Employing staff to work on your property is not a decision to be taken lightly – for many reasons, says Charnel Hattingh, Head of Marketing and Communications at Fidelity ADT.
The job description of a domestic helper can be immense, often involving the care of the elderly or children, housework and cooking.
Many moms and dads are working from home these days, but still need the help around the house to enable them to cope. Choosing reliable and loyal domestic helpers is essential to safeguarding your home and family, whether you are home or not.
One way of ensuring proper vetting is to hire staff through a reputable agency. Unfortunately, even references from family or friends is not fail-safe these days.
“In today’s busy world, most households need a domestic worker, be it an au pair, babysitter, house help, caregiver or gardener. And, very often, the desperation to get someone hired overshadows the crucial need to conduct proper background checks on these people,” Hattingh says.
“The end result can be disastrous with you perhaps discovering you have a thief or kidnapper under your roof around vulnerable family members, especially children. It is ignorant to neglect doing a background check on someone you want to hire to take care of your loved ones, pets and home.”
Hattingh adds that it is concerning how many homeowners live with complete strangers whose backgrounds they have no idea about – until it is too late.
“It is also our experience that domestic helpers with criminal histories rely on the fact that many employers do not do proper checks. Ignoring screening of domestic workers leaves your family and home vulnerable.”
The basic information you should get before hiring someone:
- Full names
- Residential address
- ID number/passport number
- References (as many as possible and visit the previous employers in person if you can)
- Certified copies of all ID documents
- ID photo
- Family details
- Next of kin
- Medical history
- Police clearance certificate/criminal record check
“Hiring help is a two-way street. Domestic workers have a responsibility towards homeowners and their property and homeowners have a responsibility towards the safety of their workers while they are on the property,” Hattingh says.
“It is, therefore, important to consider the factors that can make this type of relationship mutually beneficial for family and worker, and those that are red flags for potential problems.”
She adds that it is imperative that homeowners equip their staff with the knowledge and tools they need to protect themselves and those in their care.
Domestic staff are now eligible for workers’ compensation if they are injured on your property. This after the Constitutional Court ruled parts of the Compensation for Occupational Injuries and Diseases Act (COIDA) are unconstitutional.
According to the National Employers’ Labour Association (NELA), the amendment to the Act, yet to be promulgated, is retrospective, which means cases dating back to 2004 will be eligible for compensation.
NELA assistant general secretary Albert van der Merwe reiterates that the definition of “domestic worker” includes gardeners, nannies, caregivers and chauffeurs employed in private homes.
Hattingh believes the amendment to the Act calls for a new perspective on home security.
“We all need to wake up and prioritise safety and security as a personal responsibility when it comes to domestic staff.
This involves doing proper background checks before hiring and making sure your domestic helpers are safe while they carry out their duties and get the help they need in an emergency.”