A new baby is an exciting prospect, but it’s also pretty daunting, especially if family and friends are far away. Which is why many families start to consider outside help when a little one is on the way. While we could write a thesis on the pros and cons of employing a housemaid (get it right and you’ll never look back; get it wrong, and you could be in for a real headache), the good news is that tales of success far outweigh the horror stories. If you plan in advance and take the right precautions, having help at home can be a real boost to family life in Dubai.
Full or part-time?
Full time means a live-in housemaid, which means happily sharing your house with someone else. For working mums, full-time home help is really the only option as the housemaid doubles up as the nanny after school. But even if you are not working, full-time gives you the ultimate flexibility to be here, there and everywhere without the pressure of household chores. If full-time is not for you, yet you still want help, employing a maid via an agency is the only legal alternative. ‘It’s simple. You can request the same housemaid regularly to do housework and babysitting and you only pay for the hours worked,’ says Chris Howard, director of agency Howdra. The going agency rate is about Dhs35 per hour. Rates for full-timers are set on a monthly basis and these differ depending on the nationality of your housemaid. According to the Indian Embassy website (www.indembassyuae.org) the minimum salary of a female household service worker is Dhs1,100. For Filipinos the minimum wage is Dhs1,400 (see www.philembassy.ae) although where you live can also influence the salary. Expect to pay more if you live in the Green Community or on The Palm, for example.
What must I provide?
For full-time, live-in maids, you are contractually obliged to provide, amongst other things, free furnished accommodation, food, mobile phone and one month’s vacation and flight home at the end of the agreement – which is usually two years. Check the contracts that are on each of the embassy websites clearly stating conditions of employment.
What can I expect?
Maids will help with all domestic chores and childcare, but it’s up to you to be clear from the outset exactly what your expectations are. ‘We’ve had the same housemaid now for almost four years,’ says Dubai working mum of one Lindsey Johnson. ‘We set the ground rules down right at the very beginning and immediately address issues calmly and respectfully as and when they occur.’ Actually showing your housemaid how you want things done is vital too says Lindsey. ‘You cannot expect them to read your mind.’ Giving them a realistic schedule is often a good idea to help them establish a routine that covers all your needs.
What checks should I do?
If you want your housemaid to care for your children, checking that she has the appropriate experience and skills is paramount, and that means making the right choice in the first place. The whole family should be involved in the interviews and while gut feeling and first impressions are important, checking references from former employers is a must.
Where do I find help?
Recommendations and searching or posting ads on local supermarket boards are usual ways to find your home help. But if you are not having any luck then turn to an agency. Often the maid service providers will also source full-time live-in maids too – for a fee of around Dhs3,500.
Is the paperwork a nightmare?
The first stop in the sponsorship process is the application for the residence visa, followed by a medical fitness report and finally a residence stamp on the maid’s passport and the issuing of a domestic worker card. This will set you back more than Dhs7,000, including a Dhs2,000 deposit. (Check www.dubai.ae for the full procedure.) It can be a lengthy process, but some agencies, such as Howdra, also act as the maid’s sponsor – so no paperwork for you at all. It is more expensive, but for the peace of mind of knowing you and your maid are all legal, many consider it to be money and time well spent. If you don’t do things legally the penalties can be harsh – including deportation – and it can get very messy (if you’ll excuse the pun).