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What should I consider when hiring a co-worker for a domestic helper?

Common reasons for employers to consider hiring a second domestic helper or “co-worker” include:

  • increase in workload due to changes in household lifestyle, or
  • the addition of a new child or elderly parent in the home,
  • to fulfil a need for a specific specialisation such as cooking, childcare, elderly care. 

A co-worker may be able to provide extra relief in the home. But, keep in mind that hiring a second domestic helper will make a considerable difference to the dynamic of your household. Managing a co-worker domestic helper team has its own challenges. We would recommend employers to also consider alternatives such as hiring local part-time help, as well as hiring a second domestic helper. 

In the hiring process, employers will need to keep these points in mind: 

  • Financial requirement
    • Hiring two workers meaning the criteria for financial capacity will be double. To hire a domestic helper, you have to show that you are ‘financially capable’ of employing a domestic helper. This means having a minimum total income of $15,000 a month per domestic helper hired. 
  • Justification for second hire:
    • Employers will need to write a letter to the Immigration Department with reasons for hiring a second domestic helper along with the documents needed for processing a domestic helper visa. The letter should provide information on the household needs that the second domestic helper will separately fulfilling. 
  • Accommodation:
    • As domestic helpers are required to work at and live-in only the address stated in their employment contract, employers will need to ensure that both domestic helpers are provided with suitable accommodation.

How is a co-worker position different to an independent position?

Domestic helpers, especially those with more experience, usually prefer to work independently. The co-worker position tends to be somewhat less desirable. This is due to a variety of factors. The most common concerns are:

  • Accommodation and day-off arrangements: It is likely that co-workers will need to share a room and alternate their days-off. 
  • Getting along with the other domestic helper: Co-workers will be working and living closely and may not be effective communicators, especially when it comes to difficulties. 

The way employers manage co-workers is important to a successful working team. As a manager it is important that you:

  • Provide fair division of duties: This may be done by specialisation, quantity, or a rotating schedule. Make sure they know they can come to you for clarification.
  • Have a clear chain of command: Your team might be arranged so that the more experienced worker leads the team, or they may have very separate domains. Make it clear how you want to give instructions, feedback and receive questions or concerns.
  • Encourage healthy working-relationship: Help your team find ways to work well together and solve problems independently.

What should I look for in a co-worker candidate?

Co-workers will need to be team-players who will be willing to share responsibilities and be cooperative. When looking for suitable candidates, look at these qualities. It will be best if the personalities and qualities of the co-workers are complementary. For example, if your current employee is assertive, you may look for a candidate who is happy to take their direction. 

Have the working relationship in mind as you consider candidates. Personality mismatches can quickly wear on a team. You may want to also consider cultural and religious similarities and differences. 

Who should be involved in the hiring process?

With the above in mind, we would encourage employers to involve the domestic helper they are currently employing in the hiring process. Make sure to explain the gaps this second worker will be filling, how tasks will be divided, and address concerns such as accommodation and day-off arrangements. Ask the current employee for their preferences and concerns, so that you can have these in mind as you interview candidates. 

The current worker may have relatives or friends that they can recommend to be their co-worker. It could be an advantage because the two workers already know each other. However, depending on their relationship, it may be difficult to define professional boundaries as co-workers.

How can I resolve conflicts in a co-worker team? 

Even for the best co-worker teams, conflicts are natural. As a manager here are some tips for you to 

  • Get involved sooner than later
  • Listen to both sides 
  • Focus on behaviour and events, not on personalities
  • Develop a plan to define priorities & hold accountability 
  • Be accommodating 
  • Encourage your workers to be problem solvers 

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