For most people considering moving to Delhi, the idea of having domestic staff is highly appealing. The very thought of no longer having to make beds, cook, dust, wash dishes and do laundry may sound like heaven. If one adds the possibility of hiring reliable nannies and securing affordable childcare for those with children, it becomes irresistible. This extra domestic help also allows expats to have more time to take up new hobbies or enjoy leisure activities.

From the moment of arrival in Delhi, expats will be given advice on hiring and finding household staff. Unemployed workers may come to an expat's door with dog-eared letters of recommendation from long-departed, but still well-loved, families in their past. The estate agent, relocation company, telephone engineer and more or less everyone an expat meets will have some advice regarding domestic help; it is a confusing start to a new country and certainly an element of culture shock.

Tips for finding and managing domestic staff in Delhi

Before hiring, do full reference checks

Newly arrived expats should regard anyone simply coming to their door with the same due caution that they would in any major city. This includes doing full reference checks. Going door-to-door is the hardest way to find a job and often a last-ditch effort for those who have found the doors of the community closed against them for prior behaviour.

Many of the letters handed over will not represent the entire story of their time with previous families. Some may be forgeries, so do not take these references at face value. Always contact the former employer for a full and candid reference. There are also several domestic staff training and placement agencies in Delhi that expats can go through to hire domestic help.

Research the market norms

There is limited government regulation for the domestic staff sector. Expats considering employing household staff should refer to the legislative act on domestic workers which concerns registration, social security and welfare.

Employers should also take guidance from market norms. Word of mouth is an easy way to get information on this. 

Domestic staff may prefer to live in quarters (attached to one's apartment or home) and many could expect to have all living costs covered, along with a full salary. The salaries of domestic workers have unfortunately been shockingly low, and expats who can afford to should arrange a reasonable and liveable wage for their staff. Domestic workers are normally entitled to 15 days of paid annual leave and enough rest between shifts, and this can be discussed at the outset of the relationship.

Managing household staff

Be clear about duties and expectations – consider creating a contract complete with salary, benefits, time off, duties, etc. Set objectives and expectations, and monitor their capacity for tasks. Create personnel files on all staff members including a photo, full name, residential address and mobile number.

Treat staff respectfully and as professionals – it's not essential to get over-friendly or too involved in their family matters. For staff living on the premises, set boundaries and be clear about how they should conduct themselves. Consider drawing up a code of conduct.

Take nothing for granted – even if hiring English-speaking staff with experience in other expat homes, make sure that they are shown how to go about performing their duties.