Before anything else, the Kasambahay Law requires owners to give household helpers a mandatory day-off once a week.
Unfortunately, we have heard a lot of first-hand stories from people who have let their household helpers go on a day-off, and they came back with COVID-19 (and no symptoms!) and passed it to the more vulnerable members of the household. It’s definitely a risk for us to have our household helpers go out (ride public transport and be unmasked with their family and friends).
So how do you get householders to stay and not get stir-crazy?
1. No Day Offs (In The Meantime). Compromise + P500 to P1000 to monthly salary
We’re blessed that our helpers have understood why we don’t allow day offs for the time being. We explained it’s their right to have a day off, but we can’t let them come back if they insist on a day off.
Our compromise – additional P500 to P1000 to their monthly salaries, and additional paid days during their annual vacation (we shoulder their transportation costs, and their quarantine days when they come back are also paid).
So far everyone has been satisfied with this arrangement.
2. Make little upgrades to their working space
Since they spend most of their time at home, it matters that their living and working space are pleasant and comfortable.
For the longest time, our laundry area was the area that I least visited because it became an adhoc stock room for our rarely-used items. We took one day to do a general cleaning of the area.
Our two helpers were surprised to see Albert and me carrying off trash bags and kept insisting that they would do it. I think it helped boost their morale that we also care about their work space.
We then installed hooks to hang other items to make more floor space. This allowed us to put a longer table double the original size, so our helpers can have more space to have their meals. It’s not perfect (haha with the washing machine and dryer right there), but I felt they had more energy and were more vocal in their requests and suggestions on how to improve our home.
3. …And their living space too!
Space is also an issue when it comes to living in a condo. For our little upgrades project, we replaced the electric fan in their room, put in a new mirror, and got new bedsheets. My next project is to put a higher modular cabinet and replace the Orocan drawers (trusty but not as pretty to look at) so they can have more space for their personal items.
I have heard of other employers who’ve installed air-conditioning to their helpers rooms, or provided flat screen tv’s, and those are great ideas too!
4. Haircuts & Self-Care
Self-care in this context means physical self care. Aside from our helpers getting enough rest, we gave them beauty masks and overnight creams for their beauty regimen.
Since it had been months since their last haircut, last October and January, we booked Cuts4Tots home service hair cuts for them too. Great service by Cuts4Tots. Can’t recommend them enough!
We also bought them blue light eyeglasses to protect their vision, and offer to read their blood pressure and blood sugar every few weeks or so.
One of my friends also booked Zennya massages for their helpers!
A healthy helper is a happy helper!
5. Invite them to join vacations
During this pandemic, the two times we have been to the beach, we also invited our helpers to come with us. It was so fun seeing yaya flying a kite and running across the beach.
6. Make a Photobook for them
Paul’s yaya joined us for our El Nido vacation last February and we surprised her with a Photobook album.
Mati and Hannah wrote dedications on the back to make it extra special.
7. Satisfy Carvings
Pre-pandemic, we would have milk tea delivered once a week for our helpers. But we have upped our food game and now added fried chicken, ice cream, and whatever they crave for to the weekly rotation. Not the healthiest, but they work hard and burn so many calories everyday!
8. Potentially Controversial – Allow Them To Go Out (within reason)
During our helper’s birthday, she asked to go out to Mass (at that time it was still allowed). I drove her to a nearby church and waited for her until the service finished, and drove her back home. Albert and I discussed that it was a reasonable request – the church wasn’t air-conditioned and social distancing was enforced inside.
Back To Normal
I honestly can’t wait for things to go back to normal. But for the time being, we are being extra intentional sharing more information about the virus (and vaccines!) to our helpers so that everyone is well-informed and protected. And as much as we are physically healthy, we also want everyone in our household to be emotionally and mentally strong too! If you have other ideas, please share!
Sometimes, despite your best efforts, your helpers will want to leave for their own personal reasons. Our faithful yaya of four years left us during this pandemic. She was able to save enough to buy sewing machines to start a business sewing pambahay to sell in Lazada. Though it took us longer to find a replacement, we are proud of yaya for her entrepreneurial ambition.
There are some employers forget that helpers have their own dreams and plans and expect them to stay forever with them. If that’s your helper’s desire, then that’s great! But a gentle reminder that everyone has a right to live their own life. On our part, we just ask our helpers to give us a head’s up if they are planning to go, so that we won’t be caught blindsided.