Our expert shares 3 reasons why your helper may want to quit and tips on how to resolve conflict
In this edition of Ask Mel, our domestic worker expert from Helpwise dishes on the main reasons behind why your domestic worker may quit. She also offers insight on how you can help resolve any potential problems or miscommunication and conflict.
Q: I hear a lot of helpers quit after just a few months with a new employer. Is there anything we do to avoid that?
Domestic workers are often too shy or apprehensive to tell their employers their real reason for quitting or not renewing contracts. To avoid upsetting or offending their employers as they part ways, they may even say they are quitting due to homesickness or family problems back home. This may be true in some cases, but we find that there are often underlying issues at play, even in the homes of the most well-intentioned and unsuspecting employers.
Employment agencies who spend hundreds of hours interviewing helpers, report that most domestic workers are likely to quit due to one of the following three reasons: 1) Limited rest and/or privacy, 2) Food frustrations, or 3) Feeling overworked but under appreciated.
The good news for employers is that these common reasons for quitting have solvable solutions. Even if you can’t offer your worker the most coveted working conditions, if you are able to anticipate potential hiccups and express your consideration for her, it eliminates the kinds of misunderstandings that can often lead to broken contracts.
Limited Rest or Privacy
Based on their employer’s needs and schedules, helpers often wake up early and go to bed late. Many find themselves without any defined start, break, and ending time of their day, which can become mentally and physically draining as the weeks and months tick by. The feeling of weariness may also be heightened if their resting space is in a shared or open area of the home.
Tip: Although some parts of your helper’s schedule will naturally be more busy, think about which part of the day you need her the least. If your worker isn’t getting much privacy or rest in the evening, consider giving her a specific time and place during the day where she can take a true alone break to recharge mentally and physically.
If she normally rooms with someone or sleeps in the living room, consider designating a room in the house where she can take a quiet mid-day break, and set a default “break time” for her to look forward to each day. A couple hours to rest or make phone calls in a room with a closed door can help to balance out the lack of privacy in the evenings.
Feeling Overworked (but under-appreciated)
Many kind-hearted helpers are drawn to homes where they can care for newborns, elderly, or multiple children; but along with the satisfaction of serving those households often comes the risk of early burnout. And if the majority of the communication they’re receiving is chore lists, schedule changes, and reminders to pick up the kids from piano or give grandma her medicine, you may miss the signs that they are contemplating a less demanding job.
Tip: Make time for regular check-in meetings with your worker, where you sit down for a few minutes together. This is a great chance to express appreciation (that can often go unsaid when life is busy), and set expectations for the coming week or month. These meetings can be as short as 10 minutes, but they will go a long way in making your helper feel valued and clued in.
Especially in busy households, pausing for a regular face-to-face chat can help diffuse offences, reduce misunderstandings, and provide time to update or advise your helper in a less hurried manner.
Since many employers elect to share food with their helpers, it can be tricky for the helper to know when, what, and how much food or leftovers she is allowed to eat. Hunger due to shyness, small portions, or being given foods they don’t prefer can silently eat away (no pun intended!) at otherwise healthy working relationships. And since it can be an awkward conversation to have with your boss (e.g. “Can you please give me larger portions” or “I don’t like the taste of the foods you eat”), some workers prefer to leave quietly rather than discuss it directly.
Tip: Consider offering your worker the food allowance. Most workers prefer this since it allows them to choose their own food and portion preferences; and, another huge bonus is that it benefits both parties by bringing a lot more clarity to your budgeting and meal times.
Read more: Food allowance vs. shared food
One of my favourite “being human” hacks is that most common frustrations and difficulties can be remedied through thoughtful communication! If we invest a bit of time and thought into managing this vital working and living relationship, we built trust for the future and multiply the chances that our helpers will want to continue working for us.