How to Come up with a Watertight Agreement for your Domestic Worker


I know you have never envisioned yourself in a jail somewhere in Buruburu or Kilimani behind bars, with your kids left with a benevolent neighbor and your release details unknown. Imagine having a good day only for it to end badly opposite your house help squabbling like two-year-olds in front of the local chief or getting into a fight that will make you famous on the internet courtesy of nosy neighbors who own smartphones. Sounds far- fetched right? Well, unfortunately, it is not as unlikely as you think.

So many employers are increasingly finding themselves in precarious positions, and this is courtesy of one oversight in the hiring process. Granted, most of us are usually so careful as to their age, if they love the child and have the ability to follow instructions. Some want the ladies and sometimes, men that we have also come to know as domestic managers to have some formal education.

Once you have seen an Identification card or a battered, dog-eared copy, you just let them in your house until they decide to leave. This could be honorably, or they could run away at five o’clock in the morning, leaving your door ajar for anyone to walk in and make away with your newly bought electronics or worse yet butcher all of you.

On the other hand, some mischievous employers will keep skipping payments or just announce that they will not be there on the day that their helpers are supposed to go for their off days, thereby, inconveniencing their employees. Some employers withhold some rights such as that of communicating on the phone or sometimes even going out on their off days.

There are those, who after getting a formal notice to quit by an employee will adamantly refuse to pay their house help their dues and send them out of their (employers) home unceremoniously. It should be known that these days house helps have associations and they are in the process of coming up with organizations in every ward to push for their issues.

Miss Janet Kawera, a resident of Umoja in Nairobi, swears by a binding agreement between the employer and her house help. She was called at the chief’s place and found her house help in tears having told the chief of alleged horrific conditions at Kawera’s place. She had accused her employer of torture, being denied food, being beaten, overworked and underpaid and so on, all which was news to Kawera.

After exchanging words and getting nowhere, the chief ordered Kawera to pay the house help double and also in damages or else the case is forwarded over to the police who would then take her to court. Kawera did not have time for all these, and her neighbor who wanted to sleep had started calling, so she opted to pay and let the matter rest, but not without learning all about agreements for future use.

As we enjoy this year’s Labor Day that is, as usual, punctuated by purple clothing, workers showing off what they do best and COTU Secretary General Francis Atwoli’s   spirited and dramatic speeches, here are some tips to help you avoid getting into such predicaments.

Photo Courtesy of Doha News
  1. Job Description

The contract should lay down the job description of the house help, and that includes when she is expected to wake up and go to sleep. If she comes on a daily basis, it should also stipulate her reporting time and when she has to leave.  Her duties should also be included in the agreement and in case you have to increase them you can agree on the expected remuneration.

  1. Remuneration

Last year, the government issued a legal notice that made it illegal to pay your house help anything less than Ksh 10, 954 as their salary. This was an increase from Ksh 9 781 from the previous years and applies to employers of domestic workers in Nairobi and other towns.  Failure to pay this amount will land you in jail for three months or a fine of Ksh 50, 000or both. In a country where a majority of the people live on less than a dollar, this news was not met with any excitement.

In some households, some of the workers had to be given matching orders because their employers could not afford the amount. Faced with unemployment, some of the employers and their employees had to come up with some agreement to make thinks work for both parties. If yours is a similar case, you will have to put this in writing as well just in case either party decides to employ monkey tricks. It is also advisable to have a receipt book for when you pay her or if you use the mobile money you can obtain the statements every month as proof that you have been paying them every month.

  1. Heath Information

Some house helps suffer from chronic conditions such as high blood pressure, HIV/AIDS among others. In such cases, there should be a candid discussion of how to go about things whenever she is unwell.For HIV/AIDS, she should be willing to disclose her forcing her to may have some legal consequences. This is not to discriminate them but so that you can now how she can be helped whenever she is unwell. The law also requires that you pay her National Hospital Insurance Fund and unless otherwise agreed, you should also pay for her.

  1. Off days /Annual Leave

The legal notice issued two years go also stated that the domestic worker should also have two off days every week, and if they can’t have both of any of the days, it should also be put in writing. The days should be compensated at the rate of Ksh 527 per day.

  1. Termination

In the case of termination, either party should give a month’s notice to enable the other look for a replacement or another job. This should be clearly laid out and do not forget to include the extreme instances that will earn her immediate dismissal as well.

  1. Dressing

Some people do not have any problems with how their domestic workers dress but in some households, there are certain dress codes that the employees have to follow. These could be because of religious or morality reasons. In such cases, both parties should also discuss candidly and come to a common agreement.

Agreements may change according, to the every home but the above remain the main issues to be addressed. You should also run it by a legal expert to ensure that there are no legal loopholes that may come back to haunt you later.

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