Food arrangements for your foreign domestic helper (maid) in Malaysia
Published on 18 Dec 2023, last updated on 2 Feb 2024
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In addition to salary payments, an employer of a domestic helper is also required to provide workers with sufficient food. Employers can do this in one of two ways.
Pay a monthly food allowance, so that the helper can buy their own groceries. Though there is no set minimum food allowance by either the Malaysian government or source country embassies, Pinkcollar recommends the food allowance to be approximately 20% of the domestic helper salary; this works out to be RM300-RM360 per month.
Share your food, making sure to clearly communicate how the sharing will work. This option is what is usually preferred by employers but it is important to clearly discuss and communicate on how the food sharing will work. Many domestic workers experience hunger or even malnourishment, not because an employer is intentionally withholding food, but because the worker does not have a clear understanding of how the food sharing will work.
Regardless of which option you choose, these are some important considerations:
- Will the domestic helper’s work schedule give her time to cook separate meals for herself AND the employer’s family?
- If the domestic helper is sharing meals with the family, can she/does she like eating the same cuisine? For example, many Filipino workers are unable to handle the spicy food that Malaysians are accustomed to
- What exactly and what is the quantity of the food products that the helper can share? Is it just the meals that she cooks for the family or is she also able to eat the snacks/food items that are in the fridge or pantry? Some employers delineate this clearly through assigning a specific area in the fridge/ drawer in the kitchen for the helper’s food products
Good and proactive communication is especially important to establish clear, explicit guidelines about what helpers are allowed to eat. Since workers tend to be shy about bringing up that they are hungry/unable to eat the family’s typical food products, not being proactive about food arrangement runs the unfortunate and unnecessary risk of workers going hungry while working in households. When thinking through the arrangement, employers should ensure that workers know exactly how the meal sharing will work, including the when, where, what and how much.
Employers should take into account workers' food allergies or religious dietary restrictions. Demonstrating thoughtfulness by inquiring about workers’ food preferences and procuring those specific items can also go a long way in creating a contented work environment for workers.