So we are back in Qatar. Circumstances back in 2020 (namely: early lockdown in Poland and closure of the borders) forced us to make a difficult decision on the spot: should I stay in Poland with the kids and not be able to join my hubby in Qatar for God knows how long, or should I pack our bag and fly out to Doha, immediately? We literally had less than 24h to make this decision – that’s how little notice we received before the border closure. We chose to shift to the Middle East and here we are, re-building our lives.
I’m a working mom and we are always in need of someone to care for our kids while me and hubby work (unfortunately, due to the nature of what we do, working from home is at the moment not an option for either of us…). Our wonderful nanny, which we were planning to re-hire, is stuck in the Philippines, not able to return due to the border closure.
Luckily, we’ve managed to find a lovely lady to help us out, on short notice. But the whole situation prompted me to write about the experience of looking for a helper – be it a nanny, a cleaner, or a combination of both.
We have had quite an extensive experience looking for house helpers. Since Adam was born in 2014, we’ve basically gone through it all: live-in, live-out, agency, “freelancers” – you name it… Here are some insights that you might find useful!
BEFORE YOU START LOOKING…
There are some things you need to establish before you start looking for a house helper. Having all those things figured out will help you tremendously during your search and allow you to quickly shortlist promising candidates.
1. Do you need a live-in or a live-out helper?
This is the most important question… Please note that by “live-out” I mean helpers provided by the agency (as “freelancers” are not legal in Qatar). There are pros and cons of both living arrangments:
She’s staying with you, so in case of any emergency, you can always ask her for help.
You’re sure that nobody is making her work anywhere else and she’s fully dedicated to your family.
The least pricey option, as there is no agency between you and the helper. Whatever salary you agree on, it will all go to her own pocket.
Some people might feel uncomfortable having a “stranger” living in their house.
You need to rent a place big enough to accommodate an additional person, and at the same time give her all necessary privacy.
All the paperwork and visa-related matters have to be done by you. This could possibly include the cost of bringing the helper to Qatar from her home country (unless there’s an obligation to do this via an agency).
Perfect solution if you have a fixed schedule and don’t require any flexibility (for example, if you need someone to come and clean your house once a week).
A lifesaver in case you can’t or don’t want to sponsor anyone.
All formalities are done via the agency, the only thing you need to do is to pay the agency a monthly fee.
You don’t have any control over the helper’s situation: in what conditions she’s living, whether they make her work on her days off, is she generally happy about her employer, etc.
You pay a high monthly fee directly to the Agency, while the helper only receives a fraction of it (basically, in most cases she works for a minimal wage, which doesn’t seem fair).
It could happen that the Agency will send you a different helper each time, based on their availability and not on who do you like best.
2. How much are you willing to pay for her services?
Fees differ depending on many factors:
— if you’re thinking about hiring a live-out nanny from an Agency, you need to be prepared to pay anywhere between QAR 3,000 and QAR 5,000 per month for someone to help you 5 days a week, within standard working hours.
— for a live-in helper that you will sponsor, her salary will depend on whether she’s already in Qatar or not, what is her experience, how long do you expect her to work daily, how many kids she needs to take care of, etc. Most ladies will agree on a salary between QAR 2,000 and QAR 4,000 per month, also depending on other benefits (food, hygiene products, yearly bonus, etc.) and whether they would get 1 or 2 days off per week.
— a live-in helper who’s already in Qatar with a ready NOC will usually ask for a higher salary than a helper who’s still in their home country. It’s because of their local experience, as well as the fact that you will not have to bear the cost of bringing them to Qatar.
— the most expensive option is when you sponsor someone, but for any reason don’t want her to stay in your house. In such a case, it is your responsibility to also cover the cost of her accommodation and transportation, unless you agree that this cost is included in the helper’s salary.
3. Do you want to sponsor your helper, or would you prefer if she stays under an agency’s sponsorship?
There are pros and cons to both situations (see above). Your answer to this question will determine where you should look for your helper (see below).
TIME TO START YOUR SEARCH… BUT WHERE?
There are numerous ways to look for a helper while in Qatar. You can be sure to find many candidates (I’ve contacted over 80 ladies before making a choice!), the tricky task is to find one that’s suitable for your family…
— groups related to babies; sometimes people have to leave Qatar on short notice and will post there looking for a new employer for their helpers.
— best found via google. Unfortunately, I don’t have a positive experience with any Agency which I have used in Qatar, and my personal opinion is that most of them are taking advantage of the ladies they employ. However, I do understand that some of us for many different reasons can’t or don’t want to sponsor their helper, in which case contacting an Agency seems to be the only choice (as hiring “freelancers” is illegal).
OK, SO YOU FOUND A PROMISING CANDIDATE (FOR A LIVE-IN POSITION). WHAT TO CHECK BEFORE YOU DECIDE TO HIRE HER?
— If she’s working in Qatar: will her current employer provide her with a NOC? Without it, you won’t be able to move her under your sponsorship. Never make an assumption that if a lady contacted you, it means she has / will get a NOC. It happens (and happened to me!) that after going through all the negotiations and deciding to hire someone, she will unexpectedly inform you that “her current sponsor doesn’t want to give her NOC” and expect you to call them and negotiate with them, too. Even though labor laws have recently been changing in Qatar, the sad reality is that the helpers still require NOC to change their employer.
— Also, make sure the current employer won’t ask you to pay them money for the NOC! First of all, it’s ILLEGAL in Qatar. Both of you can get in big trouble if such a “transaction” takes place. I get it that some people paid big money to the Agencies for bringing their nannies to Qatar, but, in my opinion, it doesn’t justify basically “selling” the helper to whoever agrees to reimburse them… It is wrong from both legal and moral standpoints.
— If she worked in a similar capacity before: does she have references from her previous employers? Or can she provide a contact number to reach them? In many cases, the lady you hire is supposed to take care of your little ones, therefore speaking to someone who employed her before can provide you with the best assurance that you made the right choice.
— What conditions was she working in before? Maybe she is used to having 2 days off per week, but you need her help on Saturdays, too? Or maybe she used to wake up early in the morning to prepare kids for school, but you need her to help you more in the evenings? And what if she’s used to taking care of a newborn, but your child is 5 years old and requires a different kind of attention? Such things need to be clarified before you seal the deal to make sure you have an understanding of what’s required of the helper in your household.
— Does she want to go to visit her family before starting a new job? This actually happened to us. We found a great lady and right before we started all the visa-related procedures, she informed us that she wants to go for a month to her home country. This was a no-go for us as we needed someone to start right away, so we had to begin our search all over again.
ALMOST THERE! WHAT SHOULD YOU DISCUSS BEFORE SIGNING A CONTRACT, TO AVOID FUTURE MISUNDERSTANDINGS?
— First and foremost: the salary! But also: what does the amount include, and what other benefits will she receive on top of her regular pay?
— How many days of vacation will she be entitled to, and how often? Would you require her to travel with you if your family travels somewhere?
— What are the expected working hours? And how many days off per week will she have?
— When you go out with kids, do you expect her to come along? For example, our helper prefers to stay home. We respect that and don’t bring her with us for family outings.
— What is her main responsibility (Child care? Cleaning? Cooking?), REMEMBER: she’s just one person so you can’t expect her to give high priority to every single task at home. It’s your responsibility to highlight to her what are the most important things, as each family is different. For example, for our helper childcare is a responsibility no. 1. She cleans when she has the time or when the kids are outside and the house is empty. It’s nice if she cooks, but we can survive without it. 🙂
— Be sure to notify your future helper in advance if you have any pets at home (it doesn’t matter if you would want her to take care of them or not). Some ladies could be terrified of big dogs, some could be allergic to cats, some simply have never been around pets and have no idea how to deal with them.
LAST STEP: LET THE LADY MEET YOUR FAMILY IN PERSON TO SEE IF YOU’RE A GOOD FIT!
This is a very important step, especially if you’re hiring someone to take care of your children. Meet on neutral ground (park, etc.), or invite her to your home, and see how she vibes with your family. 🙂 This way you’ll be sure that you made the right choice! Sometimes you find someone perfect “on paper”, but in reality, it turns out that she’s not the best match for you (say, you have assertive kids, and the helper is very shy).
There! You’re all set! You can begin your search now! If you have any questions that are not answered in this post, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll try to help you out. 🙂
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