Managing risks of employing domestic staff

Home owners are encouraged to do research into anyone they allow onto their property or into their homes to do work for them.

They should be sure that any contract worker, cleaner or builder is trustworthy before granting them access.

“The people you have employed to work in your house or on your property form a vital line of defence against crime. You need to know that you can trust them with your property while you are away,” said Agnieszka Gryn, general manager for inland region at Fidelity ADT Security.

“Doing the necessary background checks before hiring them may seem like a time-consuming exercise but could make all the difference to your home security. Often in cases of break-ins and house robberies, inside information has been shared with criminals,” Gryn said.

In a report in New Age last year, Claudia Naidoo-van der Merwe, a spokesperson for background screening company Managed Integrity Evaluations, confirmed that many families in South Africa were becoming vulnerable to attacks because of complacency in their employment practices.

She said it was important to exercise caution when employing domestic workers, gardeners and contractors.

“It is imperative that any employer performs a criminal background and reference check before engaging with potential employees who they may be allowing into their home.”

She noted that more than 25 per cent of the people the company did criminal checks on carried certain risks.

The company also warned families not to let their children interact with anybody in a professional capacity without a thorough background check on them.

“Beware, these supposedly professional faces may mask an unscrupulous past or bad intentions,” said Naidoo-van der Merwe.

“This is a dangerous world that we live in, and trust has become a luxury we can no longer afford.”

Gryn said the first step is to start with a criminal record check, which can be obtained through the SAPS, with the potential employee or contractor’s consent.

She also suggests doing a reference check with previous employers.

“Ask questions about dismissals, responsibilities, any security issues, punctuality and so on. Their answers will give you a good idea of the person’s track record. Alternatively, work through a professional placement agency that will do these checks for you,” she said.

Any good agency will ensure their candidates have been thoroughly screened, evaluated and assessed and their backgrounds checked. Some will even have provided their candidates with additional training, such as in child minding, CPR and housekeeping.

“Once you have made your decision, you need to ensure that anyone working for you understands your security protocols,” Gryn added. “They must know how to activate the alarm and to call for help in case of an emergency. Explain to them how they need to deal with an alarm activation, what to do when the security company calls and when an officer responds.”

Gryn also suggests instructing your domestic employee to respond as follows if someone rings the doorbell or calls on the intercom:

• Ask the person to identify him/herself by full name.

• Ask them to state their business.

• Ask them to show identification – company ID card, ID book or driver’s licence.

• Verify – by calling you to find out if you are expecting the person, or by calling the company the person works for to check if this is indeed a legitimate visit.

“Lastly, consider enrolling any employees who may be working for you for an extended period of time in local crime-prevention forums, which take place in most neighbourhoods every month. These are often arranged by the SAPS or community members and teach valuable crime-prevention and safety tips,” said Gryn.

Charmaine Slater
Senior journalist (Edenvale)

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