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 any work. They should be sure that any contract worker, cleaner, construction worker or builder is trustworthy before they are granted access.

“The people you have employed to work in your house or on your property form a vital line of defense against crime. You need to know that you can trust them with your property while you are away,” says Agnieszka Gryn, General Manager: Inland Region 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,” she says.

In a report in New Age last year, spokesperson for the background screening company, Managed Integrity Evaluations, Claudia Naidoo-van der Merwe 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.

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

“This is a dangerous world that we live in and trust has become a luxury we can no longer afford,” says Naidoo-van der Merwe.

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

She added that more than 25% of the people the company did criminal checks on carried certain risks.

“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 says.

Gryn agrees saying 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 always work through a professional placement agency that will do these checks for you,” she says.

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

“Once you have made your decision you need to ensure that anyone working for you understands your security protocols. 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 explaining how they should respond 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 license; and

· Verify – by calling the homeowner to find out if they are expecting the person or call 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,” concludes Gryn.