Holiday with your helper?
Should you bring her along? Or, is it okay to leave her in your home? Here are four options for dealing with your domestic helper while your whole family is away traveling.
1. Take her along
This is a great choice if you have little ones and want to do sightseeing. Bonus: Your helper gets to experience a new country.
“We decided to take our helper with us to Vietnam for a week-long holiday last year, because my husband and I were very keen to do more than just bum on the beach,” says American expat Denise Nelson, who has two girls, aged 2 and 4. “It was an easy decision, when you think about trusting a stranger to babysit your children in a hotel room in an unknown country. The kids were relaxed, the helper was happy and we were thrilled.”
For sleeping, ensure your helper has enough privacy and comfort. “She can stay with the children or female members of the family, but not the male ones,” recommends Eddy Lam, Director of 121 Personnel Services. The ideal? She has a room of her own.
As for the paperwork and visas involved, check with the helper’s home embassy or, even better, consult a professional travel agent, as visa requirements differ for different nationalities.
2. Send her home
Going away for two weeks or more? Think about sending your helper to visit her family back home, instead of waiting for the two-year clause in most agency contracts. Yes, you have to pay for the cost of a ticket but, chances are, she’ll appreciate the gesture and come back more motivated.
Janna Schmidt says it was a win-win for her family and helper. “We had only been in Singapore for 10 months before we decided to go back home to Germany for Christmas,” Janna explains. “Since we were going to be away for three weeks, we decided that it would be nice for our helper to see her family over the holidays, too. She was very grateful for being able to squeeze in that extra trip.”
3. Leave her at your place
If you trust your helper, leaving her at home for a short period is the perfect time for her to do some deep cleaning around the house.
“Our helper has been with us for years, and we leave her to ‘babysit’ the house while we go away,” says Tanya Mohan. “She does quality spring cleaning in our absence, such as washing curtains, re-organising cupboards and other things that are normally not possible on a regular basis.”
Just be clear about your expectations: Make lists of what you want to have done and establish ground rules (e.g., no one is allowed to sleep over).
“Give the helper a list of emergency numbers to call, including those of close friends, relatives or hospitals,” advises Eddy.
Also consider encouraging – and paying for – your helper to learn new skills while you’re away.
4. Board her at the maid agency
This an option for (new) helpers, or if the employer isn’t comfortable with the helper being alone at home. Most agencies charge a daily boarding and lodging of about $20 per day.
But note: Your helper will do nothing all day and may be frustrated upon your return. “The helpers are generally not allowed to leave the agency, because if they go ‘missing’, the agency is held responsible since the helper was not effectively handed over to the employer,” says Eddy. Most agencies discourage this option, as it highlights the lack of trust in the relationship.
A different solution: Leave the helper with a friend, but inform the Ministry of Manpower and your maid agency about the temporary arrangement.
By Priyanka Elhence + Joshua Tan, The Finder Issue 301, December 2019
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