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Can't get the staff...

10th March 2017

Sofia Syed provides top tips for hiring household staff in an article written for Essence Magazines March issue.

Whilst technology may have made our lives easier, it seems it has, so far, made them no less busy.

Kids still need ferrying, houses cleaning, laundry washing, food cooking and stock replenishing. There remain the same number of hours in the day and let's face it - it's never enough.

We make choices on how much of our precious time we wish to spend on carrying out these basic jobs or how much we are prepared to contract out.

You may have the need to enlist the assistance of household staff; whether it may be a housekeeper, a nanny, butler, private chef, close protection/security, chauffeur or house manager. They are employed to wave their wand and make tiresome jobs disappear from sight, keeping you and your loved ones safe and free to spend time on things you would much rather wish to do.

However, whilst the chores may disappear from sight, this is not without a cost. I'm not talking just about the salaries that these individuals may command; but rather the cost of having staff living in your house. They are aware of your every movement, your family table talk, your every need and reaction, your food choices, your spending decisions as well as those of your friends, family and guests; they are a fountain of all knowledge about you. Whilst this may make them invaluable to you, so too might they be, to those who wish to get a glimpse inside your world. They are the gateway to the inner life of your private household.

The work environment for such staff is like no other. It is often difficult to manage a formal employment relationship with the staff members, given the private and personal working environment which depends upon a much greater level of intimacy than a formal office. This is further intensified when the staff are ‘live-in’; in which case their work and their personal lives are also intertwined with yours.

Given the level of intimacy, it is important to have provisions in place to secure a happy home working relationship. As we are fully aware, the tabloids seem to relish the idea of exposing reputable households for what they deem as 'mistreating' or 'overworking' their staff or divulging personal details about their private family affairs.

So what provisions have you put in place? Have you conducted thorough pre-employment checks and given consideration to the terms and conditions of your staff to ensure not just that they fall squarely within the law, but also protect your household? Are their roles clearly defined? If you have provided them with accommodation in any outbuildings or privately rented apartment, are you sure they will vacate after the role terminates? Are your staff managers trained to protect your reputation by ensuring proper treatment (no discrimination) and rotas for all staff to ensure adequate time off for the staff?

Top Tips

  1. Household staff will usually be deemed to be employees of the household and therefore usual legal provisions in relation to employment contracts and tax will apply;
  2. When hiring household staff, it pays to ensure rigorous checks are undertaken on the individuals. This includes not only a ‘Right to Work in the UK’ check, but also detailed reference checks and Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) criminal record checks. Where an employee will be caring for children or vulnerable adults, an enhanced DBS check will be required. If you use a reputable recruitment agency – they will often carry out a number of these checks for you.
  3. Ensure you are clear what you are looking for. Carry out a thorough interview process; this could include observing how they work in the household or engage with the children. Mutual trust, confidence and compatibility are critical to the relationship. Use the opportunity to explain the details of the role and ensure both parties are on board before proceeding.
  4. Ensure you have the agreed details set out in a Contract of Employment for each staff member. This should be provided within two months of their start date. Whilst a basic statement may be provided by the recruitment agency, it is unlikely to cover full details regarding confidentiality, intellectual property, accommodation and security which would provide greater protection for your family needs. Sometimes additional agreements are required to provide fuller protection. Each contract and supplementary agreement is based on your specific needs and tailored to the roles, as every family and role is different.
  5. Investing some time at the start of the relationship, can provide you with the best chance of a longer lasting and loyal relationship; it can also relieve the stress when the relationship comes to an end.

There are specialist recruitment agencies who take time to understand the needs of individual families and ensure they forward shortlisted suitable candidates to reduce time. We work with a number of these agencies to provide an after care service with contracts individually tailored to provide maximum protection to the client, confidentiality or other supplementary agreements and on-going HR support to your house managers or personal assistants. This is invaluable to protect you from an employment claim where perhaps your house managers have not had experience of managing staff in the past.

We also provide specialist household staff HR management training sessions and are able to coordinate all your staffing requirements from recruitment to contracts and payroll. We work closely with specialist providers to provide a seamless comprehensive service. Please feel free to contact us for more information.

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