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Things to note before you hire that home help

Things to note before you hire that home help

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Tunde Ajaja

Increasingly and for the obvious reasons, there are concerns about the risks inherent in hiring domestic staff.

From the shocking to the downright frightening, there are several examples of how some people, especially parents, who hired home helps end up in deep regrets, due to the actions and inactions of the person(s) they employed to help them with their domestic chores.

When discussing this issue, the sad case of the Orekoyas readily comes to mind. In the incident, which happened in Lagos in 2015, the family had hired a maid via a popular online medium. But barely 24 hours after she was employed, she kidnapped three of her employer’s children and disappeared.

With no clue as to the whereabouts of the maid, having just employed her from an online medium and with no guarantor or traceable address, the mother of the children quickly raised the alarm.

It was indeed a tragic moment for the family, because beyond the sorrow of not knowing the whereabouts of three of their children (aged six, four and 11 months respectively), the family was also requested to pay a ransom of N13m, which they did not have.

By the time the maid was found, it was discovered that the maid gave a fake name to her employer.

While that was quite disturbing, the story also went viral of a maid, identified as Asmau, who stole her employer’s two children in Ogere, Ogun State and took them to Lagos where she was using them to beg for alms. She had only been employed for four months when she disappeared with the children, aged six and seven respectively.

The list of such instances is endless. In fact, just a few days ago, a naval officer, Lieutenant Abubakar Yusuf, and his girlfriend, Lorraine Onye, were killed by Yusuf’s houseboy, Raphael Jaja. While the suspect, currently in police custody, strangled the girlfriend, he stabbed the naval officer and burnt his corpse to ashes.

Thus, given the apparent danger that could come with having domestic helps, these are tips on what people should bear in mind before hiring one:

Do a thorough background check: This is perhaps the first thing to do before hiring a domestic help. This does not only help to know the kind of person you are bringing into the house, given that most of them live in same house with their employer, it also helps to know what to expect, talking of their behaviour and tendencies. According to the Police Public Relations Officer, Lagos State Command, Chike Oti, carrying out a background check helps to authenticate whatever information such persons have supplied. Also, a seasoned security expert, Mr. Chigozie Ubani, said this could not be overemphasised and that people could take advantage of organisations that help in doing that. He said, “To look at it from the angle of safety and security, we have to do serious profiling; we need to do a background check of the persons we want to hire. I’m aware that certain organisations within our society have taken up the job of doing profiling for individuals. So, we need to do a check to know the background of who we need to hire.” In addition, the checks should reveal whether such persons have records of criminal, sexual or drug-related offences.

Pay attention to their guarantors: In some cases, people who are desperate to get a particular job go to the streets to get some well-dressed persons – sometimes for a token – to stand in for them and some employers fall for it. However, in cases where the maid to be hired is an unknown person, people are advised to make sure that the guarantors presented by such persons are credible persons with traceable addresses. This makes things easier in case the home help violates any of the terms of the contract. Thus, people are advised not to rush into hiring unknown persons, who also do not have credible guarantors. “The guarantors should be people who can easily track them if anything untoward happens,” Oti added.

Their physique could say something: While people’s physical appearance may not be a complete reflection of who they are, Ubani said it could also give a hint about such persons. He advised that if people know they can’t live with the personality they perceive the person to be, they shouldn’t bother so that such domestic staff don’t become bad influence to their children. He said, “Hairstyles, dressing and whether they have tattoos are all part of what to look at, but you don’t condemn people by the way they look because sometimes people just copy what they see some celebrities do. For me, when I see such, I don’t judge them 100 per cent, but it raises my flag that there is work to do on remoulding the person, just as when I see people with scars, I try to know the cause. If you can’t bear it, look for somebody who fits into your preference ab initio.”

Scrutinise the source if it’s from online: Perhaps the Orekoyas wouldn’t have run into trouble if they were aware of this. It was unlike what obtained in the past when people only relied on relatives recommended to them from the village. The Police PRO advised that in a season where many businesses are online, people who want to recruit domestic staff, including drivers, from online platforms should scrutinise the agency, company or individual that posts the advert on the online platform. He said, “Make sure it’s a registered company and that it is registered to carry out such business. So, being a registered company may not be enough. We are in information technology age, hence, anybody looking for a home help online must be very careful because some people, who are not even traceable, post and people start calling them. Also, Ubani said organisations and online platforms should be held responsible to a certain point and they should go beyond linking people together to also do profiling.

Ask salient questions: Sometimes, people get carried away or they are overwhelmed by the need to quickly get a home help that they forget to ask salient questions from their would-be home help, such as their previous employment; if they had ever been arrested or jailed, and if yes, what caused it; their parents; how much they want to be paid and their expectations, perhaps to avoid silent friction.

Be ready to treat them as human beings: It has almost become a norm for people to treat their domestic staff with disdain. This, according to the security consultant, Ubani, is one of the things that fuel some untoward experiences people have. He said, “While we are trying to make sure that families are on the safe side, we should also protect the rights of these people, which have been violated so much. Sometimes, they work day and night and even when everyone else goes to sleep, they don’t, and they almost work round the clock. In some cases, they are not even paid. They just endure and keep their hope of a better future alive. There is the need for us to look at the laws governing labour, remuneration and begin to see this as service that needs to be paid for. Some home helps feel undervalued and underappreciated, which makes some to do despicable things.” He stressed that people who are desirous of having a pleasant experience with their domestic staff must be prepared to show them some love and treat them with dignity. He added, “When you bring in someone into your family, it means that person is now part of the family. So, if there are morals that we have to give to our children, they should be part of it, else we or our children pay for their strange behaviour.”

Prepare an agreement: From findings, many people do not care about preparing an agreement to guide their dealings with their domestic staff, but experts have said it is a step that should be taken by intending employers. The agreement is expected to state the obligations, duties and limitations of both parties. Oti said, “If the person has breached the terms of the agreement or if the person presents a moral danger to your children, go back to the terms of such contract and feel free to terminate the contract. If it’s a criminal offence, report to the police.”

Never hire a minor as home help: No doubt, some people prefer to take as home helps minors, because they are seen as pliable and would not present much trouble like adults. But, according to the Child Rights Act 2003, especially Section 28 (d), 11 (d), 14, etc., it is illegal to hire a child as a home help. Thus, in order not to run afoul of the law and avoid troubles with the law enforcement agencies, people are always advised to spare children when it comes to domestic staff. The PPRO added, “The law is against having minors (persons below 18 years) as home help. Children have their rights, which must be respected. When they become adults, they can choose the kind of job they want to do.”

Never leave it all to home help: Parents are also advised never to bequeath the entire responsibility of running their homes to home helps, as this could have some implications over time.

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