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Hiring a maid in Malaysia - Unicorn Manpower
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Hiring a maid in Malaysia

A guide for expat and local parents

Hiring a maid in Malaysia

Let’s face it.

Malaysians are fast losing faith in our national schools, with more and more parents checking out the possibilities of sending their precious little ones to private or international schools. Whilst this option would once, mostly be considered by the elite few in the past, we are seeing more parents from the middle income group enrolling their kids in private schools today.

If inflation, taxes and price increases are not bad enough, we now have to work harder than ever to afford our children’s education. How many of us have the privilege to actually be a SAHM and being able to afford quality education? Not many, in my group of friends.


So is it hardly surprising that more than ever, we turn to hiring live-in maids from neighboring countries so we could go to work, just so we could afford quality education for our kids?

It’s not a common practice, this having-a-maid business in other parts of the world. In fact, when we first got our Filipino live-in, I felt a little embarrassed letting it known to my friends and family in New Zealand and Australia. Back in NZ, you do your own cooking, cleaning, minding your kids, and working full time. There is a big difference though. Working in Malaysia is very different from working in NZ. There is really little to no work-life balance here. Most of us leave home at 7am, and not reach home until at least 7 or 8pm. If you’re lucky. Long working hours, plus traffic jam just make it near impossible to be able to do it all.

So as a working mum and employer of a live-in maid, I thought I’d share my experience of hiring a maid in Malaysia. I belong to a Facebook group of maid employers, where we share stories of our experiences, reviewing agencies and sharing out information of illegal maids/nightmare maids experiences. The media is known for reporting tales of mistreatment of maids here, but no one really talks about the other side of the story – of how some maids can be a real nightmare. More on that in the future… I’d like to write about my thoughts of hiring a good maid in this article.


The most common questions for families looking to hire a maid in Malaysia are probably:

  1. Which agency should I work with to hire a maid, which of them have the best quality maids?
  2. What are the upfront fees that I have to pay?
  3. Filipino, Indonesian or Cambodian?

In this article, I’d like to cover the first question:


Which agency should I work with to hire a maid, which of them have the best quality maids?

Types of Agencies:

As far as I know, there are two kinds of “agencies”. The franchise group with many branches, and “boutique” private agents. There are really no hard and fast rules of which of them providing better quality candidates. When we were heading down the path of hiring, I did a lot of research and talked to a lot of agencies from both camps. In the end, I went with a pretty established franchise group. NOT because of that reason though, but because I did not have to wait. My maid joined me the very next day!

Hiring Process:

The normal practice though, is that you pay the agency a hefty sum of upfront fees after you’ve selected your candidate. Much like a recruiter, you will first be offered photos and bio (CV) of their candidates. You may choose a couple and will be offered the chance to interview the candidates via Skype or phone calls. Once you have identified the candidate you want to hire, they will make the offer to the candidate. Once accepted, you’d be required to pay the agent their fees. BEFORE the maid had even left their home country. The normal waiting time is from 3-6 months to the time they actually start working in your

A lot of tragic stories have been told by employers. Stories of how the maid changed their minds, or how the agent kept pushing back the date of arrival, or how maids failed their medical test etc etc. This is a great disadvantage to would-be employers, because you have paid the fees upfront. You take all the risks. And we’re not talking about a few hundred Ringgit. Some have been charged for as much as 5-figure upfront payment!

So how I chose mine – was by pure chance. As I said earlier, I have contacted many different agencies during my research. One day, one of the agencies called to tell me that they have a couple of Pinoy maids who were already in the country and would I like to interview them in person? If I like, I could confirm the offer on the same day and she could join us the next day.

How this happened, according to the agent, was that the normal waiting period between paying to confirm hiring the maid to the date of arrival could be as long as 6 months. In this case, both maids were paid for, and have valid work permits to work for their respective employers. One of them was supposed to work for a family with an elderly grandparent. Sadly, before she arrived in the country, the elderly had passed away, hence the family changed their minds about having a lived-in maid. If I was interested, the agency would process the visa transfer so my maid will have a valid working permit under my name – which is definitely above-board. The other candidate had a similar story, with the would-be employer changing their minds because the process took too long.

So this was how I hired my maid. Granted, I ended up paying a premium because I did not have to go through the waiting period but I think it was worth it because the risk of paying and not having a maid in the agreed timeframe is way too scary. Stories of how employers paid thousands of Ringgit and still not have a maid after more than 6 months wait are not unheard of.

It was after I had hired my maid, that I read some pretty bad reviews on this agency about mediocre quality (of candidates and after-service). So hiring through an established franchise of agency does not necessarily mean you’re safe. In my case, I was lucky so I have no complaints. If I had to be picky, I’ll have to say the agent’s services could be better seeing how I was a virgin maid-employer. I would have appreciated a lot more follow-up on how the maid was going and more help on how to manage having someone else living with my family.

Big vs. Small Agenciesbig vs small

So back to the question, which agency should I go with if I were to do it all over again? I guess for me, whether a candidate turned out to be a good maid or not, will always remain unknown and hugely dependent on luck. So believing the hype that certain agencies having the reputation of providing excellent maids should not factor in your decision-making. There will always be exceptions.

I believe the most important factor in deciding which agency to go with, is risk level. I would go with the agency with the lowest risk of taking my money and not coming up with the goods. The chances of this happening in one-man shows and smaller boutique agencies are probably higher than an established agency belonging to a group. But if you came across opportunities to interview and hire with the maids already in the country, that could turn out to be a great option!

Trust Your Instinct

There will always be great employees in smaller agencies, and bad employees in the more established ones. Always make it a point to meet your agent, and if possible, get some references of families they have successfully placed maids with. Get a feel on the agent’s work ethics, trust your instinct. Ask about their after-sales service – how do they manage problematic maids, what are the guarantee or refund policies (if they have any). And then of course, get to see some CVs of their candidates. At the end of the day, regardless of the agency, it’s the maids who will be living with you. You will be trusting your kids with this unknown person who will share your roof and your private

In my case, I remember interviewing both the available maids. I walked away having trouble making up my mind which one I should go with. I remember my wise (or indifferent) agent told me this: Leave it to fate. You will never truly know who will be a better choice for you, until you have them living with you.

Now, after hearing so many stories from other employers, I have to say there is much truth in what this agent said. You will never know until they start living with you. But one thing for sure, at least I know when I paid the fees, I get my maid. Unlike many unfortunate others who ended up having to chase for a refund when their maids did not make it… and some, sadly is still chasing after years.


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