This article originally appeared on ValuePenguin

Singaporeans lead extremely busy lives, and with the steady increase of women entering the workforce, the amount of time left to take care of young children or elderly relatives is decreasing. To alleviate this problem, many have turned to domestic helpers. However, with the sheer number of domestic helpers to choose from, it can be difficult to find a foreign domestic helper that will be a productive and loyal employee. Below, we discuss some tips to help you through your domestic worker hiring process.

Knowing what you want from your domestic worker

Before you start looking for and interviewing domestic workers, you should sit down with your family and write a list of things you want from your future helper. We recommend focusing on the most important aspects of why you are hiring her and who will best match your lifestyle. Do you need help with young kids or do you need help with an ailing elderly relative? What cultural background best matches yours? What chores are the most important to get done? The quickest way to become dissatisfied with your domestic helper is to expect her to be a jack-of-all-trades.

However, if you do want a domestic worker that is highly skilled in a variety of areas, you should expect to pay her a higher wage. After all, it is logical for more experienced employees to be paid a higher salary than junior employees. You should also keep in mind that you are not hiring a domestic worker to take over all of your life’s duties—you are hiring her to help you only with the most important chores. If you keep these things in mind, you will be able to set realistic expectations, which will create a better relationship between you and your future helper.

Word of mouth and direct hiring

Your closest friends and extended relatives who have experience with domestic helpers can be one of your greatest assets when looking for a helper. Since the process of hiring one can be complicated, having someone to guide you can simplify the process considerably. Because these people are familiar both with domestic helpers and with you, they may be able to recommend a few domestic workers that will suit you best. Additionally, they can help you maneuver a brand new employer/employee relationship by giving tips on handling unpredictable situations and suggesting effective training methods.

A direct hire is usually cheaper and much quicker to process than hiring a new domestic helper from overseas. When using the word of mouth method, you may also stumble upon people who are looking to hand their domestic worker off to someone else. If they are helping her look for a new employer and they recommend her, you will have the option of hiring her directly. By doing so, you can save on agency fees, transportation costs and training time. In return, you’ll get a domestic worker who has experience working in Singapore and is considered to be a good employee from someone you trust.

Finding the right agency

With hundreds of foreign domestic helper agencies in Singapore, finding a trustworthy agency that will provide you with adequate customer service and a good quality helper is a challenge. However, there are certain ways to make the search a little easier. For example, you can narrow your agency search by using the Ministry of Manpower’s (MOM) directory and filtering for agencies that have good retention rates, placement rates and transfer rates. A high retention rate and low transfer rate translate to high levels of satisfaction with the domestic workers. Similarly, it’s generally advisable to select an agency that doesn’t have any demerit points.

You should also keep an eye out for places that the MOM has shut down or is keeping under surveillance because this means that the agency may have conducted illegal activity. Also, reading forums about people’s experiences with agencies can help you get a better picture of what to look out for when you are interacting with one. Some people may tout certain agencies as being great, whereas others discuss red flags to look out for such as shady practices, hidden fees or domestic workers who are poorly trained and treated. Following this process can help you narrow your search to reputable companies, which will lead to better quality domestic helpers.

Shop for domestic helper insurance online

Instead of purchasing a domestic helper insurance policy directly from your agent, you should try comparison-shopping for a better policy online. Since domestic help agencies work on commission, they are incentivised to sell you expensive policies regardless of how good their coverage is. In general, however, you can find much cheaper policies online that provide ample medical and accident insurance and also protect against theft, lawsuits, and will help cover termination, rehiring and repatriation costs. Purchasing insurance with great coverage will reduce the possibility of high out of pocket costs, and knowing you are protected from a variety of risks will make you feel more at ease with your domestic helper. This can result in a happier and calmer home environment, even in the event of unfortunate emergencies.

Considering Other Options

Hiring a full-time domestic worker in Singapore is costly and if you fear that you may not be able to afford a full-time live-in foreign domestic helper, there are other options you can consider. For instance, you can hire temporary or part-time help, focus on a particular chore you need to get done and hire accordingly (nanny, cleaner, dog-walker, etc.) or see if anyone in your network can lend a helping hand.

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