Household Staff: Domestic Couples
We’ve had a number of positions become available for domestic couples recently. These stalwarts of household staff can vary greatly in the roles they fulfil within a household, but all tend to function as a versatile and adaptable unit.
What is a domestic couple?
The idea behind a domestic couple is that they might well be the only two household staff members, or possibly part of a small team. They might be an actual couple – married or not – or sometimes family or close friends who have worked together for a long time. Either way, they’ll work together to do, or oversee, everything within the household.
They’ll typically live together on site, either in separate cottage-type accommodation or in their own sequestered apartment. Being there at all times means they can run the house or estate effectively without the principals being present (this provides a degree of security too); and separate accommodation means that days off and so on are their own – this is particularly important if they have their own children and/or pets.
Types of domestic couple
There’s really no such thing as a “typical” domestic couple, however the concept can be broken down into subsets. The first is the Working Domestic Couple – perhaps this is what many people will think of when they hear the term. These people will be very hands-on, doing everything from housekeeping, cooking, laundry and ironing, to gardening, odd jobs and DIY, driving and running errands.
An Estate Domestic Couple can often be seen as a step up. While they might well still undertake some or all of the duties outlined above, they can be seen more as a household or estate manager. Therefore they’ll be responsible for managing the residence itself as well as any other staff, establishing policy and training, managing events, and co-ordinating with a family office. They might well travel between residences with the principals.
On something of a tangent is the Country or Farm Domestic Couple. As the name suggests, this is usually in a rural setting and might be on a working farm, so calls for specialist knowledge and skills. A couple such as this would likely be responsible for a large, agrarian property and be expected to run it efficiently and securely without input from the principals.
As ever, don’t be too guided by job titles however. The responsibilities of any type of couple will be dictated by the requirements of the specific household.
In the past roles covered by the couple would have been traditionally gendered, with the female looking after the domestic chores and the male undertaking maintenance, gardening, driving, etc. This, we’re pleased to say, is no longer the case and the division of labour between the couple can be much more mixed according to the skills and availability of each partner. In the more enlightened modern world same sex domestic couple are becoming more commonplace too.
Why employ a domestic couple?
From an employer’s standpoint there are a number of benefits to hiring a domestic couple. In a nutshell, you’ll get two people very used to working together – two heads are better than one, and there’s a synergy to be had: the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Their skills will complement each other, and they’ll share the burden of running the household better than individuals brought together by simple opportunity.
Rather than overlapping or competing they can carry out their job effectively as a single unit. They’ll co-operate to get things done, automatically sharing or dividing tasks as necessary, so promoting smooth running of the household.
It’s usually a more cost-effective solution than employing two separate individuals, as often a joint salary is paid which is somewhat less than two individual salaries. They’ll usually share accommodation, and as most roles are live in, security the property is also improved. If the principal has animals, pets or livestock there are obvious benefits to their ongoing care too.
The right domestic couple can be a wonderful investment for your household – find the right one and not only will you want to hold on to them, they’ll want to stay too. Getting the best specificity of fit is of paramount importance, get it right and you’ll wonder how you ever managed without them.
Pembury Partners finds the perfect household staff for houses and estates worldwide.