Household factors to consider when hiring a foreign domestic helper (maid)

Published on 7 Dec 2023, last updated on 2 Feb 2024

Hiring a worker for a household, especially for first-time employers of domestic helpers, may feel like uncharted territory. Hiring domestic workers starts with understanding your primary and secondary household needs and building up a job description.

Beyond that, like a company hiring employees that might need to consider company culture, organisational structure and the unique company factors that may affect a hiring decision, there are also household factors to consider for employers of domestic workers.

Some of the factors below may not initially come to mind for employers, but we’ve observed that they can make an impact on placement success.


No. of supervisors and management styles

One primary supervisorTwo primary supervisorsTwo (husband/wife) supervisiors with live-in parents/siblings
  • Will there be 1 primary supervisor, two primary supervisors (husband and wife) or more (live-in parents/aunts)?
  • For the primary supervisors, do they have similar or conflicting management styles?

For households with multiple supervisors, it is recommended that all supervisors align on the worker’s schedule beforehand so that the worker does not receive conflicting instructions. It is also important for the worker to know the primary person she should approach when requiring feedback or discussing employment terms and conditions to prevent confusion.


Mobility requirement

No travel requirementEmployers sometimes travel with workers abroadEmployers travels with worker abroad and worker is required to travel daily to another house
  • Does your household travel often (weekly, bimonthly, monthly)?
  • Is your worker required to travel to another person’s house (usually your parents’ household) during the day to care for your children?
  • Is your worker required to travel with you and your family abroad or to another state or country from time-to-time?

It is important to be conscious of this requirement and share it with any prospective worker in detail as some workers may not be comfortable travelling often due to personal preferences or experiences with motion sickness. In addition, if your worker is required to travel often, it is important to be extra thoughtful on how her job scope and schedule is arranged, and to carve out time for the worker to rest after travel before being assigned additional work.


No. of existing co-workers

No co-worker/ co-workers with isolated duties One co-worker (same nationality)/ overlapping dutiesOne or more co-workers/ different nationality/ no clear boundaries between responsibilities
  • Will your worker be working with other co-workers? Are the other workers of the same nationality?
  • How would the roles and responsibilities between co-workers be divided and defined?
  • How would you handle miscommunication/conflict between the co-workers

If you are hiring more than one domestic worker, we would usually recommend hiring workers of the same nationality for ease of communication. In addition to that, it is important to be thoughtful and clear about the division of labour and responsibilities such that the co-workers are able to work as a team. When there are perceived misunderstandings or conflicts among co-workers, it is advisable for employers to intervene and address the issues to resolve the conflict.


Size of residence

Condominium/small terraceAverage landed property/bigger condominiumLarge landed property (bungalow with huge compound, swimming pool)
  • What is the size of your residence? Do you live in a condominium, average-sized landed property or a large property/bungalow/mansion with a big compound/garden/potential swimming pool?
  • How many bathrooms and bedrooms do you have in the household?
  • What do you envision the worker’s daily cleaning routine to look like?

If you live in an extremely large residence, it is recommended that you consider whether the housekeeping responsibilities can be managed by one domestic helper and whether you would need to hire an additional worker or engage in part-time Malaysian local services to complement your foreign domestic helper’s service.


Routine type

Fixed routine with predictable, stable daily tasks Fixed routine with some ad hoc tasksGenerally no routine/schedule and worker is expected to manage her own time with ad hoc tasks
  • Would your worker be provided with a clear schedule for her to refer to for daily, weekly and monthly/seasonal tasks?
  • Would the worker be expected to perform a lot of adhoc tasks daily? What could potentially be some adhoc tasks assigned to her?
  • Would she be given a basic standard schedule?

Depending on the routine type of your household, you would need to be thoughtful in managing your helper’s daily tasks. If your worker has a basic schedule, but is often required to perform ad-hoc tasks throughout her working day, there may be days she will not be able to complete her routine tasks due to the ad hoc tasks that are assigned to her. First-time domestic helpers may also require some time to adapt as they learn how to balance their routine and ad hoc tasks simultaneously through effective time management.

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