One of the advantages of living in Ho Chi Minh City and Southeast Asia is the custom and affordability of hiring domestic helpers. They are readily available and can do anything from cleaning the house to washing and ironing clothes, grocery shopping, cooking, paying your bills and even looking after your children and pets. Depending on your preference, domestic helpers can either live with you or come on a set schedule. If you employ a live-in helper, you are required to provide either food or a separate food allowance. Families with large gardens or swimming pools usually opt to hire maintenance help. Many manage to find one to do both taking care of the swimming pool and garden. Depend on the size of the facilities, you may not require full time help.
Many companies will secure domestic help for you prior to your arrival, however if you are left up to your own devices to locate one, there are two main options. Either turn to a network of friends or colleagues that are already in Vietnam to find out if they know anyone with references who is looking for a job. The answer is usually a “yes” if they are a member of Anphuneighbors or Phumyhungneighbors google groups where departing employers tend to advertise their reliable helpers. The other option is to use an agency that specializes in finding domestic help for expatriates. Helpers supplied through agencies usually have some English ability which can make it easier to communicate, however this does not guarantee suitability. A helper that you have good chemistry with and that above all, can be trusted is essential.
Vietnamese labor law requires a written contract between employers and their domestic helpers. It is the employer’s obligation to pay social and health insurance for their employees directly to the government. While the initial paperwork to complete this step legally can be cumbersome, the payments can be managed quarterly via internet banking. In reality, the overwhelming majority of employers in the domestic help market, both expatriate and locals, rarely complete this process. Agreements are usually simply oral, relying on both employers and employees to honor these oral agreements.
Domestic helpers that have been employed for a calendar year will expect a “13th month bonus” to be paid immediately before the “Tet Holiday”, which is the Lunar New Year celebration and usually falls in late January or early February each year. In addition to the 13th month bonus, employees will generally expect one or two weeks’ off to celebrate this annual holiday. It is recommended to give any employees that have been working for you for less than a year at least a pro-rated bonus.
One word of warning is to not lend money to your employees before they leave for Tet holiday. Since there is usually no binding labor contract, all too often employees simply do not return to work and the loan is never repaid.
When hiring Filipino maids, who are often better trained and have better English skills, the 13th month bonus is usually exchanged for a flight home and all visa renewals while they are employed.
When hiring a new maid always take precautionary measures. The day she begins work, ask politely to take a photograph of her. Also make a photocopy of her National Identification card or passport and keep both on file. Finally, once you secure a pleasant, honest, hardworking helper, treat her with respect and appreciation as a good one is a scarce commodity.