20 September 2009

My experience with maids

Like most working women in Malaysia, I employed my first maid when I was expecting my first child. Most of us have the mandatory 60 days maternity leave, after which we are obliged to go back to work, or use our own leave, or quit our jobs. Unlike in first world countries where a woman can take up to 3 years of unpaid leave and still have a job to go back to when she so chooses.

The first maid agency I ever used was called Zaha, in KL. Being first time maid employers, I remember we were surprised that we had to plonk upfront almost RM5,000. That was (and still is) a lot of money, just starting out in our marriage and careers. The first 2 maids Zaha sent to us had VD and Hepatitis B. But Zaha was good, as they did not send the maids to us - the diseases were revealed by the medical exam done upon the maids' arrival and they were sent back immediately. Obviously, the medical exams done in Indonesia were defective (fraudulent??) Zaha replaced the maid and I finally got my maid 2 months after I delivered. That threw all my childbirth plans into massive disarray, but I guess that's life. You can plan and plan, but only God knows the outcome.

In 2001, an Indonesian maid's starting salary was RM380. My first maid was on the big side and in her forties, so she was slower in moving around. Still, she did her work honestly and she was a clean person, which were important aspects to me. Unfortunately, she suffered an epileptic episode and upon further medical examination, it turned out that she had a brain tumour. I guess the medical exams on maids do not include a brain scan. We sent her home, one year short of her contractual period, and advised her of her medical condition. Of course, there was no refund to us from the maid agency, nor any discount for the next maid we had to employ.

My second maid was arranged by a different agency, Kawasama. This maid had previous experience working in Malaysia, so we had very few problems with her. She completed her 2 year contract and asked to extend her contract with us. We were agreeable, to this. However, in the midst of her third year with us, she had family problems and had to return home.

We continued to use Kawasama for our third maid, who is into her 5th year with us. This third maid started with us at a salary of RM400. For her third year, we gave her a raise, making her salary RM460. In her 4th year, we paid her RM500. This year, we are paying her RM550. She gets to go home for 3 weeks every 2 years. Now, this maid is the most intelligent of all my maids. She reads the papers. So with all the hoo-ha going on between Malaysia and Indonesia on maids working here. she has asked for her salary next year to be RM650. Quite a jump, eh?

Going by my record, there has been no maid abuse, and we have been very reasonable employers in giving her increments. Her increments, in % terms, are even higher than my own increments! The Indonesian embassy in KL said that their benchmark salary should be no lower than RM500, preferably RM600. Well, my maid is well within range.

The Malaysian and Indonesian governments should take note of the very good conditions under which the maids work (net salary, free board and lodging, and some maids really eat barrel loads!), and treat the cases of maid abuse with the right perspective - such cases should not be used as a bargaining chip by the Indonesian government.
How has your experience with maids been?

1 comment:

  1. I have had experience with 4 maids, all from the same agency, Top Management in Ipoh.

    The first has upper secondary level education (equivalent to our form 6). She's intelligent and has a pleasant personality. I guess I was first time lucky.

    The second also has secondary level education, but a bit slow in her work and not a clean person. After 1 year, she was sent back after failing her medical check-up (white spots were seen in her lungs x-ray).

    The third one lasted only half a day. She went berserk and screamed at me when she failed to understand work instructions. I sent her back to the maid agency. She was later sent to another home, and she ran away after 3 days there.

    My present one, a replacement for the one who ran away has another set of problems. She is only 19 and married. She's always in a dream state.

    My agent advised me to get the Cambodian maids. Those without experience are paid RM580. Those who have experience working in Malaysia (and speaks some English or Bahasa Malaysia or Mandarin) are paid RM680. I was told that Cambodians do not have much social problems.

    I am considering not replacing this current one when her contract expires. I may just get some local to come in twice a week to do the cleaning.