A Story and a Few Questions

My cook P asked for my advice today.

She had a story to share. She works as a cook in a house in our neighbourhood. Let’s call them family A. The family A has 6 members… a man, his wife, parents and a brother and a sister. Family A hired a maid B from an agency in Delhi.

The wife is expecting and is due in 2 months or so. The maid B from Delhi is basically to help post delivery and is hired for 6 months only. B currently does cleaning and dusting and some odd works in the home.

B helps P in the kitchen in chopping etc. So, they got talking.

B told P that she doesn’t want to work in this house and wants to work elsewhere so can P help her? B has a story too. She lost her parents some time back and her relatives sold her at a brothel in Delhi. She ran away from there and went to Police. Police sent her to this office of a Placement Agency for Maids. She has worked as a maid in some houses at Delhi too till she was sent here in Jaipur.

B’s main grouse is that she is never paid for her work. She was not paid when she worked in Delhi as a maid and nor is she getting any money now from her current employers. Though she is treated as a family member, she is concerned about her monthly salary.

She asked her employer about the same and the lady informed her that she is depositing her salary of Rs 5000 in the bank. Now this could be true or could be false!

My knowledge of maids from agencies is limited to scams/exploitation that I have read in newspapers. I have read how the agencies dupe the people who hire maids through them. (They charge some Rs 10,000 to 40,000 upfront and send the maid and then in a day or two, the maid runs away from that house. The phone numbers of the agencies no longer functions and they shift their office elsewhere too.) Or how the employers exploit/abuse the maids.

So, can you help in answering a few questions…

  • I believe placement service agencies have a network of people and they help them with jobs as maids, drivers etc. They charge a fee ranging from Rs 10, 000 to 50, 000 from the interested clients and send the maids as per their requirements. What happens next? I read somewhere that the salary of the maids is deposited in the agency’s account. Is that true? If yes, then would they be getting their due salaries? Or the agency would be taking its commission from the maids too!? In that case, I wonder how much would the maids be actually getting in their hands!
  • What happens if the maid decides to leave the current employer and works elsewhere? Is there a legal document that binds her to the agency?
  • Should B think of ‘fleeing’ from her current employers? Though she is getting a comfortable life, a home, food and clothes… but no money as of now.

What do you think? Please share your experiences and views.

Linking this post to the Ultimate Blog Challenge and October’s NaBloPoMo.

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40 thoughts on “A Story and a Few Questions

  1. Thankfully, we don’t have to go through such agencies here. In this case, we should also factor the cost of living/rent/food, which is quite high in big cities. At least for the next 6 months, it might be better to stay and work in the current residence.

    Destination Infinity

    • That’s true, while she is all comfortable here, her main concern is what if she doesn’t gets her money after 6 months!! What if the money is taken by the agency?
      Yes, the cost of living is high but then she will have her freedom but being alone, she has that threat or fear of exploitation too.

  2. Shilpa – It is an unorganized sector, and the issues are the same across several parts of India.
    From what I know / heard: (1) Agencies do take money to provide a maid. They say that if you’re not satisfied, then they will replace.. Some do, but more are simply unreachable once they get their money which is a 1 time commission. After that the deal from what I’ve heard is salary + you bear all the expenses for the maid. It works out to between 10000 Rs – 20000 Rs / month (all inclusive) (2) From what I know it is an unorganized sector, and I’m not sure if they have any contracts / legal agreement – but most maids / drivers don’t risk fleeing because news spreaks by word-of-mouth, and then they find it hard to be associated with any agency. Still some quit, but thats a minority (3) I dont think anyone can answer that other than B. if liquid cash is her No. 1 concern, then how will she live, where will she stay..safety, etc etc.. are all Q’s she should answer. But if she’s getting a “raw deal” financially, she should think of her options and then decide.. My 2 cents!

    • Wow, if the salary is 10-20K… that’s pretty decent. Wonder, if it is actually paid to the maids.
      Hmmm…. true about the word of mouth,… but would they like to be associated with an agency when there is no dearth of opportunities for maids. After all not every body is background checking conscious!
      You are absolutely right… it’s her decision and she needs to weigh the pros and cons completely. Thanks a lot, Nischala for sharing your thoughts about this, here. 🙂

  3. My 2 cents

    a- If we can we should get in touch with her agencies to get to know the T&C’s
    b- As far as the bank account is concerned if there is a bank acc in her name then she must have signed on the papers to open the account and then she should have a passbook, card etc. because even if the money is being deposited in her name then she should have an access to it.
    c- It is a possibility that the money is being deposited in the agency acc but in her name but how do we know? Plus she should have some cash in hand. It is her right but to know the details either the employers or the agency should answer.
    d- Whether she should work somewhere else or not depends on the fact that whether there is money in her name or not.

    And as Nischala rightly says that there are lot many things invovled in staying alone and earning money. I guess it is the drive to earn more that attracts but she should think a lot before taking any stand.

    • a) The girl has no details of the agency with her!
      b) She was not asked to sign anywhere for bank account… so guess that’s not opened as yet!
      c) She doesnt have a penny with her but all her needs are met by the employers!
      And just today they fired the cook P, coz she was seen talking a lot with B. They never approved of B talking to anybody!! So looks like there are a lot of grey areas!! 😐

  4. It’s quite a dilemma, isn’t it. If Family A are treating her well, chances are that they are actually depositing the money too. However, perhaps she can negotiate to have a small monthly stipend, so she has her own spending money and a little freedom to buy what she wants. Leaving is not a good option only because she’ll be vulnerable to a whole lot of things.
    No easy answers of course.

  5. In the unorganized sector maids are prone to exploitation . But leaving is no option as she might end with unscrupulous people. this situation is bad.

  6. We’ve used the agency for a short while and our experience wasn’t too good. Most take the one time commission and then simply refuse to send a replacement if the maid quits – which they often do. In fact most of the maids we got were very financially savvy. And we handed them their salary. Actually if the maid is naive some families do open accounts for them.. My friend did that. The maid could ask for a small allowance. All the maids i had expected me to get them ALL the stuff for their daily needs while they saved up their salaries.

    • Yeah, all their daily needs are usually met and they save their salaries completely, which is good in a way! Glad that they are financially savvy too… though B here is a smart one, but has no access to her money. Dont know what the arrangements are in her case!

  7. Sorry Shilpa, I don’t have much advice here.

    I hired a maid from an agency when my daughter was little and she stayed with me for over a year. AT that time I gave a small deposit to the agency and then gave her the salary in her hand each month, along with the other facilities of the home and living. She left when the owner of the agency died after almost a year and a half and that’s when her brother in law started asking for more money from us. Since we had already incremented her pay after a year , we were obviously not ready to pay any more, plus our little girl had started day care so we were fine to let her go. So we let her go…

    That has been my experience.I am not sure that B will have any trouble with the family A. She must try to ask for some stipend as Corinne suggested for her usual expenses.

  8. Sad experience for this woman. I don’t know about India. But I can tell about USA. There are two types of employment. One is to fill a temporary position.
    In this case, if an hourly salary to be paid to the employee is $10, the agency will charge the employer $15. The agency will pay the $10 to the employee. The second one is to fill a permanent position. The agency will charge the employer 25% of the annual salary. The employer will be the monthly salary directly to the employee.

    Employers are legally obligated to pay their employees on time. There are very strict federal and state laws.

    I think in this case, she should consider quitting because she is not getting paid. She is depositing her salary of Rs.5000 per month in a bank? BS.

    • Thanks for sharing the US scenario SG. Guess, we don’t have such stringent systems, rather we don’t have any systems here. So, it’s all hocus pocus as far this sector is concerned.
      Though the lady says that she has deposited B’s salary in a bank account but B has not signed any bank papers as yet! So, it’s all talks and no action/substance as yet! 😐

  9. Never knew this side of the maid/agency story..Like you I too had only heard of agency and their scams only… Its sad that they have to toil without any guarantee that they will get the wages they were promised.

  10. Agencies send the maids abroad to work as domestic help too. I am sure they take a huge lumpsome from them. As for B’s case she could ask them details on how much is getting deposited and how she can avail it. As they are treating her well I don’t think they would be deceiving her. Some open communication is what may be required

    • Certainly, if they are sending maids abroad they would be charging a lot! Open communication is what is missing. Now just today, they fired the cook coz she was seen talking a lot with B.The cook told me that some or the other family member is always hovering around them and discourage them to talk to each other!! So, guess, B is in a tough situation. Hope she gets her salary from them!!

  11. Shilpa, you have raised a very important issue. These so called agencies are in reality fake and money grabbing outlets. They cheat the clients and also the girls to whom they provide employment. We have had awful experiences with such agencies and also with the maids provided by them. These agencies charge Rs. 20000 to 25000 as registration money in the beginning. The condition is that they will provide three substitutes, but in reality if the maid runs away after a few days, no substitute is made available. Most of the girls provided are characterless. The problems are unlimited. I can write a full blog about our experiences with these so called agencies/ maids.

    • Yes, have heard about maids running away and the agencies not providing the 3 free replacements!! You must write about your experiences with these maids… it would serve as an eye-opener for a lot of us!

  12. i agree she must be paid in cash too that would make her feel secure. I think B is the right person to decide. Since her basic needs like food and clothing are met, she should take the call on quitting after careful thinking. Where will she stay if she quits. Moreover has she signed some contract with the agency stating that her salary can be deposited in a bank.? Perhaps, she would’nt be able to answer that question because most of these people are illiterate. and would’nt even know if they have signed such papers.

    Maybe, she should take the lady of the house into confidence and find out from her how the agencies work and if the deposited money goes to her account or the agency’s account.

    • That’s right, cash in hand is what she is looking at. Otherwise, she is very happy. Though she has not signed on any bank papers, the lady says she has deposited her salary in the bank… looks fishy!
      You are bang on… talking to the lady is the key to all her questions!

  13. Wish some educated persons (ladies) go on a sting operation posing as maids and expose these agencies and the heartless employers. (Idea stolen from the TV show Devious Maids.)

  14. WOW, it looks like you have exposed a bit of fraud. I hope she is able to get the salary that is coming to her and all works out. At my house, I am the maid. Actually I am everything. LOL

  15. Poor lady. I have a feeling she is getting cheated of her salary.. depositing her money in an account without her knowledge is definitely something that is unbelievable. I feel she should quit the job since they seem to be taking advantage of her innocence. I never hired a maid through any agency so I am not sure.

  16. I think both the agency as well as the home she is working cannot be trusted, for both seem to be exploiting her. If she asked the owners naturally they would lie to her that they are putting her salary in the bank, and she would not get any proper response from the agency also , for it is not the first time she has been taken for a ride.
    Just providing her with the basic everyday requirement does not absolve the owners of all responsibility. They should open an account in her name, and when she wants to withdraw money she should be able to.
    I think something is not quite right here.
    Somehow educated women should take up her case and find out what exactly is happening.
    I really feel bad for such women, for the are caught in the middle with no route out.

    • Agree with you completely, Rama. If a bank account was created in her name, she would have signed the papers but no such thing has happened. I hope the poor girl is not exploited further and gets her due money asap.

  17. I am no expert in this, and hence I do not have any suggestions. But if you ask me, I feel she doesnt work under a registered home, because the salary might be low compared to what the agencies actually get paid, but she should be getting a salary. It would be helpful for her, if she is taken to a good home or agency!

    • What you are saying is perfectly right, Ashwini. The current employers will keep her for 6 months… hope she gets paid here and gets a good home/agency the next time.

  18. Very interesting story, I have only come across such pieces in news or elsewhere media. I would say she should at least speak once. No harm in that. If they are treating her well they must be good people and might see her side of the story too.

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