Domestic workers are integral to many of our homes, but are you making sure the person who keeps the wheels of the house turning while you’re at work is being treated fairly? Here are some ways that you can make a difference in their life.
- The small details count
If you think about how great it is to have small perks at your work, the same holds true for your domestic worker. Tiny details can make a big difference, such as sharing your home Wi-Fi password so that they listen to music on their phone while working. If your domestic worker doesn’t live in your home, give them a place where they can rest or freshen up after they’re done with house chores.
“Many domestic workers live lives that are more challenging than most of us could ever imagine, so think of things you can do to make their life easier,” says Aisha Pandor, CEO of SweepSouth an online home cleaning and maintenance service platform that connects people with trusted domestic professionals in Kenya. For instance, if you have a live out house help and your home is far from your matatu stage, offer to pick them up from their drop-off to the house. It’s an empathetic gesture that saves them time and more so, energy, says Aisha
- Create a relationship
How much do you know about the individual who – very often – is at the heart of your household? A social and economic power imbalance already exists between you and your domestic worker, so make a real effort to bridge it. Ask about their life, family and what keeps them awake and worrying at night. A great way to build a positive relationship is by recognising areas they excel in and giving positive feedback on work done well.
Upskill your domestic worker if you can, with a cooking course, driving lessons or a course in first-aid. Learning a new skill is not only empowering, it helps her become more employable should anything happen to affect their employment status with you. If you can’t afford to pay for a course, pay it back by giving your domestic worker an hour in their working day with you to do a free course, and assist them with online registration..Another lovely gesture is to give any points or credits you’ve accumulated from retailers to help them cut costs of some of their regular expenses.
- Are they safe in your home?
Domestic workers are often alone at your home during the day, shouldering a lot of responsibility to keep the property safe and protect any children or pets left in their care. Have regular talks about safety and security protocols so that they know exactly what to do in case of an emergency, or who to call – such as a family member, the police, or an ambulance service.
Always inform your domestic worker about any contractors coming to work on your premises during the day and give caution to never open the door for strangers, regardless of the story they give. The media is full of reports of criminals conning their way into homes then assaulting domestic workers before ransacking the house. Take every safety precaution you can – your domestic worker also has a family to safely return to at the end of the day.
- Make sure that what you pay is fair
Domestic workers are some of the most vulnerable members of the labour system, says Aisha. “Each year we conduct research into the living and work conditions of domestic workers, and our last report shows that 73% of the women we polled in Kenya are the main breadwinners in the house, 74% are single parents, and on average, support three dependants. They are often trapped in a cycle of poverty, struggling just to make ends meet and put food on the table, so it’s heart-breaking that many of them are still being exploited in terms of long work hours and poor pay. Make sure that you pay a good wage for good work.”
There are many ways, big and small, in which you can make a difference in your domestic worker’s life, adds Aisha. “Small acts of kindness, some of which are incredibly easy to do, can make a huge difference.”