It seems like everyone I know is looking for a maid. It’s becoming more and more difficult to find good help these days.
I’m currently in the search myself, so I thought I’d write these set of tips as a reference for myself and for my friends.
These are things I realized I should have done, things I did that had good results, and advice I received from friends. Please feel free to share if you find this useful.
Disclaimer: I am not going into a discussion about social equality and stuff like that, and this is not meant to demean anyone, so if you have any problems with those issues, this is not the place for it, please move on. This is purely about helping people, especially first-timers, on what to do when hiring a maid in the Philippine setting.
WHAT TO DO WHEN HIRING A MAID
It’s best to hire from referrals.
If anything happens, at least there is some relationship link to follow to that person. Someone knows where the maid lives in the province, someone knows her family and relatives. There is also a sense of “hiya” so it’s less likely (but not impossible) for the maid to do bad things. And if the maid does something disappointing, you can always go to the referral and tell them what happened. Usually, it’s the referrer pa who will make sermon the maid on why they did this thing (like, nabuntis, had a love triangle, left their husband in the province for a new boyfriend or girlfriend, nagpaalam mag de-day off for 24 hours pero after 3 days bago bumalik, snuck boyfriend into her room, etc…). Many of our maids end up in weird love polygons. Not even love triangles. Polygons! They somehow are able to develop Facebook relationships with several people of both sexes, and then still have phone pal relationships! Plus the husband they left back home. Equal opportunity sila, lahat pinapatulan. Basta nilalambing sila and pinapadalahan ng load or pera, ok na.
Out of desperation, we tried hiring from maid agencies, and we usually had not so good experiences. For the fee that the agency is charging, you’d think that they would give you a quality maid, but no. Sometimes you get lucky and you get a good one who knows how to do the job well. But we always find that those kinds of maids usually only stay for a few months until their “papers” come through and they are taking a job abroad. This means that the maid agency was only using you as a temporary job for the maid until the maid’s papers are processed and they can become an OFW.
So once the good maid leaves to go abroad, the time left to get a replacement from the agency is almost up (usually 6 months), and you’re forced to pick from some really poor quality candidates. For example, someone who is may topak and talks to herself all the time, or someone who is so maarte and picky about what kinds of household chores she is willing to do that you wonder why she even agreed to become a maid. And when they prove unacceptable and you take them back to the agency, well, time’s up and the agency will tell you that they can give you another maid, for another fee! Never-ending cycle.
Interview the maid and set the ground rules / expectations.
This is the most important thing!!! Follow your instincts.
Ask about her background and skills: is she married, does she have children, how old are they, etc… What kind of work has she done before? Who is going to take care of her children when she starts working for you?
Does she seem honest?
Do you feel anything off about her? I know, sometimes we’re just too desperate that we ignore our instincts. Been there, done that. Just trust yourself.
Does she look at you directly or does she have a wandering eye, looking to the right or to the left instead of looking at your face when answering your questions? Something about a person not being able to look at me directly sets of alarm bells…
Does she come off as mataray / matapang / pranka? Does she talk back? Does she have a strong personality? Are you okay with that?
Does she answer your questions about herself in a straightforward manner, or do you get the impression that she is just telling you whatever you want to hear in order to get the job?
Is she okay with the types of work and chores that you expect her to do? Is she okay with the scope of the work?
What days off does she expect and what are you willing to give? Do you both agree / compromise?
What vacation days does she want? This is important because you might need her on important days and it might coincide with her planned vacation. For example, Christmas or New Year holidays. You might need her to help with parties, Noche Buena and stuff, but she wants to go home during those days as well. You both need to agree up front on her vacation days. Or you can compromise. Christmas might not be as important for her, but spending New Year’s with her family is. Or vice versa. Sometimes their town’s fiesta is more important, so you can negotiate. But you both must agree on the vacation before you hire her. Tell her, walang bawian, maayos na usapan eto. If she insists on going on vacation during the days when you really need her, don’t hire her. What’s the point of hiring her when she won’t be around when you need her? Unless you’re okay with that and have a backup plan.
You can compensate her extra if you wish, on top of the Christmas bonus. If you have several maids, you also need to make sure that their days off and vacation days don’t overlap. You don’t want to be left for an extended period of time with no maid.
No Visitors – she cannot bring her visitors inside the house and she should not let anyone else we don’t know into the house. No boyfriend, girlfriend, friend, relative, etc… we can be flexible about her day off if she wants to go out with them. She can meet them outside. We don’t know these people, and we don’t want them inside our house. Our house is not a hotel. You’d be surprised how many maids have asked if their visiting son/daughter/husband/boyfriend/sister/brother can stay in their room. If we catch her sneaking people into the house, we will have her and her visitor hauled off to the police. This is a security issue so treat it as importantly as it should be.
Unfortunately, we are not in our lola’s era when a typical household could maintain several household staff, and when maids were easy to hire. It is very, very difficult to find “quality” house help these days. Most of the good ones choose to work abroad, so many of us end up just getting the best that we can find and hoping that she’s trainable. And then, there’s the poaching from other households to contend with!
There’s a very high probability that your standards of hygiene and sanitation are very different from hers. Explain to her up front that you are very strict in terms of cleanliness and cross-contamination. If your hands are dirty, wash them very well before touching anything else.
You don’t want to overwhelm her with your hygiene Nazi-ness, but on the other hand, you really don’t want someone who is not willing to follow your hygiene and sanitation requirements. You really don’t want them touching raw chicken, not washing their hands, then getting ice for your child’s drink with their raw chicken hands.
You don’t have to explain the whole science, but just the basics of how we will all get sick, blah blah blah.
For me, kitchen hygiene and sanitation is one of the non-negotiables. Even if the house is not that clean, it’s okay, she can clean it tomorrow, but food safety is non-negotiable. Dishes and utensils should be washed really well. They should not be greasy or have food bits still sticking to them.
You also don’t want her using the rag she just used to wipe the counter to dry the clean plates. One of our new maids almost did that! Thank goodness I caught it. I had to be like Sauron and watch everything because, oh my god, her lack of understanding of simple hygiene made me nervous. To her, rags and drying cloths are all the same to her, all alien concepts. You just want to look for someone who is willing to learn and follow your dictates. If she thinks that’s all baloney and kaartehan mo lang, well, she’s not the right fit for you. If you have to spend all your time checking her work, it’s not worth the trouble. You have more productive things to do with your time.
LOL, I am actually wondering if I can find a maid with a little OCD.
I tell them that I expect them to be honest. If they break something, I won’t get mad, just be honest about it and tell me immediately. If I find out that she broke something and just hid it from me, that’s when I’ll be mad.
Just don’t keep on making the same mistake and ruining things, or I’d think na sinasadya na. If she doesn’t know how to use something, ask me.
I am willing to teach them if they don’t know how to do certain chores, but they just need to be willing to learn. There are also a lot of YouTube videos you can show them.
Does she have any food allergies or food that she can’t eat due to health or religious issues? Is this going to be a problem?
Does she have any health issues that you need to be concerned about? If she is going to work with children or the elderly, you need to make sure that she’s not sick or have any contagious diseases or parasites. My friend tells me you can ask them to get a health certificate or medical exam or something, just pay for it. Or maybe use your own doctor to check them out.
If they are high-risk health-wise, just avoid to prevent future problems down the road.
Does she need to go to church at certain times every week, etc…?
Any other issues or taboos?
Cellphone use – set limits on cellphone use. If you want to just rely on their own delicadeza for them to limit their cellphone use, chances are very slim that it’s gonna happen. I’m not really very strict about this, except that there are certain times or chores when I don’t want them to be on their cellphone, like when there are visitors, when they are serving lunch / dinner, or helping me out in the kitchen. If they are just doing laundry, it’s fine. They also shouldn’t talk very loud while on their cellphone. And they should be using earphones or something so that their hands are free to do work while they talk. It keeps them entertained while they are doing menial tasks like sweeping the floor or mopping.
On mopping – water only! It’s crazy that I have to include this in my setting expectations, but I’ve had maids mopping with fabric conditioner, laundry detergent, and half a bottle of all purpose cleaner. It’s such a pain to get all that residue out, our floor tiles were so sticky because of them! So I’m making it as idiot-proof as possible – just use plain water and nothing else. If they use anything else, I will make them mop the floor again and again until all the residue is gone.
Negotiate the salary
After you have interviewed her and she seems okay and meets your minimum standards, it’s time to negotiate her salary.
This is your own personal decision on how much salary (and benefits) to give, so I’m not going to cover it. If you want to know more about the requirements of the Kasambahay Law, you can Google it. There are many websites with the info you need. If you lent them money, discuss how they will pay you back. Will you be deducting it from their salary, how much at a time and for how long, etc…?
I do suggest giving them an incentive scheme. You can devise your own. It can be as simple as telling them they’ll earn an extra X bonus if they stay for a year. A higher bonus on their 2nd year anniversary, and so on. It’s so difficult to keep maids nowadays. Most of them just want to work for one year and then go home para magpahinga. When they use up their savings, they’ll look for another job again, it becomes their cycle. If you have some sort of incentive for them to stay for at least a year, you’re kicking the can further down the road until you have to look for househelp again. It’s very rare now to find a maid staying with a family for decades. It’s very common now to hear people looking for new maids every year or every few years.
If they don’t have phones, we issue them phones (just the cheap ones with digital TV so they have entertainment), part of the perks, and if they stay X months, the phone is theirs after that time. The reason for this is so that we can call them while we are out, and so that they can call us if there are any emergencies. You can discuss with them the monthly load amount you will be giving them. If you are using Sun, just load one of those TU150 or TU200 promos for them every month.
If you are really happy with their work, you can devise a better incentive scheme for them to stay. You can tell them that if you are happy with their work, that every year, you’ll review how they did and that you will raise their salary by X amount, at least.
Of course, if you are not really happy with them, don’t incentivize them to stay. Don’t make the salary increase automatic. Unless you want someone who is staying for the high salary you are giving them, pero pinagtiyatiyagaan mo lang yung trabaho o yung ugali.
If I really like the maid and think she has potential, especially if she is interested in cooking, I send her to attend some cooking classes so she can learn to cook more dishes. In return, I ask her to stay another x months, depending on the cost of the class. This way, she stays with me longer, she learns new skills which will help her in the future, and she even has the opportunity to practice them.
On Bale / Utang / Advance
We’ve been burned so many times when we agreed to give bale / utang / advance that we just have a rule now: No Bale, No Utang. Advance is okay, but only after they’ve been with us for a while, and not for the whole salary. Max maybe 1/2 of the monthly salary lang. You set your own ground rules when it comes to this.
What you don’t want is for them to just use you to pay for their trip to Manila, na pineperahan ka lang. Sometimes we are so desperate that we agree to send money to the maids in the province so that they can buy a ticket to Manila + other transportation expenses. Sometimes we’re lucky, sometimes we’re not. Sometimes you never hear from the person again after sending the money. So if they need to take a plane to Manila, buy the ticket yourself and put it in their name. Try not to send more money than you need to. Be wise and check the bus fares online. Sometimes the maids arrive, but only stay for a week or a month before disappearing or resigning. Next thing you hear, they are working in a factory or a bakery in Manila, and all your attempts to get them to pay you back what they owe you is ignored. It just comes down to whether or not you are willing to take the risk. This is why it’s better to have a good referrer, so the referrer can track the scammer down and try to get your money back in case this happens.
So, if you have new maids demanding this and that bale, utang or advance, be wary. I’m sure they will tell you some sob story of how their family back home desperately needs the money. It’s up to you whether or not to believe them. You just don’t want them to take the advance, tell you they are going out to Palawan Express or M Lhuillier to send the money, and then never come back. My advice is, be upfront, tell them you don’t do bale or pautang, but you pay their salary on time. You can make exceptions if you really know their background and their story, and if you think they are trustworthy.
If they really insist on asking for an advance, don’t hire them. Kapal naman ng muks, di pa nga kinukuha, nagdedemand na ng advance?! E di huwag. Kakapal pa lalo mga muks niyan pagtagal. Just avoid.
Get their Bio-Data
Buy a Bio-Data form from the bookstore and have the maid fill it up. Take the maid’s picture on your cellphone. They usually don’t mind and are even happy to pose. If they seem hesitant to have their picture taken, take that as a red flag.
Take a picture of the filled-out bio-data form and send it together with their picture to a close friend or another family member who resides in a different household. This way, if anything happens, they have a picture and the information in case the maid is a suspect. Of course we all don’t want any situation like that, but it’s just prudent to have it. I also upload mine to a shared “Family” Dropbox folder as backup.
You probably need to get them their Barangay or Village ID or something as well, depending on where you live.
Keep a file of their info, kind of like an HR file, including the filled-out bio data form, and copies of other relevant stuff, like if they submitted an NBI clearance, etc… Also, you can make a record of their salaries, utang, etc… You can use folders, a plastic envelope, binders or accordion files for this, whatever you want.
Just like your first day at a new job, the new maid also needs some sort of orientation. Show her her room, her bed, pillows, blankets, cabinet, bathroom, towels, etc… In all likelihood, this is not what she is used to, so you might also need to teach her the basics on how to use them. We also give them their own set of plates, cups and utensils. I also give them a bath set to start, but once they use it up, they buy their own. I also expect them to keep their room and bathroom clean.
Also, tell them about saving water and electricity. Maybe to them in the province, water is free. Here, it’s not. Everything is expensive here. So we are asking na magmalasakit din sila and to turn off lights and appliances when not in use, and to not waste water.
I give the maid a tour of the house, introducing the rooms, telling where she can enter and where she cannot. We have a rule that they cannot enter any of our bedrooms unless specifically asked to.
I try to dedicate about a week to work with the new maid every day and show her how to do things my way. If I don’t do this and just let them work like bahala na sila alam na nila dapat ang gagawin nila, it does not end up well, and it’s more difficult now to teach them to do things the way I want them to.
How to use appliances: Often, even after teaching them once or twice, the maid will still forget much of what I taught. So, I make infographics like How to Use the Washing Machine, laminate it, and hang it near the washing machine. I keep it simple with short, clear instructions. No if-then-else scenarios there. LOL, people are telling me my house is ISO certified na daw, hahaha. I just want to make things as idiot-proof as possible. It’s not just for the maid, but also helpful for me in case I forget how to after months of not doing the laundry myself, and also for family members who might want to help with laundry when the maid is on vacation.
I’ve also learned that it’s best if I print out a chart of their weekly schedule. I used to think it was overkill, but as long as I don’t make it too detailed and overwhelming, they actually like seeing the guide because they know what they should be doing that day. I laminate this and hang it somewhere visible in the kitchen.
For the schedule, it’s something like this, but in weekly calendar form (in Tagalog if the maid is not good in English):
- Get clothes for laundry, sort, start the washing machine (automatic); for example, Monday is lights, Tuesday is darks, Wednesday is towels, etc…
- Water plants
- Wipe dust from furniture
- Sweep the floor
- Mop the floor
- Hang the laundered clothes to dry
- Help with cooking
- Cook rice
- Set the table
- Clear the table
- Take out the garbage
- Wash dishes, dry & put them back
- Wipe down kitchen counters + spot clean spills
- Chore of the day (clean CR, iron clothes, wash bedsheets, clean the refrigerator, deep-clean kitchen, etc… depends on the day)
- Get dry laundry and fold the clothes
- Help with cooking
- Cook rice
- Set the table
- Clear the table
- Wash dishes, dry & put them back
- Wipe down kitchen
- Sweep the kitchen & dining area (spot clean only in case there are crumbs or spills)
- Mop the kitchen & dining area (spot clean only in case there are crumbs or spills)
It looks like a lot of cleaning, but maintaining an already clean area is easier than doing a one-time big time cleaning exercise once a year. It also keeps pests away. It’s so difficult to remove gunk that’s already been there for a year!
FREEZER COOKING & PREPARED MEALS
So the maid you’ll end up with is probably not a good cook, unless you’re really lucky. So instead of trying to teach your maid to cook like Gordon Ramsay, just do meal prep freezer cooking as much as you can.
For our food, I try to do freezer cooking as much as I can on Sundays. I prepare all the food in ziploc bags and freeze. During weekdays, it’s all just thawing the dish to cook the night before, and either cook it in the oven, on the turbo broiler, or on the crock pot. You should be able to teach your maid how to do those.
When I have time (thank goodness for holidays), I cook triple or quadruple batches of dishes like caldereta, ground beef chili, meatloaf, etc… divide them into portions good for one family meal, and freeze. When it’s mealtime, all that needs to be done is to reheat it. You can store the frozen meals up to several months. Para hindi nakakasawa, I serve the caldereta, for example, every 2 weeks or once a month.
You can still do fresh cooking during the days when you have time, but at least you’ll always have something ready to cook or reheat in the freezer whenever you need it. I also do quick vegetable stir-fries on some days so we’ll still have something fresh. For example, I cook kangkong or pechay in garlic and oyster sauce or make a fresh tomato/salted egg/onion salad.
You can also have the maid fry marinated food you’ve already previously prepared like fried chicken or boneless bangus or meatballs or breaded fish fillets. You just have to teach her how to fry food the way you like them. I like them golden brown and delicious, crispy outside but still very juicy inside. Definitely not fried to death. I’ve found that when I just let them fry stuff without teaching them how, they end up frying the food until it’s as tasteless as fried cardboard. You have to teach her your frying techniques.
Know Where You Draw the Line
Our last maid was really okay work-wise. She’s quick to do what I ask, and she knows what to do without having to be told. A previous maid told us that this maid sometimes sneaked her boyfriend inside the house. But we didn’t have any proof, so we just warned her and we were already so careful to always lock the doors at night, etc… everything seemed okay until weeks later when we caught her boyfriend in her room.
Even knowing that we’ll be left with no maid, and in spite of her being a good maid work-wise, we still let her go because sneaking people into our house is just something we can’t tolerate. This, even after multiple warnings! This incident upset us so much we installed a CCTV.
Do Monthly Touchbase
When I heard this from one of my friends, I told her, sobrang corporate naman niyan! Back in my corporate days, we were required to do 1x1s and to me, it was just another drudgery to tick off from the checklist.
But I tried it with my maids and it works, with mild success. It’s nothing formal, I just ask the maids to sit with me face to face and ask them if they are okay, how is their family back home, etc… They tell me their latest tsismis. This way, I get to head off issues before they become big problems. This also gives them the opportunity to express themselves or make some small requests or changes, like, they want their day off changed to Saturday instead of Sunday just for this week or something like that because they have friends in town. It’s not going to solve major issues, especially if the maid is a very good liar, but it builds a relationship and adds a positive balance to your emotional bank account with them and improves daily work rapport.
Hope this helps those of you looking for house help! If you have any tips, please feel free to share in the comments.
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