5 Tips to Keep You and Domestic Workers Safe and Healthy

By Hand in Hand: The Domestic Employers Network (Estimated reading time: 4 mins)

For the past four months, many of us have been forced to physically isolate in our homes to minimize the spread of COVID-19 infections. Many of us have also been juggling work with home life, responding to colleagues’ emails, participating in marathons of video calls, with pets and children in the background (or on our laps!) and to top it all off, homeschooling children. It’s been a lot to manage.

With so much to plan, organize, and do, we all could use some help. For households where parents are needing to work, either while at home with their children or needing to leave the home to do their job, delegating childcare might be necessary. Perhaps you are exploring the option of bringing someone into your home to clean. Or maybe you are caring for elderly parents and having extra hands for caregiving tasks would relieve some of the stress. As Washington state businesses and services gradually re-open through the Safe Start initiative, the assistance that families are seeking are now within reach.

Hand in Hand: The Domestic Employers Network, a national network of employers of domestic workers with a mission to support employers in improving employment practices and change public policies, has partnered with the National Domestic Workers Alliance to create domestic employment resources to help workers and employers to work together as a team so everyone can be as safe as possible.

Together, these two organizations collaborated to build two checklists, the House Cleaner Employer Checklist and a Nanny Employer Checklist, to help families get started, and with the main goal of keeping our employees and our entire household safe.

Within both of these guidelines, there are 5 tips to keep in mind:

  1. Stay in open and honest communication with the workers you employ.
  2. Ensure collective safety through providing protective supplies and supporting social distancing.
  3. Create a fair working agreement.
  4. Plan for the worst case scenario.
  5. Stay informed.

Open and honest communication

Creating a practice of regular and respectful communication will keep everyone safe. For example, normalize talking about whether or not you or the worker you employ is experiencing symptoms or has come into contact with someone who has experienced symptoms. Share who you have been in contact with outside the home so that the worker you employ feels comfortable doing the same.

Collective safety

Your home is a workplace for nannies, house cleaners and caregivers. We recommend providing gloves, masks, and hand sanitizer, as well as supporting the worker you employ to find the safest transportation option. Commit to social distancing and masks in public and consider leaving the house when the house cleaner is working to reduce your exposure to each other. 

Fair work agreements

The Seattle Domestic Workers Ordinance requires that domestic workers be paid the minimum wage, with a paid, uninterrupted 10-minute break after four consecutive hours, have the right to a 30-minute uninterrupted meal period after working for more than five consecutive hours, and a day of rest for live-in workers who work more than six consecutive days. All of these should be included and clearly stated in your agreement. As an employer, you might also consider contributing to paid sick days and paid time off, or providing health benefits to workers. 

Worst case scenario plan

No one wants to think about the worst case scenario, and it’s better to discuss and make a plan if either you, a family member, or the worker you employ falls ill with or tests positive for COVID-19. In that scenario, it is crucial to suspend work for everyone’s safety. Out of fairness, we recommend paying the worker for their time away, whether they are recovering or you are.

Stay informed

Federal guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the King County Public Health will keep you aware of the latest information and developments on the pandemic to stay safe. As you stay informed, we urge you to share these resources with friends and neighbors so they can also protect themselves and the workers they employ.

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About the Author

Hand in Hand: The Domestic Employers Network is a national organization of people who employ nannies, housecleaners, and homecare workers. We believe respectful and dignified working conditions in the home benefit worker and employer alike.

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