Happy Staff, Happy House: Retaining Staff

Happy Staff, Happy House!

In my first blog I talked about post-recruitment tips. Now I plan to share some tips on how to get along with and retain your staff.

As you would expect from an employment lawyer in this arena, I hear a lot about household problems. They often arise from miscommunication, unmanaged expectations and general fallouts due to clashing personalities.

I find it helpful to remind my clients that although your home is your sanctuary, where you should be able to relax and be yourself, say what you think and behave as you want; it can also be someone’s workplace. As such, employment laws and rules need to be followed and respected, on both sides, in order to retain trust and confidence. The right to personal freedom in your own home whilst also providing a safe and effective work space for your staff becomes quite a balancing act.

Here are my top 5 tips on #retaining your private household staff:

  1. Over-sharing. Be wary of bearing all to staff. Your chauffeur is not qualified to give investment advice and your housekeeper is not your counsellor. Over sharing your personal information can burden them unnecessarily and can also provide them with ammunition later on; neither of these are helpful. Need an adviser? Get an adviser. Regulated advisers are often bound by a duty of confidentiality and will therefore be a safer bet. They can also understand your issues and signpost you.
  2. Communication. In the digital age of 24/7 communications, you should respect timings. Sure it is a household and there should be some flexibility around this. However, your staff are legally entitled to an uninterrupted 11 hour daily rest period. It is therefore good practice to show you are a caring employer and set a boundary on comms between, say, 10pm and 9am (or whatever you choose based on your family needs). Not only will the employee appreciate this, they will also be recharged and refreshed to provide you better service the following day.
  3. Scope-creep. Know what they were hired to do. Check their contract and job description. If you have hired a housekeeper, don’t make her clean the outside patio or mow the lawn. Sure, there could be some role agility, i.e., housekeeper/cook, butler/house manager, gardener/handyman, but stay within the agreed boundaries. Staff frequently leave because they are simply over-stretched.
  4. Consistent treatment. Treat all staff in the same way and follow a process. Part of the post – recruitment set up was to ensure you have a compliant framework in place to deal with on-going issues. Whether they relate to punctuality, dress code, record keeping, or gossiping. These are all issues which are addressed in your documentation and there are processes in place to deal with them. Deal with these issues fairly as they arise. Keep a record of discussions. Employees can bring claims of unfair dismissal or discrimination if you treat staff in an inconsistent manner. Follow the process.
  5. Reputation protection. Working in a private household exposes you and your staff to more personal information than is usual in an employment scenario. It would be helpful if staff are aware that there is a process in place for raising any serious concerns they may have, e.g., a whistleblowing policy. This will protect you from any unnecessary external exposure. Ensure your staff have someone to talk to regularly so any issues are dealt with internally.

Household staff should know that they are working in a household and this is very different to an office; whilst flexibility and discretion should be baked into their expectations, boundaries and respect should be baked into your new obligations.

Sofia Syed is an employment lawyer who specialises in advising high-net-worth clients in all aspects related to their household and business affairs.

Sofia has extensive experience in assisting her clients to recruit and manage staff who are essential to the smooth running of their household such as house managers, butlers, close protection officers, private chefs, household and estate managers, nannies, chauffeurs and housekeepers.


Happy Staff, Happy House: Retaining Staff