clean my girl well. Made me heartache. M claimed doesn't know why my girl has rashes and bruises. She claimed 'no see', eyes on the floor or just looked blankly at me.
HOUSE RULE 5 - SAFETY
FDW must be observant, watch my girl and ensure she doesn't walk alone (hold and keep her near you) or get hurt. After cooking, make sure the stoves are completely switched off. Before you leave the house, check the stove knobs, windows, electrical and ensure doors are locked by you.
Always keep the floor clean and dry. If there are any toys on the floor, spillage or dangerous things lying around such as marbles or scissors, clear and don't let my girl see or slip. Always keep the kitchen gate locked.
If my girl knows what is right, what is wrong, what is dangerous, I don't need to hire a FDW (a problematic 'child') to help me take good care of of my child and protect her during my absence.
A case of negligent/carelessness - can you afford? Who suffered the most? Click
HOUSE RULE 6 - FOOD
FDW must eat 3 main meals everyday. My helper can sit down and eat the same food with employers during meal time. Employers do not provide food for fussy helper with special diet or particular food preference. Any food or things not included in the 3 main meals, permission must be granted before eating. Taking things or food without permission is form of stealing.
HOUSE RULE 7 - A HEART TO WORK
Don't act forgetful when your employer has reminded you, given you pen and note book to write down instructions, as well as training notes. Don't give excuses for mistakes made on purpose.
Work ethic - You have been interviewed, seen my child in person, agreed to work and look after a girl with special needs. Nobody forced you to work for me. You have been given time to compare other employments and consider mine, including my expectations. You knew your duties (job description printed on paper), nothing hidden so you should behave like a sensible adult and deliver your promises, show that you are a person who needed a job for your family.
HOUSE RULE 8 - BEHAVIOUR
Do not beat, ill-treat and/or scream at Employers’ kid. Do not vent your anger, frustration or hatred on my girl. Caught ill-treat my girl or work for other people, be a prostitute (sleep with men), you have to bear the consequences.
Show high cooperation, honest, helpful, patient and a responsible helper. You're not empowered to discipline my child.
HOUSE RULE 9 - MANDATORY OFF DAY
Off days can only be taken after completion of your loan. You can leave the house at 7.30am but must be back by 8pm. On your off day, employers will not be asked you to do any tasks. Employers are not responsible for your meals or personal expenses during your off days. JA, my current very demanding FDW has continous break of about 33 hours. From Saturdays, about 8pm till Mondays, 5.30am (wake up).
HOUSE RULE 10 - TOILET
You can only use the common toilet in the kitchen. You cannot use the master bedroom toilet, except bathing my girl. Before you enter your employers' room, ask first. Limit your shower or toilet time to 10mins.
HOUSE RULE 11 - CCTV
We have CCTV to protect you, employers and my girl. A decent and sensible helper who has nothing bad to hide should not be bothered or affected by our CCTVs, located in obvious spots. No hidden cameras.
HOUSE RULE 12
Do not switch on air-con, computer, television without permission. Switch off appliance (fan, kettle, heater, etc) or lights when not in use. Do not waste water and electricity.
HOUSE RULE 13 - LAUNDRY
FDW cannot use the washing machine. FDW must hand wash own clothes and undergarments. Squeeze dry and hang outside to air dry. You may spin dry your bedsheet and thick blanket.
When washing your clothes and bedsheets, use the 2 pails allocated to you. Do not mix with our clothes or pails. Note to reader of this blog, Chinese consider it very unlucky to mix the underwear of woman together with male's laundry.
I am afraid of sharing common things such as washing machine, pails, cutlery and food (I portion out the food or use a common spoon at home to scoop). I'm thinking whether I should allocate a set of cutlery and bowls for FDW. I have not purchased any separate cultery from the day I became a FDW's employer. Don't want to make FDW looked unwelcome or alien.
HOUSE RULE 14 - RESPECT YOUR EMPLOYERS
Do not try your ways or use former working methods in this Employment. Each employer has his/her own ways to take care of children and do housework. Listen well and carry out instructions according to the way Madam wants.
Employing a live-in FDW doesn't mean employers have to change our lifestyle to suit you - a stranger, a worker not a VIP or new mistress of the house. You are an employee and has no rights nor can force your employers to do things like you are the most important person of the house.
Respect your employers and carry out your duties, the way your employers are used to. Show basic respect and courtesy to the person who have hired you, trained and didn't cheat or ill-treat you. By wanting to be different, hard to work with, you are purposely making life difficult to the owners of that house. If you are selfish, disrespectful, demanding and have incorrect working mentality, a FDW is unsuitable for you.