More on Work Agreements

The idea of a written work agreement might seem too formal for a relationship that most of us hope will be warm and informal. But there can hazards for both you and an employee when job terms and expectations are never formalized. A domestic workplace relationship is almost always stronger and more successful when everyone is on the same page.

A written work agreement ensures that you have a shared understanding of the job:

  • For you, the employer, it’s a great opportunity to be clear about your needs and expectations and, like any workplace agreement,  increases the likelihood that the worker you employ will meet your standards.
  • For the worker, a written description of job duties, benefits, and work terms professionalizes the relationship, fosters job stability, and builds trust, giving a worker a full understanding of what you expect from her and what she can expect from you.
  • For both of you, sitting down together to shape a written agreement is a great way to get to know each other. Later on, the agreement will serve as an important foundation to help in moments of transition or challenge, and can ensure accountability on both sides.

It’s never too late to clarify important issues in a work relationship, especially if your relationship is plagued by recurring issues and confusion. If it feels a little awkward to raise the topic months or years into a relationship, make sure the worker understands that you’re not introducing a written document as any kind of reprimand, but as a means to help both of you put concerns and ideas on the table and smooth out some of the knots in your relationship.

Whenever you need to alter or expand a worker’s job, the best approach is to sit down with her, explain the new tasks and what additional pay you’re offering, and ask if she can agree to the changes. It’s good to be prepared that she might say no, and you will need to figure out another way to get those tasks done. If she is open to it and you have a written work agreement, you can talk together about how it would be modified to reflect the revised job.

What if a worker doesn’t want to use a written work agreement? There are a few reasons why a worker might resist a written agreement: She may be confused or apprehensive because no one has ever asked her to do so before; she may be unsure it’s in her best interests, or she may be nervous about putting anything in writing. Maybe you are too.

In a conversation about a written agreement, encourage a worker to share her concerns with you and acknowledge that you understand. Let her know that your goal is to create an agreement together, that reflects her needs as well as yours.

More on Open and Respectful Communication

In all workplaces, open and respectful communication goes a long way in creating a caring, supportive, productive, and creative environment. Domestic workers labor occurs in the most intimate settings, which makes open and respectful communication even more important. In this setting, seemingly small things can go a long way. Great ways to show respect and consideration include greeting your employee in the morning; returning home on time; asking about her family; expressing gratitude for work well done, and paying her on schedule. Workers often cite issues like these as among the most important. In addition to creating a clear, mutually-agreed upon work agreement, make a clear plan for regular check-in’s and formal, mutual evaluations.

Welcome all questions. Your employee needs to feel comfortable asking questions to get to know you and your priorities. Home environments are very specific to the personalities that inhabit them. What you consider a “normal” household standard in the areas of cleanliness, noisiness, discipline, and diet may, in fact, be new to the worker you employ. Let your employee know that you are available for answers.