House helps, nannies, drivers, home tutors, etc. are increasingly becoming part of our extended families, engaging in roles traditionally carried out by parents and guardians. This is largely because these days, we spend more time away from our homes pursuing careers and other business endeavors to meet growing economic demands, or attending to socio-cultural and religious obligations. How well do we know this group of persons who sometimes enjoy unrestricted access in our homes and may quite often, stumble upon very confidential information like our bank statements lying around or our phone conversations at home or while being driven? Were they properly vetted before we got them onboard? Are they victims of forced labour or child trafficking? Are they members of a larger criminal syndicate?
Appreciating that these persons probably know more about us than we do about them is the first step in reducing our exposures. Taking proactive measures to enhance our personal security and that of our families is the next. The following may be helpful;
· Carry out a thorough background check on all prospective and existing domestic workers – keep copies of their pictures and personal information, cross check their references and contact their former employers. There are specialized agencies including the police that carry out such checks for a reasonable fee.
· It is strongly advised you request for a medical report from them or arrange for one to be conducted prior to employment. This will ensure full disclosure of any pre-existing health conditions and guard your family against the possibility of communicable diseases. Periodic checks are also important.
· As much as possible, observe the kind of company they keep and what they do while you are away - consider using cost effective technological solutions like basic CCTV which may be monitored from remote locations or simply asking a neighbor to keep an eye on them.
· Avoid sending drivers or other domestic staff to carry out significant financial transactions for you.
· Save those sensitive discussions and phone conversation for another time - not while being driven.
· Ensure that they know no more than is essentially required for them to effectively carry out their assigned functions.
· Be suspicious, if you are unsure about anything do not assume. Ask them questions and demand explanations when in doubt.
· If travelling, arrange for a relative or trusted person to either move in to the house to supervise them or carry out periodic checks on the home. Alternatively, you may choose to give them some time off during such periods.
· Above all, be sensitive and do not exploit them. Treat them decently – decent pay, living conditions, time off, etc. This often makes a difference in how they will treat you too.
Domestic workers have been found complicit in providing personal information that aided criminals in burglary and kidnap for ransom.
Being text of corporate security communication shared with employees of a multi-national company with offices in Nigeria.