December 13, 2006 in Features

Miss Manners: Consider the entire year as household employer

Judith Martin United Feature Syndicate
 

Dear Miss Manners: My partner and I recently accepted reality – that without outside intervention, the kitchen, and especially the bathroom, were never going to receive the weekly attention they needed. We hired two women to do the work we can’t seem to get done, despite the tiny apartment space we share.

But just before that, I had read that when one goes on vacation, thus negating the need for housekeepers, the housekeepers still need the money (more than us) and therefore we should pay them for our weekly service, even though we won’t be using their service.

I would have to have an extravagant vacation period to allow the costs to get serious; and quite frankly, I don’t get that much time off. So it’s not the money, but what is right? If I go away for two or three weeks, do I pay for each week, or make a token payment, or what?

Also, where is the line between me cleaning for the housekeepers, and letting them do that for which they were hired?

Our agreement does not include dishwashing. I don’t mind leaving a cup or two, and/or something else not requiring scrubbing, in the sink, but I will do my breakfast dishes before they arrive. I also try to get through the bathroom well before they arrive. I may not wipe down the tiles of the shower, or the sink, that morning, but neither will I subject them to any unpleasant aesthetics.

They are cleaning my apartment; they are not my mother when I was a child. I try to put papers and magazines away, or into recycling, and generally make the place ready for cleaning, not pick up.

Gentle Reader: That you understand that human beings make some kinds of messes that no one else should be expected to clean up for them is something that Miss Manners appreciates, as, no doubt, do your housekeepers. We need not go into specifics, she hopes. Less unappetizing chores, such as cleaning dishes, can be negotiated.

But if your idea is – as it should be – to provide a decent job, then you should be as fastidious about the work year as you are about each day. Decent jobs provide a reasonable amount of sick leave and vacation, which your housekeepers should have in proportion to the amount of time they work for you. And you should not have a lockout when you go on vacation. An alternative might be to have them come in then and do cleaning jobs that go beyond the weekly routine.


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