Domestic help in Delhi

For most people considering moving to Delhi, the idea of having domestic staff is very appealing. The very thought of no longer having to make beds, cook, dust, wash dishes and do laundry sounds like heaven. For those with children, if one adds to all these things the possibility of affordable childcare it becomes irresistible. Finally, this extra help allows expats to have more time to take up new hobbies or enjoy leisure activities.

From the moment of arrival in Delhi, expats will be given advice on household staff. Unemployed workers will come to an expat's door with dog-eared letters of recommendation from long-departed (but still well-loved) families in their past. The estate agent, moving company, telephone engineer and more or less everyone an expat meets will all “know just the perfect girl”. It is a confusing start to a new country.

Tips for finding and managing domestic staff in Delhi

Before hiring, do full reference checks

Regard anyone simply coming to your door with the same due caution that you would in any major city. This includes doing full reference checks. Going door-to-door is the hardest way to find a job and often a last ditch effort for those who have found the doors of the community closed against them for prior behaviour.

Furthermore, many of the letters handed over will not represent the entire story of their time with the family. Some will be forgeries so do not take these references at face value. Always contact the former employer for a full and candid reference.

Research the market norms

There is no government regulation for the domestic staff sector, therefore employers will need to take guidance from market norms.

Most domestic staff prefer to live in quarters (attached to one's apartment or home) and many will expect to have all living costs covered along with a full salary. The amount of leave given is up to each individual employer and should be negotiated at the outset of the relationship. 

Managing household staff

Be clear about duties and expectations – consider creating a contract complete with salary, benefits, time off, duties etc. Set objectives and expectations and monitor their ability to do as required. Create personnel files on all staff members including photo, full name, residential address and mobile number

Treat your staff as professionals – do not get over-friendly or get too involved in their family matters. For staff living on the premises, set boundaries and be clear how about how they should conduct themselves. Consider drawing up a code of conduct.

Take nothing for granted – even if hiring English-speaking staff with experience in other expat homes, make sure that they are shown how to go about performing their duties. Domestic workers will often answer “yes” to any question that begins with “do you know how to...” It's important to understand that they are not being deliberately duplicitous but only want to please their employers. Take time to train them and give them constructive feedback so they have a good chance of meeting expectations.