Sunday, July 01, 2012

So you want to hire a nanny.

We are still in the process of hiring a live-in nanny/housekeeper. I guess I need to figure out which job title to use. For our purposes, I think "housekeeper" will be best, since we anticipate her focusing more on household stuff than kid stuff. I find that a lot of women here refer to their live-in household employees as "helpers." Whatever she is - nanny, housekeeper, helper, maid, or servant (as the UAE residence visa so tactfully labels her) - she is not here yet.

Because deciding you want to hire a live-in housekeeper and actually doing it are two very different things. There are so many little decisions that must be made before you can move forward with the process. For example, when choosing a housekeeper, which home country do you prefer? You can choose from Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Indonesia, Philippines, or Sri Lanka. Any other nationality will require a lot of luck and paperwork to get approved. Some of these women will speak Arabic as a working language (Ethiopia and Indonesia, usually), while the rest will speak English, all to varying degrees of fluency. And certain nationalities get paid less than others, as a standard, semi-written rule (the different embassies have different minimum salary requirements). Ethiopia tends to be toward the lower end of the salary spectrum, while Philippines is at the higher end. Anyone with special skills - high fluency in Arabic/English, lots of experience, cooking prowess, education, etc. - can potentially earn more than average. And it must be said that some employers are more generous than others, as in any other business. I know people who pay their helpers less than 1000 dhs/month. I know people who pay their helpers three times that much. It all depends on the number of kids, and the size of the house, and the duties required, and the attitude of the employer toward the employee. There is no one-size-fits-all salary guide.



Once you have an idea of the kind of person you want to hire, then you have to decide how you're going to go about it. There are two major sources of helper-hiring in the UAE: agencies, or direct hiring. With an agency, you, um, go to the agency and hire somebody from their pool of certified, ready-to-go candidates. You can bring her to your home the same day. If you are dissatisfied with that person's performance, you can take her back to the agency and hire someone else. The agency takes care of the paperwork and the medical fees and other miscellaneous hassles. But: they also charge a monthly commission that can be pretty steep. Also, the workers that are hired out by agencies are generally paid less, and there is no guarantee that the agency has been fair and kind and scrupulous and honest with the maids it brings over. We seriously considered using an agency (and if things fall through or go wrong or we change our mind, we still might), but for now we're trying to go the direct hiring route.

With direct hiring, you find someone who is in her home country, or who is here in the UAE legally on a sponsor's visa but is looking to transfer, or who is sponsored here in the UAE illegally on some random person's visa, or who has some other dubious way of being here and looking for work...however you find her, you hire her. Again, different people are comfortable with different levels of legality. The fine for breaking the maid/nanny/housekeeper visa laws is something like 50,000 dhs ($13,500) but I get the impression that people do it all the time anyway. The paperwork process for bringing someone into your residence on your own visa is detailed and lengthy and difficult and unclear, which encourages those kinds of off-the-record visa dealings. We are direct-hiring someone legally, from the Philippines, and the process is very slow and time-consuming. It is also more expensive, since when you sponsor a housekeeper on your visa, you have to pay for the privilege, to the tune of about $1400/year in Dubai and even more than that in Sharjah.

(Fun fact: Did you know that Emiratis are exempt from this fee? If you are an Emirati, you get two freebie "servant" visas. Neat.)

Anyway, I'm not sure this was terribly interesting to anyone but I wanted to document this process, and also show what it's really like. It's not like you wake up one morning and casually think, "Hmm, today I will hire a housekeeper," and by that evening she's all settled in the maid's quarters. (Except actually I think you could technically do that if you use an agency.) I hope all the talk of visas and sponsoring wasn't too confusing - I've become so used to the we-are-all-of-us-guests-in-this-country situation here in the UAE that that kind of stuff has become second nature...to the point where, when I was thinking about our upcoming trip to the US, I actually panicked for a moment when I remembered that we hadn't applied for a visa to the US or anything!!!! Oh, wait...

4 comments:

Suzanne Bubnash said...

So much more complicated than I expected.

Crys said...

Wowwee! Thank goodness you aren't looking for two helpers :) I'm definitely interested in how this goes. Keep us updated :)

Liz Johnson said...

I'm just curious - are there no Emirati women that are available as nannies? I'm really glad my parents didn't have to jump through any immigration-related hoops.

Bridget said...

Oh my gosh, Liz, I can't even imagine such a thing! Emiratis are a very privileged people and would never, ever take work as nanny or housekeeper. I mean, there might be individuals who would be ok with it but it just isn't DONE. It wouldn't even be legal. It's a shame, too, because that would make finding a nanny so much easier...

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