Thursday, 5 April 2012

Hiring a maid in Sao Paulo

The other week I was able to attend a seminar on Household Help, organised by the International Newcomer's Club. It's run by Patricia de Luna, who is one of those people you are secretly jealous of and admire at the same time - she's a lawyer for fun, a dentist by day and takes upon herself the publishing of the Dicas (a very useful book of tips published by the INC every other year). She organises this seminar as hiring household help is full of legal minefields - everyone always has a story of a friend of a friend being sued. All sounds pretty stressful!! I've avoided any potential pitfalls by doing everything according to the law - the problem is working out what that law is! Some people employ agencies to do this for them which is certainly not stress-free either, and also very expensive.

The history of slaves in Brazil is extensive and sad. Brazil had the largest slave population in the world. In 1888 it was decreed illegal and the slaves were set free.. but most of them didn't have anywhere to go, so continued to live on the farms and were paid in board, food and money. When the laws for employment came into being it focused on the idea that the employee is always the disadvantaged party - and these are the same laws that are still in place today. It is important to take this into account when looking at some of the laws in today's eyes that might seem unfair (being the employer).

The one thing I really took to heart was Patricia talking about salaries. It is normal that expats pay above the going rate (an exceptional empregada is paid R2000 a month, and I heard of someone paying their driver R6000 a month! I would be their driver if I could drive : ) ..... some because they don't know any better, or others that really want to help someone out.

The problem is that expats are always going to leave, and leave behind someone who is a good worker but wants above the going rate. They will find it difficult to find a job that they are happy with. I paid my last baba (nanny) R900 per month for 4 (easy) days of work. She left us in December and still hasn't found a job even though she has been offered numerous jobs. I get a call or text from her every week.... that job was working too much, this salary was too low, she doesn't want to stay overnight, she doesn't want to work in this area, she doesn't want to iron... It's such a different mindset from mine - if I was out of a job, I would take any job just to make means until something better (even if it is ironing!!).

Here are some points from Patricia's seminar that I wrote down:

  1. The employee be registered from Day 1 of work and the trial period of up to 90 days can be written in the carteira da trabalha. 
  2. Salary must be paid by the 5th of the following month.
  3. The employer needs to pay INSS which is 20% (8% can be taken out of the employee's salary)
  4. Travel costs must be subsidised.
  5. A trial period can be up to 90 days where neither party needs to give notice. After this it is 30 days notice. 3 days per year worked is accumulated up to 90 days max notice that has to be given.
  6. The employer can only keep the carteria for up to 48 hours and after this time it must be returned to the employee.
  7. For up-to-date salaries use datafolha (which is updated every month).
  8. Annual raise is not mandatory.
  9. There are no set work hours, and no overtime pay but the average is 44 hours per week.
  10. If you go to Caixa (the bank) to pay the INSS (which needs to be paid by the 15th of the following month) they will work out any fines due. Best is to make sure you pay before the 15th. You can also pay online via your bank account, or at a Loteria.
  11. The employee receives 13th month  and 1 month salaried holiday (only available to the employee after one year, and at 1.33%, which is received before they go on holiday).
  12. Holidays can't be shorter than 10 days at one time, and the employee can sell back up to 10 days to the employer. The employer can dictate when the employee goes on holiday.
  13. When you pro-rate, always divide by 30 days, 52 weeks or 12 months - don't count the actual working days.
  14. If the employee is pregnant she is guaranteed job stability from confirmation of pregnancy (this is the date she finds out, she is not obligated to tell the employer but I'm sure the employer would work it out eventually...) until 5 months after the delivery date.


  1. Call me defensive but the history of slave labour is sad in any country that used it. If Brazil had the largest population, maybe that was because it was largest country with slaves at the time. In the Americas, the only other candidate would be the US but it wasn't that big at that time. Not that that excuses the use of slaves in the first place...

  2. Absolutely agree that slavery is sad in any country that used it - and obviously there are still forms of it in the world today. What I find, here in Sao Paulo, that is still sad, is that it is acceptable to be proud of their slave history. For example, a friend told me of a large coffee plantation that she visited that used lots of slaves in the past and the family has left the post (i forget the name for it in portuguese) that was used to whip slaves on. In the US I'm guessing that post would've been torn down a long time ago...

    1. I guess it depends if the display is done with a sense of pride or as a reminder of past evils. For example, many castles in Europe display instruments of torture as historical relics but that doesn't mean people are proud of it. In any case, the racial relationships in Brazil are so different from the US it's hard to make any sort of comparison between the two.

  3. Thanks for posting this! I couldn't make it to the seminar and this info is really useful. Patricia is awesome!

  4. Not sure in what way they’re proud of, but in my opinion, it’s because they endured and were able to break away from such a past that they choose to display such relics. It’s to remind them that they are moving forward and living in better days now, I guess. As for the seminar, Patricia raised some great points in giving both employers and maids a fair shake and proper working conditions. Hopefully people are informed about these things to avoid the a sense of slavery while doing housework.


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