How to hire a cleaner while paying a living wage
March 4, 2018 1:02 PM   Subscribe

We'd like to pay for someone to clean our apartment in Medford, MA, (near Boston) once or twice a month. We're also committed to making sure that person is earning a living wage — let's say $15 an hour if salaried, or substantially more if a contractor. Is there a way to make this happen using a cleaning service? Or will we have to hire someone directly? If the latter, how much of a hassle should we expect it to be?
posted by nebulawindphone to Grab Bag (17 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Hire a service, tip well every time.
posted by halogen at 1:09 PM on March 4, 2018

Hire a service, tip well every time.

Right, probably should have addressed that. This seems like a decent bare-minimum option. But it still means contributing to the profitability of a service that doesn't treat its employees right, which I'm not super thrilled about. If there's a way to do better by patronizing a service that does treat its employees right (and presumably paying extra; that's fine) I'd like to know about it.
posted by nebulawindphone at 1:12 PM on March 4, 2018

I pay a LOT more than that. Remember that a wage earned on project bases like this is different from a dependable "this many hours guaranteed a day" kind of income, plus they're driving around, often providing their own stuff, etc.

I hire people directly (the worst stories I've heard about cleaners came when folks were not hired directly but rather through intermediaries.) It's a bit of a hassle but not too bad if you get local, known-quantity recommendations. Try Nextdoor or ask your neighbors.
posted by fingersandtoes at 1:13 PM on March 4, 2018 [11 favorites]

If Vida Verde is still in operation, they might be what you're looking for, as a women's co-op concerned with the working conditions of their members. We had good experiences several years ago with someone who started working as a cleaner through them and then spun off to work for herself.
posted by nonane at 1:29 PM on March 4, 2018

I've used Vida Verde as well and had a good experience with the organization; we had about three different people through them over the years (one woman retired, another we didn't care for and got someone else). Definitely recommend, though you're still contracting with the individual and need to decide if they're a good fit personally.

I live in Medford and currently have an independent cleaner I like (found through a friend). I'm not sure if she's taking new clients, but if you want the recommendation, MeMail me.

My current person came over and gave a bid for how much a biweekly cleaning would be. She's never talked about raising the rate, but when I realized she never would I just raised it myself. She is independent and makes about $25 per hour she spends at my house, which of course doesn't count travel time or the occasional week we have to cancel (though I always give her the option of rescheduling).

I think hiring an independent contractor is the way to go.
posted by gideonfrog at 1:37 PM on March 4, 2018

I've always used an independent person and I pay the local equivalent of $25 per hour.
posted by DarlingBri at 1:46 PM on March 4, 2018 [2 favorites]

In Boston, you will probably pay more like at least $30-50/hour directly to a cleaner. However, a good cleaner will work quickly. You'll pay more to a service but the cleaners will get less.

It's pretty easy to find a good cleaner if you ask around. NextDoor, your neighborhood facebook group/listserve, ask your neighbors, etc. FWIW, even if you hire an individual, they may well bring someone else with them like a family member, who they in turn are paying.

Definitely do not use any of the online app-type services like "Homejoy." They advertise super-low rates but don't use those rates as a benchmark - it's not real and definitely not minimum wage.
posted by lunasol at 1:58 PM on March 4, 2018 [1 favorite]

As everyone has said, your best chance of paying someone a living wage is to hire an independent contractor. If you get a cheaper service through a company, you might consider tipping the difference in person, in cash.

I also liked to add extra if I had to skip a regularly scheduled cleaning or if my cleaner moved the date to accommodate me. You may also need to “raise the rates” annually if your regular independent cleaner doesn’t.
posted by amanda at 2:02 PM on March 4, 2018

Independent contractor. $30-40/hour depending. They'll probably prefer bi-weekly. Monthly is hard to schedule + harder to clean.
posted by Gnella at 2:15 PM on March 4, 2018 [2 favorites]

Arlington (next town over) has an email listserv that has frequent recommendations on this topic. Easy to subscribe and there is a search function. (not adding a link but easy to search for)
posted by sammyo at 2:48 PM on March 4, 2018

Do keep in mind that if you hire someone independently, you will be responsible for paying (and withholding) social security and Medicare taxes if the total paid over the course of a year hits a fairly low cap (I think it's $2000). A biweekly cleaning of more than $75 per will hit that cap.
posted by praemunire at 4:22 PM on March 4, 2018 [1 favorite]

No you won't since they aren't an employee

As long as you hire from a reputable agency or a reputable independent contractor you'll be paying a living wage. House cleaning actually pays ok, I did it during college two summer's and it's not a bad paying job, just hard work. And yeah, no one wants to do monthly cleanings because it's too hard.

Believe me there are a lot more people looking for good, insured, legal to work and reliable cleaners than there are available to hire. The place I worked could pick and choose clients. The big companies who do commercial contacts are where the people with no papers or a record go and they do not typically get paid too well there. .
posted by fshgrl at 6:07 PM on March 4, 2018

No you won't since they aren't an employee

This is wrong.
posted by praemunire at 8:10 PM on March 4, 2018

I'm not wrong, I've been on both sides of this. A cleaner from an agency or who owns an independent business is not your employee. You contract with the business and agree to their terms, you don't hire the person. They supply their own tools and offer services to the general public. This is assuming the OP hires someone who is licensed/ bonded/ has a business etc which they should and presumably will. Now you CAN hire someone as an an employee but that's typically a housekeeper nanny situation where they are working for you under conditions you dictate and would typically be a solid part time or full time gig.

This is the relevant quote from your link:

"Workers who aren't your employees: If only the
worker can control how the work is done, the worker isn't
your employee but is self-employed. A self-employed
worker usually provides his or her own tools and offers
services to the general public in an independent business.
A worker who performs child care services for you in
his or her home generally isn't your employee.
If an agency provides the worker and controls what
work is done and how it is done, the worker isn't your employee."
posted by fshgrl at 10:29 PM on March 4, 2018

A cleaning person who comes to your house to perform cleaning tasks you designate at the hours you choose is usually going to be your employee if you pay him or her directly. He or she does not control when, where, and how the work is performed. Many companies skirt these requirements, but they are real.

would typically be a solid part time or full time gig.

Number of hours worked has nothing to do with whether or not you are an independent contractor.

Anyway, OP, you'll want to look into this and decide for yourself if you are hitting those numbers (or the state equivalent).
posted by praemunire at 11:38 PM on March 4, 2018

I used an agency, and talking to the cleaner, discovered that she was being paid less than minimum wage, and was being paid under the table. She wanted to file taxes, and was told no. This was a legit looking agency who came recommended. I fired the agency, and offered the cleaner the same amount to keep for herself. She's moved on to a different job, and now I have an independent contractor who runs her own business.

So, if you hire via an agency, you should ask. Ask a few times, and try to get the truth.
posted by Valancy Rachel at 7:13 AM on March 5, 2018

In Cambridge I found asking around for recommendations was the way to go. We pay $100 for bi-weekly cleaning of slightly less than 1000 square feet, which seemed a little high, but also more likely to give the independent people doing the cleaning a living wage. And folks above are correct that they were the ones who told us we ought to have them in bi-weekly because it otherwise gets harder to clean, and I've been very happy with it.

Be aware, too, that perhaps due to the tax questions above, a lot of cleaners ask to be paid in cash. It's up to you to decide whether you're ok with that.
posted by ldthomps at 9:48 AM on March 5, 2018

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