Hiring a maid or domestic helper to take care of your house and children is one of the most important decisions you can make as a parent in the UAE. While thousands of families do it, there are lot of things to consider beforehand, as well as a paper trail of documents you'll need to make it all official. Here's your step-by-step guide...
1. Start off right
Before frantically taking to Google, take some time to think about exactly who it is you are looking for. List the qualities, qualifications and costs that suit you. Once you have a clearer idea of the type of person that’s right for your family, it’s time to decide how that person will fit into your daily routine. Consider whether you want someone part-time or full-time, live-in or live-out. Some families feel more comfortable having privacy and go for the live-out option, while other mums like the flexibilty of having someone on hand living in. Just remember, the only legal way to hire a helper part time is through an agency.
2. Narrow it down
Decide whether you want to want to find someone through an agency or on your own. The agency route can take the hassle out of the search and the beauty of it is that you can have someone as and when you need. Most agencies will require you to take someone for at least four hours per week, with hourly rates varying from Dh35 to Dh50. Another bonus is that there’s a lot less paperwork for you as the nanny’s sponsorship is with the agency.
However, monthly agency fees tend to be higher, ranging from Dh3,500 to Dh6,000 per month and there’s a finder’s fee of around Dh5,000. An average monthly salary when paid direct, cutting out an agency, is between Dh2,000 to Dh3,500.
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3. Special agents
If you choose to use an agency there are plenty of reputable options out there. Look for companies who train their staff well and are registered. Speak to other mums for their recommendations on tried and tested firms.
Maidscc is one of the UAE’s biggest agencies and has a good reputation. They charge around Dh3,500 per month for live in and Dh4,500 for live out. That price includes visa, medical test, air ticket and medical insurance, although keep in mind there’s a Dh5,000 recruitment fee. Howdra is another popular agency with many mums, offering fully vetted part-time and full time ladies.
4. The direct approach
Lots of mums prefer to take matters into their own hands and hire a helper direct. One great option is maidCV.com. This huge online database offers a monthly membership, which gives you access to profiles of hundreds of ladies, and their contact details, as well as daily email alerts when new talent becomes available. Or you can also post your own ad outlining what you are looking for and let the candidates come to you. Memberships start from Dh250 and the company can also provide medical cover, as well as sorting the visa on your behalf for an extra cost.
Facebook is another great resource with a few good groups to fall back on. Social groups like Real Mums Dubai are a great place to pick up recommendations from families who are happy to vouch for nannies they have used. This is particularly helpful when families are moving on from Dubai, but are leaving a great nanny behind.
Another good group is Mary Poppins Dubai where families can post ads looking for helpers and vice versa. Start your search early and give yourself plenty of time to find someone and introduce them to your home.
5. Question time
Once you start shortlisting candidates, it’s time for interviews. It’s a good idea to prepare questions in advance. Try to tailor them to what’s most relevant to you, for example, whether they have experience with babies if your child is very young, or whether they are comfortable with pets if you have a dog. Keep an eye on whether candidates arrive on time for the interview and how interested they are in learning about your home.
This is also a great opportunity to introduce your child and other family members to see how well they interact. Outline what you expect from the role, duties, working hours and the package you are offering. Once you find someone you like, you can opt to try them out for a day or two on a paid trial where you can start to show them the ropes, and see how you get along.
6. Stay on the right side of the law
Once you’ve found the perfect person, it’s time to sort out the legalities. If you are using an agency, most of this is taken care of for you. If you’re hiring direct you need to know the law and it’s important to understand some of the most recent positive changes which protect the rights of domestic workers in the UAE. Built into the contract you give your helper should be their right to have at least one day off each week, 30 days' annual leave, medical insurance and a return flight home each year. Another law to be aware of is that you must live in a two-bedroom home to hire a helper - even if she is going to be living out.
The fines and punishments are steep for hiring illegal helpers, from Dh50,000 to Dh100,000,with a possible jail term and deportation, so don’t get caught out. Helpers working illegally will ask to remain on someone else’s visa and this should be an immediate red flag.
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7. Make it official
If you’re hiring direct, apply to Dubai’s immigration department (General Directorate of Residency and Foreigner Affairs) to have the nanny added to your visa, which costs between Dh5,000 to Dh5,500. Normally, a helper’s visa can be obtained by the head of the family, usually male, with a salary of at least Dh6,000 per month. Women can in some situations sponsor a maid, but this can depend on where you work and how much you earn, so is best to check with immigration. Another rule to watch out for is if your husband is sponsoring someone else in your family (your child for example), the nanny’s sponsorship must also be under his name.
Currently domestic staff can only be sponsored from the following countries: India, Sri Lanka, Philippines, Ethiopia, Bangladesh and Indonesia.
8. Paper trail
Like everything else in Dubai, there is a checklist of documents you need to be armed with when you visit any of the immigration offices in Dubai. As well as a refundable deposit of Dh2,000, here’s what to take with you:
- Employment contract, signed by both the sponsor and the nanny, which outlines the duties, working hours and salary.
- Nanny’s passport and any entry visa, or cancelled visa from her last employer
- Sponsor’s passport, visa and employment contract
- Salary certificate of sponsor in Arabic (for government employees) OR, labour contract of sponsor (for private employees)
- Tenancy contract showing minimum two bed apartment with Ejari attestation, or title deed
- Typed application form from authorised typing centre
- Passport photos of maid (minimum 3 required)
You’ll be given an entry permit for the helper when you submit all of the documents listed. You then have 30 days to take the nanny to have a medical test at any one of the authorised medical centres in Dubai - at many you can also apply for Emirates ID. The medical test costs around Dh325 and includes a blood test, X-ray and Hepatitis B vaccination. Once you have the results, which can be collected within a few days, take them back to the immigration centre, along with the paperwork showing the Emirates ID application number, and once it’s all checked, a residence stamp valid for one year will be placed in your maid’s passport. You will also be given a Domestic Worker Identity Card and can then finalise the Emirates ID at any typing centre.
9. Joining the team
Before your new helper starts, think about what they’ll need while in your home. That list will be a lot shorter for live-out, but it’s still worth making sure they have access to Wi-Fi, they know where they can store or access food and that they have a place to change if needed. For live-in nannies, you’ll want to prepare their living space and make them feel at home. How much to offer is a personal choice, but basics tend to include an en-suite bathroom, fully furnished bedroom with TV, toiletries and a food allowance. Medical insurance is built into their contract and can cost around Dh800 for an annual policy, while annual flights home can come in anywhere between Dh2,000 to Dh4,000. If you can, spend at least a few weeks at home with your nanny before you leave them with your children on their own for the first time. And it’s a great idea to build up to full days, going out for a few hours at a time at first, to make sure everyone is comfortable. Do make an effort to show your new helper how you like things done around the home, along with any rules and routines you have for your kids – it makes for a happier home all round.
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10. A little respect
One of the unique aspects of life in Dubai is that it’s more affordable than other parts of the world to have help at home. It can be frustrating at times to get your message across the language barrier, but it’s important to always treat anyone working in your home with respect. There can of course be issues to work through, but often helpers become vital additions to our families while we’re in Dubai – making it all the harder to leave if and when the time comes.