Pay cut

Do you cut your maid's salary if she does not show up for work? If yes, what is the leeway you allow?
How many days of paid leave does she get in a month?
Do you also cut her pay if you go on a vacation?

Recently my maid complained to me about my neighbour who cut her pay because the neighbour went on a vacation and she saw no reason to pay the maid because there was no work. To me, it struck as meanness. I mean if you were working in an organization and you had to forgo your wages for even public holidays how would it feel? And such labourers do not even get benefits like a medical insurance or provident fund or pension. In that sense, they are far less privileged.

She is a reliable and efficient maid. I have generally been lucky in this matter so far. Touchwood. She seldom remains absent from work although she had mentioned about her 2 days per month off condition before joining work. I had no problems with this condition provided she gave me prior notice. Of that she has remained good to her word. I.e. she gives me ample prior notice and also she does not remain absent just to claim her 2 day off in a month. I am really thankful for her sincerity.

I believe in giving a freehand to my maids. I give them all the instructions right at the beginning of their employment and supervise discreetly for a few days later. If found satisfactory, I do not hover around daily to prompt them in their daily duties. I suck at such supervision. It makes me uncomfortable and fear it would make the other person too. Anything amiss is pointed out the next day with a gentle reminder and again I back off. Again, my maids have been faithful and probably also grateful for this gesture.

When it comes to cutting the wages, I generally do not resort to it unless the leave has been too long or very frequent and/or the quality of work has been compromised far too often. I strongly believe and this belief comes from the practice that is followed at my parents' home too that the people working for us need to be treated with more respect and consideration than is generally meted out to them. After all they come from a lower strata of the society and depend on our wages to run their household, their kids' education, etc. They are far less fortunate in terms of material worth than we are. Cutting pay for something beyond their control would be the meanest way to get even with them. Of course, there are counterpoints that present age maids cannot be relied on, they are in fact better off than they actually pretend to be, they resort to cutting corners on a sly, so on and forth. While there is an amount of truth to each of these points, the penalization should be used judiciously and not on absolute terms.

And on a lighter note, isn't it prudent to cut ego than wages especially when good and reliable maids are becoming endangered species at a rate faster than the tigers or maybe the girl-child (I am being mean here) in India?


  1. That is my ma's philosophy too. Para 4 and 5. and till date, the harshest of maids have survived and come to respect her. I think if given a little more respect than they are credited with, even they do their work sincerely.

    I had written a funnier version earlier.

  2. I don't understand the kind of satisfaction people derive by acting pushy.. The wage per day will work out to be less than a movie ticket or the auto-rick fare!! Am fortunate to have a nice maid too.. Though her quality of work is so-so, it works for me because she can be trusted and is regular.. There have been instances when we have offered her extra money (some sickness or unplanned expense in her family), but she refuses to take:)

  3. Uma, so well-written and concisely-put! Completely agree with u. The maids here don't generally ask for a certain # of days off every month. I too don't believe in cutting pay unless the absence has been too frequent or the work has been really bad. It's the height of meanness to cut a maid's salary just because you go on vacation!!!
    Give these 'employees' some respect and consideration and they will respect u for that and not shortchange u. I've had that experience.

  4. Wow Uma - I am nodding my head to the extent that you could have taken these words out of my brain :). I have an old faithful who's my all-in-all and whom I would find it very difficult without. Because she was having health problems and ended up taking off more than coming home, we hit upon a (supposedly brilliant) arrangement where I would pay her for the number of days she comes and I wouldn't hire a replacement but would manage on my own as long as I know in advance atleast. But this has of course loosely translated to - 2/3 days leave is ok, and only if it's 5-6 or more days of leave I actually cut something at all atleast for the sake of it! Not to mention all the advances everyone owes me as I listen to all the problems they are going through and never have the heart to say no!
    Hubby says everyone who works for me ends up taking me for granted - but also concedes that this is probably why they stick around too :).
    Oh and cutting salary when employer goes on vacation - Ridiculous !!! I didn't know there are people like that!

  5. My mom asks about the holidays she want in a month and conditional holidays are not taken into consideration, only solid reasons. :p

  6. Purnima: My mom's too..hence probably the practice has been sub-consciously adopted by me. I think I already read your version quite a while ago..will go and refresh my memory..:-)

    Vidya: Seriously, and believe it or not, the neighbour in question actually argued with her with the point that her husband is the only earning member. WTF!!! how can she even compare her situation with that of the maid's? How shallow! However the neighbour did pay her in full after learning of my practice, so to that extent I am relieved and happy!

    Aparna: Thank you so much for the kind words! Yeah maids in bbay too have never asked for certain number of days off..guess this is typical of southern Indian states. But as long as it is justified and does not extend for too long I am OK with it.

    Aparna: It's great to know how alike we think :-) You sure sound like my mom in the matter of advances and my dad says the same thing to her..
    yes, I was also shocked to know this. The neighbour came to verify how I went about in this matter and when she said that her friends also follow her method, I and started to doubt if I am the ridiculous one! thankfully it is not the case..:-). But after having a word with me, she did pay the maid the full salary, so to that extent I give her credit.

    Prateek: That's fine and justified I believe. You have been here before if I am not mistaken. If not, welcome! do keep visiting..

  7. nice blog..
    I am here for the first time..
    in my opinion ..these workers should be given bonus in form of cash or anything substantial when there is an extra work or some good news at home..and take blessings from these people... they bless you from heart!
    Pay cut is something I would say is meanest thing to do... I value all this help..since we dont have any domestic help for us in US

  8. Harman: Hi Harman, Welcome here!
    I totally agree and do follow the method you suggest!

    Thanks so much for reading and do keep visiting!


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