Your guide to avoiding house help drama
Across the country, employers are constantly experiencing major character development in the hands of their domestic workers. The most recent case on May 9, which shocked many, was that of two house helps accused of stealing Sh32.7 million.
Other notable cases have been the reported loss of a wedding ring worth Sh141,000 and another of lost bangles and rings worth Sh500,000. Some domestic workers do not just steal valuables, some go as far as stealing basic items such as clothes, bath towels and foodstuffs.
Mr Richard Tuta, a security expert, explains that the cost of tracking a rogue house help many a times exceed the cost of the stolen items, which often discourages some employers from reporting such cases. This in turn motivates dishonest domestic workers to extend the vice from one employer to the next.
Mr Tuta and Elizabeth Gitau, founder of the Domestic Professionals Association of Kenya (DPAK), share useful tips on how employers can keep themselves safe from incidences of theft by domestic workers
For a start, its very important for employers to thoroughly vet their domestic workers at the beginning of the hiring process.
Mr Tuta says it is not enough to get personal details. It is critical to verify the details given to ensure they indeed match the potential employee. Its also highly recommended to find out their origin and their local home area.
“Most people tend to take things at face value. Desist from getting your house helps from posters on trees and buildings. Even as you contact a house help bureau, ensure you establish physical contact. Also, vet the bureau to establish whether they are licensed to operate the business, just in case something goes wrong,” he says.
In addition to that, Ms Gitau, insists that employers should assume some responsibility even while working with a hiring agency.
“Check and counter check who the person you are bringing to your home is key in ensuring the details given are correct. Be keen on their employment history and contact their referees,” she says.
Many times domestic workers quit without notice, leaving behind desperate employers. It is therefore important not to hire in a haste. Emphasis should be placed on the potential employee’s skills and experience.
“It may be true that older persons and women with children make better domestic helps. But the quality of a help will depend on the training and number of years he or she has worked, Ms Gitau explains.
Once hired, Ms Gitau recommends that the employer should take some time to get to know the domestic worker. This will help in understanding his or her value systems to determine whether he or she is a good fit for the job or not.
“It is easy to know dishonest people from their speech and their actions,” she notes. “Look out for cases of inconsistency and dishonesty especially, when it comes to small things.”
On the other hand, Mr Tuta recommends testing your domestic workers during the early days of employment to gauge their reaction.
“You can leave some money in an open area and see if it disappears,” he says, “If it does, then already that is a red flag that you should be cautious about.”
According to Mr Tuta, once you have realised that your help is a potential thief, part ways with him or her quickly without drama.
“Most people tend to threaten domestic workers who they have caught red handed with police arrests and this can be dangerous. Not only does it give them a reason to disappear with your items, it may also be trigger for them to harm you,” he says.
While CCTV cameras may be useful surveillance tools, they are however not a deterrent for theft. The best preventative measure is doing a thorough background search before hiring.
“Unless your CCTV camera relays information in real time and can alert you when the help with leaving with items, then it is not very helpful,” says Mr Tuta.
Lastly, it is important to treat domestic workers with respect. Abusing and denying them basic rights can trigger a counter reaction. If you treat them with decency, then you are likely to get the same respect in return.