Helen Kirwin Taylors article in Tatler
My English teacher quoted as a good writer ‘The Pen is mightier than the Sword’. Helen Kirwin Taylor is a writer whose pen is a butterknife- something obsolete in the back of the bottom drawer as it spreads something not good for the heart.
This article reminded me that in 2008 when I worked for Serena La Maistre, visiting a potential client who explained they needed to replace a housekeeper who had lived in with their small child who had walked out so desperately unhappy she had not even fetched the employer’s son from school. The potential employer seemed very troubled to me – depressed anxious with possible OCD issues so I tried to talk honestly about hiring and keeping staff. But she remained adamant she could find ‘foreigners’ all desperate for a job and that she was not unusual as lots of her neighbour’s had live in staff they did not pay their tax and National insurance for and expected 24/7 service. I declined to take the position I rang my colleague the wonderful Kathrine Sullivan and said I was too depressed that there were employers like this- she made me meet her at a bar under the offices in Buckingham Palace Road and convinced me over rum and cokes that it was our duty to make sure we continued to find good jobs with decent employers for staff that in our experience were first class.
I went on to found Domestic Bliss Appointments which matches staff to households across the UK and internationally –in 10 years I have placed every sector of staff Domestic Couples, Estate Managers, Gardeners, Housekeepers, Private Chefs, Housekeeper Cooks, Housekeeper Nanny, Butlers Chauffeurs, housemen. The testimonials of those happy employers and the staff show the article from Helen Kirwin Taylor is not something we should pay heed to https://www.domesticblissappointments.co.uk/client-testimonials/.
Ten years later , 2019 I still read this article with incredulous disbelief. Domestic Bliss is still the only Private Staff Recruitment Agency that specifies job descriptions offer ethical employment conditions and I work with the top employers all over the world. In the 10 years since I started my company and in the previous 3 I worked as a consultant in Belgravia as well as the 20 I worked as a staff member on yachts and in households and estates I have never seen or heard such rot as is in this article. I am daily impressed by the dedication I see in the staff who register with me- the excellent warm references from Employers sad to see them go but wishing them luck. I am staggered how wide-ranging the skill sets are these days- I have an estate manager that is qualified in his horticultural skills but also is an excellent chef of all game and has his gamekeeping, fishing and shooting licences and has as many skills as a tradesman. Most Domestic couples do the work of 4 people hands-on housekeeping, houseman butler duties, driving, childcare, cooking to a dinner party standard and washing and ironing as well as look after grounds and cars. 40 hour working weeks that often gets stretched with the flexibility that staff always give and often end up working for free as they don’t get paid overtime! The world of staff and employers is one full of good will and indeed affection with intimate relationships that are professional.
I have spoken to some clients already about the article and the ones based in Gloucestershire are either amused or mortified. I am quite shocked Tatler chose to print this offensive article that is so demeaning and suggests an ‘underclass’ with no basis of reality.
I have worked as a waitress, nanny, housekeeper, stewardess, Private PA, House manager and female butler and was a private chef for many years and worked on yachts and on private Estates and Luxury homes well before becoming a consultant. There is not one staff member I ever worked with who refused to do anything they were asked in their work as she describes. But neither were they ever treated like a slave or servant or in a demeaning way. I am in touch with all my previous employers with fond memories. Like most chefs, after cooking a stunning meal and serving it I was still washing up sometimes by hand for fine china or silver cutlery or crystal glasses until the early hours. ‘Not a problem’ is possibly the most overused expression by staff.
In 15 years I never met a Nanny who earned £120k a year (it’s hard sometimes to get them £30k. ). Rarely some earn £1000 a week for a 6 day 12 hour week which is about £16 an hour. And they are devoted to the children in their care. The excellent film https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Nanny_Diaries_(film) was so true to many experiences I hear from Nannies all the time.
I can state with certainty that dreadful employers, that do not pay their bills for services on their homes or salaries on time or at all, who when staff start their new posts change the conditions and ‘surprise’ by announcing they were not going to pay tax and national insurance, or those who speak rudely and humiliate staff or are drunks or drug users will soon find they have gardeners who don’t come back and Housekeepers who lose the desire to clean floors on their hands and knees. I am proud to work with staff from all over the world including Eastern Europe in the industry who choose to work with good employers with reasonable normal requests. The most common request I get when looking for a new post for staff is not money its an appreciative employer.
Why then does Helen Kirwin Taylor say she has been unable to find or keep any staff? I know there are many many excellent butlers and always not enough work since most work is freelance. Helen Kirwin is asked to pay twice the going rate and that the butler is mysteriously ‘unavailable’ when she tried to book them. Helen Kirwin Taylor has written she suffered from depression, drinks too much and take anti-depressants and lives in a black cloud. Domestic Staff are often incredibly supportive and compassionate and devoted to employers during life’s ups and downs. Let us hope the treatment she is receiving for her post-traumatic syndrome and IBS work well. In the meantime, if Helen would like to let us know at Domestic Bliss where these £120,000 placements with massages on tap are to be found, we’de be happy to fill them with the very hardworking, super skilled and just plain-lovely staff here on our books. Thank you.