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Hiring Household Staff

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For many newcomers to Jakarta, the thought of hiring household staff seems quite foreign - as it is a luxury reserved for the fortunate few in the Western world. In Jakarta, however, having household staff is a part of everyday life for middle class Indonesians and foreigners alike. Your staff will not only be an enormous help to you around your home, but will also serve as your first window into Indonesian culture, a sort of liaison between two worlds. At the same time, you will be providing much needed jobs and financial support to your staff.

The first thing to consider when hiring staff would be your own personal household needs. Do you have a large house? A small apartment? Do you have children? A large garden or pool? Listed below are the different types of domestic helpers, or pembantu, who will be available for hire:

Common Household Help positions

Driver/Sopir - the person who drives the family car - employed by the family or the company. Responsible for cleaning and arranging maintenance for the car. Read more about Hiring a Driver in Indonesia

Cook/Juru masak or koki - person who has the primary responsibility for preparing meals for the family, caring for the kitchen, shopping. As the senior person in the household staff, is often seen as the housekeeper. May also do other household chores. Many also entrust this person with “petty cash” for the household.

Cleaner/Helper/Pembantu - person/s who have responsibility for cleaning the house, washing and ironing the clothes, assisting the cook, help with child care as needed. For homes that do not have full-time cooks, the pembantu also is responsible for helping with the cooking.

Babysitter/Nanny/Pengasuh anak / Babysister / Suster - person whose sole job is the care of children. Most of the time, they do not assist in household chores, except where it is related to the care of the child. Read also Babysitters, Nannies and Child minders

Night Jaga/Penaga Malam - Job is to watch the front/outside areas of your home in the evening

Day Jaga/Gardener/PenJaga/Tukang Kebun - job is to watch the front/outside areas of your home in the day time - may also do yard work or care for the pool. Ensures security at the gate, intercepting inquiries and guests.

Satpam - uniformed trained guard - working either evening or day shift. Responsible only for security and no household chores.

Live-in - the staff person has a furnished room and sleeps and eats in your home

Live-out - the staff person's residence is outside your home and they travel to and from your home each day.

For a single person or a couple in a small apartment a part-time live-out maid, plus a driver, will probably be adequate, but for a family in a large house with a garden a team of 4 to 5 people is recommended to keep the household running smoothly. The division of duties is very flexible and some of the jobs mentioned above can be combined, such as maid/laundress or houseboy/gardener.

In order to maintain harmonious relationships amongst the staff it can be a good idea to choose people from the same ethnic group, or to allow the most senior staff member, usually the cook, to give recommendations or advice on selecting the others.

When you have decided on what sort of helpers you need, the next question is where to find them. In Jakarta there are various ways to locate and set up interviews with potential staff for your home. Perhaps the very best way is through word-of-mouth from friends and colleagues as you will have personal references to go by. Another excellent source is community bulletin boards, where expatriates who are leaving the country often post notices in order to place their staff. Often you will have the chance to speak with the former employer. These bulletin boards are found in many supermarkets, clubs and organizations frequented by the expatriate community. However, to ensure authenticity of information, it is recommended to choose staff from boards that are not accessible to the general public and are located inside the buildings of the clubs and organizations.

Servants Registries & Online Search Options allows staff to create their own profile online, sometimes with the help of (previous) employers. The website, set up in 2016, aims to consolidate and sophisticate the various registries scattered around Jakarta to create easy access to a larger database of experienced household staff and enable contact with their previous employers.

The Expat Forum has a channel dedicated to household staff looking for work, and expat families can post ads to find them there as well. As with anything online, be sure and vet the person applying by thoroughly checking all their references.

BWA maintains a Staff List of available servants, and makes this available to BWA members at their center to view, or it is accessible by download from a private BWA members web page. ANZA has some folders of references for staff available at the front desk.

Another great resource is the Upper Crust's classifieds. Just ask to be added to their mailing list and you'll be able to read recommendations straight from previous employers who are trying to place their household help before they leave Jakarta.

One of the most reliable ways to source staff is from other helpers' friends and family. It is possible that someone who is working for a friend of yours may know of someone who is looking for work. Indonesians normally would not recommend just anyone, as it is seen as a loss of face if that person does not work out.

Interviewing your Prospective Household Help

What to ask when interviewing a potential servant will depend a great deal on your own household needs and the duties involved, but perhaps the most important thing to go by is your own instinct or personal feelings about the person you are interviewing. Remember that this person will play a large role in your personal life in Jakarta, and will be spending a lot of time with both you and your family. Don't hire anyone that you do not feel comfortable with or trusting of no matter how glowing his or her references might be. A person's nature is often more important than his or her skill when you will be living in the same household. With luck, you may find someone with whom you and your family will establish a long and warm relationship for years to come.

Listed below are a few recommended questions you may wish to ask when interviewing:

  • Identification and Personal Details. Find out as much as possible about family, children, what village they are from, how long they have been in Jakarta, etc. Ask to see their original KTP (identity card) and driver's license and should you decide to employ them always make a copy of your employee's KTP, or identity card, on the first day of employment and keep this in a secure place.
  • Experience. Usually, you will be handed a few letters of reference to read, written by former employers. If possible contact the referee to ensure that they are authentic. These will normally give a description of the length of employment, the duties that were performed, any particular skills, as well as personal attributes. Sometimes these will be glowing, other times more to the point. Ask questions that outline experience specifically; for example, if you are interviewing a cook who tells you that he or she is familiar with preparing Western food, ask him or her to explain some examples of the kinds of dishes prepared. This will give you a better idea of his or her ability.
  • Ability to Read. This may or may not be of great importance to you, depending on the position. In the case of a cook, the ability to read a recipe or a shopping list would be important. The ability to read would also be crucial for a babysitter or nanny, particularly if an emergency should occur.
  • Living Arrangements. Find out if he or she is looking for a live- in position and would be occupying a room in the household quarters, or living outside the home and commuting. This may have an effect on the hours worked, and on flexibility with regard to hours worked and travel costs, so discuss this carefully.
  • Expectations. Identify and explain in detail the duties and responsibilities of the position.
  • Ground Rules. Explain again, in detail, what their normal hours would be, whether or not you would need some flexibility with these hours, whether or not visitors would be allowed, phone usage, etc., and make sure that this is mutually acceptable. Most staff employees expect one day off a week and work 12-hour days, which of course includes a lunch hour and periodic breaks for prayers or rest.
  • Children. If you are interviewing a babysitter or nanny for your child, clearly outline your expectations, rules and philosophy concerning the care of your children. If you are simply hiring someone to work in the household, find out how they feel about working in a house full of kids (most Indonesians adore children and truly love having them around). Ask the potential employee if they have children themselves, how old they are, and if they would be living in or visiting your home (you must decide ahead of time if this is acceptable to you and if you have enough room).
  • Pets. If you own a dog it is of great importance that you mention this at the time of the interview. Many Indonesians, being Muslims, do not wish to care for or even live in the same environment as a dog. This is rarely a problem with household help who have worked for expatriates before, and you will certainly be able to find someone who doesn't mind dogs. Indonesians, for the most part, feel comfortable with many other types of pets, particularly cats and birds, but you should ask to be sure. More information on this in the Pets article.
  • Salary. Identify what the starting salary would be, and determine if this is acceptable. It is also important at this time to discuss when and if you would give future raises and what they would be based on, holiday bonuses, and any other extras that you may want to include at this time. Read this article for a Household Staff Salary Survey and specific details on additional compensation issues.

Some additional information and common practices regarding staff include the following:

  • Medical Care. the Indonesian National Social Health Insurance (JKN: Jaminan Kesehatan Nasional) was implemented by the BPJS (Badan Penyelenggara Jaminan Sosial). The JKN benefits are based on managed care and provide unlimited benefits for those who follow the required procedure using primary health facility, mostly at primary public health centers. Please note that it is an obligation for all Indonesians to register to BPJS.

    While formal workers will be enrolled in the JKN by their employers, people working in the informal sector should register themselves. Therefore, you will want to make sure that your domestic staff (drivers, maid, etc.), who are considered as working in the informal sector, enroll themselves with the JKN to ensure that they will benefit from the basic health coverage for outpatients and hospitalization for themselves and their family members. It is common practice for the employer to reimburse the costs of this insurance. Should your employee have family or dependents, you should let him or her know whether or not you are prepared to cover family members' medical insurance costs. Domestic workers can be asked to show proof of their payment to BPJS for themselves and their family members before reimbursements are made. Additional medical costs that are not covered by BPJS may be covered by employers, and while most employers reimburse all medical expenses it is advisable to set an annual limit in advance.

  • Pre-employment health checks. Some expatriates arrange for a pre-employment medical exam at their own expense. It is recommended that any staff handling food or working with young children be tested for hepatitis, tuberculosis and typhoid before beginning employment. For drivers in particular include a test of eyesight. The health check should be carried out by a reputable medical clinic that gives the results of the tests both to you and the potential employee.
  • Keeping Records. It is very important to keep track of salary and bonus payments, medical payments, loans, or any other type of financial transaction between employer and employee. Put everything in writing in a record book, and make sure that each time a transaction occurs, your employee counts his or her money, understands everything, and then signs the book next to each individual transaction. You may also want to keep any medical receipts, and a copy of your employee's KTP, or identity card, and a telephone number where you could reach his / her family in a case of emergency in a book. This book should then be kept in a safe place.
  • Security Concerns. It is advisable to keep anything of value, such as jewelry, cash, passports, etc., locked up in a secure place at all times. You may decide to purchase a small safe to keep in your closet for extra peace of mind. Remember that no matter how fond you are of your domestic helpers, and no matter how honest they are, leaving valuables accessible only serves as a great temptation and may invite trouble.
  • Courses and Skills. Special courses are available at International SOS and BantuHelp that are designed to improve various skills required by household staff. These include courses in swimming pool safety, first aid and CPR, child minder's first aid, and household cleaning. After the course, each student receives a certificate of participation which is beneficial in future job searches.
  • Leaving the Country. Most employers provide their household staff with letters of recommendation and help with job placement before departure from Indonesia. This is in addition to the severance pay to which they are entitled. Since spring 2016, employers can leave their references online on

If you decide to terminate an employee, it is recommended not to give notice beforehand for security reasons. It is best to simply terminate the employee in a very calm manner, and ask that he or she prepare to depart the premises immediately. Once again, for security reasons, you should supervise this preparation in the company of another person. Avoid accusations, emotions and angry words. If your employee has worked for one year or more, he or she should be provided with severance pay equal to one month's salary per year of service even if they are being terminated. This should be stipulated in your initial agreement. Make sure that he or she signs a statement in your record book affirming receipt of this payment. If your servant is resigning, you are not responsible for severance pay. However, you should still supervise the departure.

If you have several members of staff it is up to you to decide whether you prefer to have them take their days off on different days, or whether you would like them all to take the same day off so that you can have a "staff-free" day.

It certainly takes some adjustment in getting used to having staff around your house, but most expatriates will find that the benefits far outweigh the drawbacks.

Recommended Household Staff Wages - January 2015*

Head of Staff - Rp 2 to 3+ million
Cook - Rp 2 - 3+ million
Maid - Rp 1.5 - 2.0 million

General information

*Figured based on Colliers International survey

The official minimum wage in Jakarta is Rp 3.648,036 million/month (January 2019). It is adjusted every year and the new rate usually comes into effect in January. Note that if the employment of household staff is recorded on the financial statement of a multinational company, the company is obliged by law to pay the individual at least minimal wage.

In 2011, the International Labour Conference of the International Labour Organization adopted the Convention concerning decent work for domestic workers, which is also referred to as the Domestic Workers Convention, 2011 (No. 189). This Convention has not yet been ratified by Indonesia, but it nonetheless gives employers guidance as to internationally accepted minimum standards.

The Domestic Workers Convention states that if a minimum wage exists, this should be applied to domestic workers. Payment of wages must be paid directly to the worker and at regular interval of no longer than a month. The Convention also states that there should be equal treatment between domestic workers and workers in general with respect to normal hours of work, overtime compensation, periods of daily and weekly rest and annual paid leave.

The minimum wage in Bali is Rp 2,297,968, starting January 2018.

Additional Information

Minimum Wage Information - for office/factory workers in Jakarta

Further details on basic rights for domestic workers can be found in this document.

Government Regulations governing the employment of household help in Indonesia

For more information on Household Staff, read AWA's Introducing Indonesia, A Guide to Expatriate Living and Privacy Issues in Indonesia and how they affect expatriates.

Our thanks to Colliers International and BantuHelp for their generous contribution of information this article!

Overseas Placement of Indonesian Staff

For those foreign nationals that want to hire Indonesians to work in their homes abroad, please be advised that Indonesian government regulations forbid the direct hire of Indonesians to work abroad as domestic help. The Indonesian Agency for the Placement and Protection of Indonesian Migrant Workers - BNP2TKI is responsible for the placement of Indonesians abroad. Legal migrant worker will hold a KTKLN card, issued by the Indonesian government.

The reasons for this policy are various and all involve protecting the workers from exploitation. Read the ILO's information on the subject here.

If you want to hire an Indonesian worker, you should contact the Indonesian embassy in your country of residence and ask what the approved procedure is and what agency is licensed to place Indonesians in your country.

Last updated November 12, 2018

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