Hiring Domestic Staff in India

In India hiring domestic staff is a common practice but this may be an unusual experience for employees who have relocated. In this post, Preeti Roongta looks at the topic in more detail.

It’s very common in India to have domestic helpers to assist you in your daily housekeeping tasks. Domestic helpers can be hired for practically everything – driving, cooking, cleaning, laundry, washing up, babysitting etc. You name it - India has skilled people for the task.

Domestic staff arrangements

When employing domestic staff in India, there is some flexibility based on the number of hours of work required each day:

  • Part-time staff: Usually hired on an hourly basis. 

  • Full-time staff: Usually available for 8-10 working hours in a day. Full-time domestic helpers do not reside at the employer's house.

  • Live-in staff: Live-in domestic helpers are available 24/7. They reside in the employer’s home. Apart from the salary, their employer provides their accommodation, food, and medical expenses.

Domestic staff hiring checklist

Hiring domestic help can be a difficult and worrying task for an expat employee but here is a checklist to assist when hiring domestic staff:

1. Background check

Domestic helpers are often people from economically disadvantaged sectors of Indian society. They may be transient or hard to pin down to a permanent location. It is important to carry out a background check before hiring anyone. Request a police verification for every domestic helper hired. In some areas, this is a legal requirement. Such checks can prove useful in avoiding the wrong staff and also in the event of any troublesome activity.

2. Address verification

Address verification is carried out at the same time as the police verification. It is essential to know the domestic helper's address, e.g. for pre-hire and post-termination correspondence, and as the first port of call in case of absence, disciplinary issues, or any misconduct. Address verification can help prevent any misdemeanours but also be useful in tracking down offenders as a verified address supports the police in any investigation.

3. Skill qualifications

How do expat employees ensure that the staff they are hiring are competent enough to carry on the tasks they are being hired for? Checking references from previous employers is usually a good way to gauge competence. The current trend in India is that previous employers (if expats) usually write a recommendation letter that helps the worker secure new employment. Specific tasks may need more verification; e.g. if hiring a driver then it's important to verify that the driver has a valid driving licence. Retaining a copy of the licence for records is recommended.

4. Hygiene and health check

As a domestic helper will be sharing the expat’s living space, it’s imperative to verify their hygiene and health record. Nobody wants to expose their family to a potential infection if a domestic helper is carrying any communicable disease. It is also a good idea to establish rules of conduct in the home, e.g. always washing hands with soap before handling any food items.

5. Bonus and other perks

In India, different regions follow different norms for providing bonuses to domestic helpers. Usually, bonuses are given around the festival of Diwali but in states like West Bengal and Orissa, they are given during the festival of Durga Puja. Expat employees need to be aware of the custom prevalent in the region. Such norms should be clearly communicated to the new hire, as well as other rules of employment, e.g. does their contract include a weekly day off; are they to be paid for transport? There should be no room for ambiguity or disagreement.

6. Proof of age

India bears an unfortunate stigma of child labour and the government has been known to come down heavily on those violating the rules governing this area. However, many people lie about their age in order to procure a job. Expats need to verify the age of the person they intend to hire. This can be done by asking the would-be employee to show some valid government identification – the Aadhaar card / PAN card are good options.

In the context of hiring help at home, it’s always better to be safe than sorry. Hiring a domestic helper in India is easy and convenient and many expat families have formed deep and lasting bonds with the domestic staff. Following these guidelines will help any expat employee have a similarly great experience.

Contact Shelley Lloyd or Stuart Beaty to find out how we can support you with any venture into India.

Source: Preeti Roongta