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Hiring a Housekeeper

Why Hire a Housekeeper?

There are many reasons to hire a housekeeper.  A brief list of some of the most common reasons are provided below.

  1. You're busy.  You work a full-time (and then some) job.  Or, you are a "stay-at-home" mom who never is at home because she has four very active children.  By hiring a housekeeper, you delegate housekeeping to someone else so that you can focus on tasks more central to your life (i.e., quality time with your family, earning a living, etc.)
  2. You don't enjoy housekeeping.  By hiring a housekeeper, you can delegate housekeeping to someone else and then focus on tasks that you enjoy more.
  3. You don't think you keep house well.  By hiring a housekeeper, and managing her effectively, you can ensure that your house is clean.
  4. You have a special circumstance.  If your basement has flooded, you have a large dinner party upcoming, etc, you may hire a temporary housekeeper to clean your house as a result of or in preparation for your special circumstance.
  5. You have surfaces that require specific cleaning equipment to clean them.  If your home has surfaces that must be cleaned with specific equipment that you don't own, then hiring a housekeeper to clean those surfaces periodically can make financial sense (as compared to the expense of purchasing and maintaining the required cleaning equipment).
  6. You do not have the physical ability to clean your home.  Perhaps you are ill and/or elderly and cannot perform the physically-demanding tasks associated with housekeeping.  By hiring a housekeeper, you can live independently in your own clean home.

In the ultimate analysis, having a housekeeper minimizes your time-related stress, allows you the comfort of having a beautifully clean home, permits more quality time doing what you love with the people you love, may facilitate your independent living, and may even save you money.  In sum, hiring a housekeeper gives you peace of mind.

 


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Background Checking Housekeeping Candidates

When you hire a housekeeper, you are entrusting a stranger with your house and all your assets.  How do you know you're hiring someone worthy of that trust? 

There are a number of steps you can take to ensure that your trust is well placed:  a thorough screening of resumes/applications, a thorough interview, and, of course, thorough background checks.  Which background checks?  Read on.

Reference checks – This background check involves contacting the candidates' personal and professional references as well as each of their prior employers to determine whether they are a good candidate for your housekeeping position.

Credit checks – This involves checking the credit history of your candidates.  This is important if your housekeeper will have unsupervised access to your home and assets.  Checking a credit history requires the signed consent of the person whose credit history is to be reviewed.  Consent forms can be obtained from the credit reporting agency that you use.

Criminal background checks – This involves checking the county and state records in each county and state in which your housekeeper have lived to determine if there are criminal records on file about your candidates.  Checking a criminal history may require signed consent and can be very time consuming if the housekeepers have lived in a large number of counties or states.

Department of Health and Human Services records checks – This involves checking the Child Protective Services and (Vulnerable) Adult Protective Services records from your state's Department of Health and Human Services.  This is important if your housekeeper will have unsupervised access to your children or to vulnerable adults in your home (i.e., your elderly and incapacitated mother who lives with you).  Checking these records requires the signed consent of the person whose record is to be reviewed.  Consent forms can be obtained from the Department of Health and Human Services in your area.

Drug tests – This involves testing your candidates for current and prior use of illegal drugs.  The healthcare provider of your choice can guide you through this process.

Work eligibility – This involves the proper completion of the federal Form I-9 on the housekeeper's first day of employment.  You, as an employer, are required to have a completed Form I-9 on any employee you have.  A copy of this form can be downloaded from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services website (http://www.uscis.gov/portal/site/uscis).

This may seem like a complex web of background checks.  We at www.Care4hire.com are here to help.  We can assist you in performing these background checks. 

By performing each of these background checks, you can be assured that you have done your very best to ensure that the housekeepers you hire will live up to your expectations and be worthy of your trust.


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Housekeeping Job Responsibilities

Housekeeping job responsibilities vary from job to job.  In some households,  just one or two areas are to be cleaned by you; in some households, the cleaning of the entire house will be your responsibility.  Some housekeeping jobs are "specialist" positions (i.e., you are only responsible for a specific range of tasks, regardless of the areas in which they are to occur), whereas other housekeeping jobs are "generalist" positions (i.e., you are responsible for all house cleaning tasks, regardless of the areas in which they are to occur). 

  • Common housekeeping tasks include:
  • vacuuming
  • mopping
  • sweeping
  • washing dishes
  • doing laundry
  • making beds
  • dusting
  • cleaning kitchens and bathrooms
  • putting salt pellets in the water softener
  • cleaning windows (some housekeepers charge extra for this task)

It is wise to ask for a completed and signed housekeeping contract before your employment begins.  A proper housekeeping contract specifies what tasks you are responsible for and what areas you are to clean.  By having a housekeeping contract completed and signed before your employment begins, you can prevent a host of subsequent difficulties over what was/was not agreed to at the time of the inception of services. 
 


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Pay Rates for Housekeepers

It is customary for homeowners to have in-home estimates from prospective housekeepers/agencies: when the housekeepers/agencies are allowed to come into the home, they can assess each unique situation and quote charges accordingly. The cost of housekeeping services can be based on many factors, a brief list of which follows.

  • Community in which the housekeeping services are rendered (In an urban, coastal community, the housekeeping charge will be, on average, about $15.30 per hour. In a rural Midwestern community, the housekeeping charge will be, on average, about $9.06 per hour.) (Source: the U.S. Bureau of Labor statistics)
  • Size of the home (number of bedrooms and bathrooms or the number of square feet) or the size of the area to be cleaned (if not the whole home)
  • Frequency of cleaning (daily, weekly, monthly, etc.)
  • Thoroughness of cleaning ("once over lightly" or passing the white glove test)
  • Number of people and pets in the household and the scope of the messes they tend to make
  • Breeds of pets in the home and any risks associated (i.e., the big dog bites)
  • Obstacles and difficulties (i.e., large, heavy furniture that must be moved for weekly vacuuming; expensive, fragile decorations that a housekeeper would need to be extra careful with; or a wide variety of surfaces to be cleaned)
  • Responsibility for the provision of cleaning supplies (i.e., Is it the homeowner or the housekeeper/agency that is to provide the vacuum, mop, cleansers, etc.; and if the housekeeper/agency is responsible, what are the homeowners preferences or prohibitions on cleaning supplies?)
  • Special requirements (i.e., cleaning windows)
  • Level of experience of the housekeeper
  • Number of people cleaning the home (an individual or team)
  • Pay by the job or by the hour

To determine what housekeeping charges are reasonable in your specific area, you should ask others who are similarly situated in your specific area. These people can be a valuable resource for information on the market rate for housekeeping charges in your area.

Once you have the market rate established for your specific area, and you have the in-home estimate in hand, you can begin the negotiation process, which should result in a finalized agreement on housekeeping service provision for a given charge.
 


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The Different Types of Housekeepers/Housekeeping Positions

There are different types of housekeepers/housekeeping positions. Below are the factors that distinguish the various types.

Housekeepers can be employees, independent contractors, or employees of a housekeeping agency.

A housekeeping employee works directly for the owner of the space or items to be cleaned. Housekeepers are paid via payroll (a wage or a salary). Payroll taxes are withheld from the housekeeping employee's gross pay. The employer may be required to have worker's compensation insurance on the employee, and other requirements may apply as well, depending on the state in which the housekeeping services are rendered. As an employee, the housekeeper does not need to carry liabiity insurance for any damage that she causes while working, and she does not get to set her own work schedule (the employer generally sets the employee's work schedule).

An independent contractor housekeeper works directly for the owner of the space or items to be cleaned, but does so as a contractor, not as an employee. The housekeeping contractor typically makes housekeeping services available to a variety of clients, may engage in advertising to solicit business, and bills her clients (typically monthly) for services rendered (thus, the housekeeper is paid via accounts payable rather than payroll). The housekeeping contractor does not have taxes withheld from her pay, does not have employer-provided worker's compensation insurance, etc. As an independent contractor, the housekeeper needs to carry liabiity insurance for any damage that she causes while working, and she gets to set her own work schedule.

A housekeeper who provides housekeeping services through a housekeeping agency does not work directly for the owner of the space or items to be cleaned. A housekeeping agency is an organization that employs housekeepers to clean the homes and offices of others. Payroll taxes are withheld from the housekeeping employee's gross pay (usually a wage, not a salary), which is paid by the housekeeping agency. The owner of the space or items to be cleaned pays bills (usually monthly) to the housekeeping agency to cover the agency's expenses and profit margin associated with that housekeeping job. The housekeeping agency (not the space/items owner) may be required to have worker's compensation insurance on the housekeeper, and other requirements may apply as well, depending on the state in which the housekeeping services are rendered. The housekeeping agency (as opposed to the housekeeper herself) needs to carry liabiity insurance for any damage that she causes while working, and the housekeeper does not get to set her own work schedule (the employer generally sets the employee's work schedule).

Housekeepers can work solo or as part of a team.

A solo housekeeper cleans houses on her own. She may be responsible for all tasks associated with house cleaning (dusting, vacuuming, doing the laundry, etc.).

A team housekeeper works as part of a team that cleans houses. Some team housekeepers are specialists (i.e., they perform only certain cleaning tasks) while other team housekeepers are generalists (i.e., they can perform and / all cleaning tasks).

Housekeepers can be live-in or live-out.

A live-in housekeeper lives in the home that she is paid to clean. A live-in housekeeper normally cleans the house daily, does laundry, and cleans up after all meals. Often, a housekeeper will be responsible for preparing meals as well. A live-in housekeeper will typically receive a salary plus free room and board.

A live-out housekeeper, which is far more common than a live-in housekeeper, lives in her own home and commutes to / from the home that she is paid to clean. A live-out housekeeper normally cleans the house daily or weekly. She may also do laundry, prepare meals, etc. A live-out housekeeper does not get free room and board, and she is paid an hourly wage (as opposed to a salary).

Housekeepers can work full-time or part-time.

Full-time housekeepers work an average of 40 or more hours per week.

Part-time housekeepers work an average of 25 or fewer hours per week.

Housekeepers who work 26 - 39 hours per week may be classified as either full-time or part-time, depending in part on the laws of the state in which the housekeeping services are rendered.
 


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Housekeeping Contracts

You are hiring a housekeeper. If you hire her through a housekeeping agency, the agency will provide their own contract. However, if you hire a housekeeper directly (rather than through an agency), you are well advised to write your own contract. Following is a list of the subjects your housekeeping contract should cover.

  • What housekeeping services are to be provided
  • Where the housekeeping services are to be provided (i.e., your home address . . . and any specific rooms or areas, if less than the whole house is to be cleaned)
  • How often and when housekeeping services are to be provided
  • The charges for the provision of the housekeeping services
  • The billing cycle (i.e., billing by the calendar month, and due by the 10th of the following month) and payment terms (i.e., "net 30") OR the payroll cycle (i.e., semi-monthly payroll with paydates on the 1st and 15th of each month)
  • The applicable employment benefits (i.e., paid vacation and sick time, health insurance, worker's compensation insurance, unemployment compensation insurance, retirement savings, etc.)
  • Which cleaning supplies are to be provided by the housekeeper (ensure that you list any supply preferences or restrictions that you may have)
  •  The length and significance of the introductory period
  • The frequency of periodic evaluations after successful completion of the introductory period
  • The cancellation policy (i.e., how much notice should be given, is a substitute housekeeper acceptable, etc.)
  • The property loss and damage policy (i.e., how missing or damaged property is to be handled) (Note: this includes your exterior house key, which you may provide to your housekeeper so that she can clean your house in your absence. You may wish to specify that if she loses your exterior house key, she is reponsible for the cost of having your exterior door locks re-keyed.)
  • The pet policy (i.e., Will the pets be in their taxis prior to the housekeeper's arrival? Will the pets be allowed to free roam during the housekeeper's visits? Should the housekeeper shut the pets behind a specific closed door when she arrives each time?)
  • The requirement that the housekeeper remain bonded and maintain liability insurance.
  • What assets, if any, the housekeeper may use for her own personal purposes (i.e, May the housekeeper use your telephone to place or receive personal telephone calls? May she use your microwave to warm her lunches daily?)
  • The period of time covered by the contract
  • The terms under which the contract can be ended prior to the scheduled contract completion date

 


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Housekeeper Interview Questions

As you prepare to interview prospective housekeepers, you should craft a list of questions to ask each candidate. A sample list of questions is provided below.

  • How long have you been cleaning houses professionally?
  • How many houses are you currently responsible for cleaning?
  • Do you have a list of references or letters of recommendation from your former or current clients? If so, may I have a copy of that list/those letters?
  • Please tell me about your favorite housekeeping experience to date. What made that experience meaningful to you?
  • Please tell me about your worst housekeeping experience to date. What made that experience so difficult for you?
  • What do you like most about being a housekeeper?
  • What do you like least about being a housekeeper?
  • What services do you provide when cleaning? (i.e., Do you clean windows? etc.)
  • Do you clean independently or as part of a team? (Note: if your candidate works as part of a team, you will want to interview the other team members as well.)
  • What are your charges? Do any of your services cost extra?
  • Are you able to do everything needed to clean my home?
  • What is your schedule availability? Would you be able to clean my house ___daily/weekly/etc.____?
  • What cleaning supplies do you provide?
  • What cleaning supplies do you expect me to provide?
  • Have you ever cleaned a house of this size before? (If there are other distinguishing factors about your home, ask about that as well.)
  • I have ___pets____. Is that a problem for you?
  • Do you carry liability insurance for any damage that may occur while you are working?
  • Are you bonded?
  • Have you ever been convicted of or plead guilty or no contest to a felony or work-related misdemeanor? (Note: emphasize that an affirmative answer is not necessarily a bar to employment as criminal history will be evaluated with regard to its severity, recency, and job-relevancy.)
  • Are you legally able to work in the United States?
  • Would you be willing to sign papers allowing me to perform background checks on you?
  • Why are you the best candidate for this job?

By asking these questions, you gather information that you will need to choose the best housekeeper for you. After all, you will be selecting a stranger who will come into your home and have unsupervised access to your assets . . . that responsibility is not to be taken lightly.
 


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Managing and Evaluating your Housekeeper or Housekeeping Service

You have chosen to hire a housekeeper or a housekeeping agency. You should have a contract in place that specifies what work is to be done, where the work is to be done, how often the work is to be done, what charges may apply, etc.

Ideally, the contract will specify that there will be an introductory period of two to four weeks in which both you and your new housekeeper/housekeeping service are learning each other's expectations and making adjustments as needed.

At the conclusion of the introductory period, have a scheduled meeting with your new housekeeper/housekeeping service. Discuss what is working well and what is not working well, share suggestions, ask questions, etc. Decide if the working relationship is acceptable to both parties: if so, continue the working arrangement; if not, end the working arrangement in favor of finding a better fit elsewhere.

If you decided to continue the working relationship, schedule periodic meetings to ensure that good communication is occurring throughout your working relationship. That way, as issues arise, you each have the opportunity to discuss them rather than let them fester.

Both during and after the introductory period, remember a few rules of housekeeping etiquette: be flexible (not everyone will do every task the exact same way you do it . . . as long as the end result is the same and your cost is not affected, let your housekeeper/housekeeping service work as she/they wish); temporarily remove any expensive, fragile items prior to your housekeeper's/housekeeping service's visits to prevent your housekeeper/housekeeping service from having to be extra careful around them; inform your housekeeper/housekeeping service of any peculiarities in your home (i.e., the table leg is broken, so the table should not be moved or bumped during cleaning); praise the housekeeper/housekeeping service for jobs well done; politely redirect the housekeeper/housekeeping service for jobs that are not performed to your expectations; and consider gift or bonus giving on appropriate occasions (i.e., Christmas).

By taking these steps, you should be able to manage and evaluate effectively your housekeeper/housekeeping service.
 


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