Domestic Assistants / Employee relationship:

Nani - June 28, 2018 - 0 comments

During the month of February 2018, one of the wellness focus areas for “Wacha niKwambie’’ blog was the relationship that we have with our domestic assistants. Here in my home country Kenya, the most commonly used professional terms for domestic assistants are; househelps, maids, auntie, domestic managers and nannies. The blog’s founder and lead writer, Elizabeth “Kwambie” Nyambane had the opportunity to interview the managing director of the pioneer in the domestic assistants’ recruitment space in Kenya Mrs. Trizzer Kimani of Nani Employee Leasing Company at her office premises. This article profiles  some nuggets on how best to manage the expectations of domestic workers and their employers in a context like Kenya.

Elizabeth “Kwambie”: Thank you Trizzer for taking the time to share with readers of ‘Wacha niKwambie’  blog on a few nuggets that you have picked along the way in your years of business in the domestic assistants human resource management space. As I mentioned to you, ‘Wacha niKwambie’ blog is a wellness and inspirational blog that focusses on different facets of human wellness for the benefit of its readers. I began the blog in 2014 and it is something I enjoy doing. This past month of February one of the blog’s focus areas was domestic managers.

Trizzer: You are welcome. I am glad to note that you are pursuing one of your passions in life because that is exactly what led me to venture into business after resigning from my job as an Executive Director of an NGO here in Kenya.

I began my career as a teacher after graduating from the Egerton University with a degree in Agricultural Education. I then moved into the NGO sector where I honed skills as a consultant/leader and trainer.

In 2007, I witnessed first-hand the post-election violence that was largely experienced across Kenya. I became acutely aware that part of the driving force behind the level of violence was the large band of unemployed young people that were ‘used’ as instruments to vent this violence. I thought to myself how I could be part of the solution. When I looked at my experience in the NGO sector, I realized that over time I had forged solid networks with the ‘upper class’, many who were donors of our programs and at the same time leveraged with the ‘lower class’, who are the recipients of the different programs that  our NGO ran. It came to my realisation that I occupied a  strategic position in society. As a typical I could be a ‘middle class’ Kenyan, I could relate well with people from different economic and social classes. The idea of Nani Employee Leasing Company was then birthed. I resigned from my job and delved into this uncharted waters of entrepreneurship, establishing this professional employer organisation.

I did some extensive research on the domestic market space in the region and identified missing gaps which my Company would fill. I then developed training content for the prospective employees, while carefully planning on how I would focus on churning out  quality domestic assistants into the market. My first initial stop was Machakos where I sourced from my contacts the first cohort of eighteen ladies, whom I trained and mentored for the domestic market industry.

I am proud to say that Nani Employee Leasing Company is the first company in the country to venture into the nanny leasing field. We made history as pioneers who professionalised domestic workers for the industry. In 2018, we are celebrating ten years of presence.

Our clients know that we approach this work with a high degree of professionalism and that we provide quality  employees for each of them. In the domestic assistants’ space, we pride ourselves in training and bringing to the job market skilled domestic managers and not the usual suspects; (“aunties”, “maids” or “house girls”) as they are commonly known. As part of the transformational process that we take our staff through, we instil self-pride in our nannies; giving the job dignity and pride.

Our business model is based on the fact that Nani Employee Leasing Company provides human resource management services to different sectors of the economy. You will notice that we provide other cadre of staff to individuals and corporates (such as cooks, drivers, clerks etc.); but for purposes of today’s discussion we will focus on the domestic managers. In cases where differences arise between   the employee and the nanny on lease, the company mediates and finds an amicable solution going forward.

Elizabeth “Kwambie”:  Congratulations Trizzer. I wish Nani Employee Leasing Company several years of success.

Trizzer: Thank you.

Elizabeth “Kwambie”: And now to the crux of the matter, the delicate relationship between domestic assistants and their employees. May I begin by asking, what is the biggest weakness of domestic assistants?

Trizzer: Throughout our experience, we have learnt that a negative work attitude and poor/lack of professional work ethic stifles the development of nannies. Elizabeth consider this;  technical skills such as cooking and cleaning can be learned by anybody but what sets apart a good domestic assistant from the others is their attitude to work. In my training and building capacity of domestic managers, I dwell a lot on developing these soft  transformative skills. It creates dynamites in the ladies who create a positive work attitude in their jobs. That really is what matters the most and drives us at Nani EL.

Domestic assistants need to be honoured and respected by their employers and their children.

Elizabeth “Kwambie”: Employers too have a role to play. What are the issues that you have observed with employers over the years that compromise their relationship with their domestic workers?

Trizzer: There is a very poor working relationship between employers and their domestic workers. Many times,  the employers treat their domestic workers as children, disregarding their opinions and experience.

Elizabeth “Kwambie”: That is so true. The derogatory terms, “house girl” and “house boy” comes to mind.

Trizzer: Absolutely! Perhaps even worse; considering that we do sometimes negotiate with our children on certain matters, but don’t do likewise with our domestic workers. They are treated like staunches; meant to obey set commandments without compromise or negotiation. This is utterly wrong human resource management. .

For many domestic workers;  they have to adapt to the household patterns and routines with little or no opinion on choice of food for example. In many countries domestic workers report to duty by day and leave for their own homes at the end of the day. The concept of live-in domestic workers does not exist. Hence, domestic workers in such environments have the freedom to make their own choices about their personal lifestyles outside the work environment. That is simply not the case in many homes in Kenya.

Domestic workers also face a wide array of sexual harassments. At Nani Employee Leasing Company, we empower all our workers to say, “no” to unwanted sexual advances at the work place. As policy we treat all cases of sexual harassment serious; often resulting in terminating the services. I know you won’t believe it but another sore issue is food. Unfortunately, many employers deny their domestic workers sufficient food. This is rather inhuman, given that domestic work is in itself a physical activity requiring adequate energy levels. Employers also need to appreciate the fact that in the hierarchy of needs many of their workers are at the basic needs level that is sufficient, food, clothing and shelter. At the same time, employers  have often reached self-actualization stage and are ignorant of the basic needs of their domestic workers.  Over my years of experience, I have come to realize that the food provided to a domestic workers need not be fancy-but it must as a bare minimum meet their energy requirements for the physical activities of the duties.

Elizabeth “Kwambie”: Thank you for this pointers Trizzer. Employers of domestic workers should not deny their workers sufficient amounts of food.

Trizzer: Employers should let their workers know their expectations and have some home-grown ground rules. When a worker is left to work in an ad hoc manner; they face many grey areas, making it difficult to supervise the work. It is up to the employer to set ground rules and set boundaries of operations-including having a functional clear job description.

Employers need to appreciate the fact that what is common sense to them is not common sense to the worker. Clear rules need to be set, one should not work with assumptions. Just as there are orientation programs at  the workplace, so there should be with domestic work. A domestic worker must receive proper induction to their working environment.

Yet another challenge that many domestic workers come across is the payment of salaries. Salary payment should be paid fully and consistently, each month. Now it is possible that employers being human may come across challenges that may impend them from paying salaries on time.  Nevertheless, it is good practice to be honest and open communication with their workers regarding salary payments-especially when there are delays.

For Nani clients, we take away the hassle of managing a domestic worker’s compensation. For a standard monthly fee, Nani EL will pay the salary and other statutory requirements on time. For example, we go a step further and have ensured that all domestic workers in our portfolio have statutory deductions such as  N.S.S.F. and N.H.I.F. paid up to date each month. It is also possible for our company to render this service to clients who have sourced their domestic workers independently.

Any bonuses given to domestic workers are at the discretion of their employer. Unfortunately, many domestic workers hold their employers ransom, taking all their problems to their employers. They take advantage of their employers and seek to solicit hand-outs rather than appreciating that it is a service that they are rendering their employers at a price called the salary which they should be able to budget and plan for.

Employers should also ensure that any deductions they make from an employee’s salary are fair and justified. For examples, workers may cause unintentional damages or losses  and so should not be charged for them.

Finally, employers need to understand that just as they are imperfect so are their employees. They should look at the bigger picture of the  benefits that the employee brings home.

Elizabeth “Kwambie”: You know as an employer of a domestic worker myself I am quite impressed that your company takes away the hassle of human resource management;  it is something I am willing to consider myself.

Trizzer: Thank you, we would be more than willing to take it up for you. I have a few pointers to add; I think that  if these employer-employee relationships are managed well, productivity at the household will increase.

Elizabeth “Kwambie”: Carry on, the pleasure is all ours, readers of ‘Wacha niKwambie’ blog.

Trizzer: Relatives and older children need to be briefed on the role of the domestic assistant in the home. For example, these relatives and children need to respect the domestic worker as a contracted employee.. Children pick a lot from adults and the way adults treat their domestic workers will directly relate to the way children will treat the domestic workers at the home.

It is   important to highlight   that there are labour laws  that govern the domestic workers work space. All employers should strive to familiarize themselves with them and reasonably adhere to these laws, otherwise they are liable to litigation over abuse. At the same time I urge all domestic workers to be cognizant of the fact that different employers have different expectations and they should be flexible enough to accommodate these differences.

In closing, I challenge all domestic workers to have life goals. At Nani, we encourage all our employees to set life goals. As they work as domestic workers they should be able to develop skills  that will move them to the next level of their life’s aspirations.

Employers also need to realize that the sacrosanct role of the domestic worker recruitment agency. With an increasingly educated population, there is a higher rate of awareness-everyone is getting empowered; so it is not going to be business as usual.  The stereotype of the ignorant domestic workers from the village is an idea of the past. I urge all employers and domestic workers to seek employment agencies of repute to work with.

Thank you Elizabeth for the opportunity to share some thoughts on the domestic worker’s industry and I hope that the readers of the “Wacha niKwambie” blog will take something from our conversation and put it into practice in their homes.

Elizabeth “Kwambie”:  You are welcome Trizzer. The pleasure has been all ours.


Trizzer Kimani is the Managing Director and Founder of Nani Employee Leasing Company.

Founded in 2008, Nani Employee Leasing Company (Nani EL) is a professional employer organization focusing on placing a wide range of both professional and non-professional workers in all sectors of the economy. Nani EL manages and hires a wide range of staffing skills including domestic workers (cooks, nannies, gardeners) teachers, waiters, drivers, administration assistants, accountants, factory cleaners. This includes but not limited to domestic workers (cooks, nannies, gardeners) teachers, waiters, drivers, administration assistants, accountants, factory cleaners. As an employee leasing company it manages   outsourced payrolls and other human resources administration tasks. Nani EL and the client share a co-employment relationship with the employee.

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