Managing Your Home or Estate: A Guide to Different Household Staff Member Roles
It’s not uncommon for a household staff member to assume the role of another—a nanny to assume some of the responsibilities of a personal assistant, for example. Yet, in general, each household staff role is distinct, with its own set of duties and responsibilities.
Reputable domestic staffing agencies screen applicants carefully to ensure they have the experience and skills to carry out the specific duties of their role.
Let’s explore the duties and responsibilities of different household staff positions.
Sometimes called a private estate caretaker, an estate manager typically oversees a large estate with multiple buildings, often on a very large property of a hundred acres or more. Estate managers are responsible for the upkeep and day-to-day operation of the estate. They typically supervise staff members, oversee property maintenance, and manage budgets and events. The estate owner also oversees auxiliary features, such as stables, a vineyard, or a golf course.
One of the most important functions of an estate manager is ensuring the property is used to its full potential to generate revenue (e.g., as a wedding venue, residential complex, or farm).
Estate managers oversee bookkeepers, gardeners/landscapers, and farm workers, and may also supervise the owner’s household staff (private chefs, butlers, and housekeepers). In short, estate managers are jacks of all trades able to manage multiple projects simultaneously. For their talents, they typically draw a considerable salary, ranging from $90,000-$300,000 a year.
Household managers oversee the operation of a single-family home. They schedule appointments and handle administrative tasks, including paying bills. They may also oversee staff (housekeepers, gardeners), plan and organize events, make travel arrangements, and supervise home maintenance projects. Household managers are skilled at keeping a household running smoothly, anticipating their employer’s needs, and proactively managing issues.
Household Personal Assistant
Personal assistants often do a wide range of tasks, depending on the needs of their employer. Duties can include maintaining the family calendar, shopping, errands, overseeing housekeeping staff, and coordinating activities and events. They typically also perform home-based secretarial tasks, including scheduling meetings, making travel arrangements, handling emails, taking phone calls, and meeting and greeting visitors.
The basic duties of modern-day butlers include greeting guests, answering phone calls, assisting with event planning, overseeing table settings, and serving drinks and food; they may also manage a wine cellar and care for heirlooms, artwork, silverware, and antiques.
A butler may oversee other staff and may even be responsible for hiring and firing certain staff members. Some butlers have extended roles—more like that of house managers—that includes budgeting and administrative tasks. While the role of butlers has evolved over time, a well-trained butler will have impeccable etiquette and social skills. A butler agency will work with you to develop a custom job description and find a qualified butler to suit your needs.
Caring for children may be the most important of all household staff roles. Nanny services can vary significantly, depending on the age of the kids and their unique needs. Older kids and teens can do more on their own, but babies and very young children require constant care and attention.
A baby nanny is experienced with newborns, young babies, and toddlers; they may aid mom with her breastfeeding schedule and prepare breastmilk or formula for bottle feeding. Most nannies will also prepare meals, help with housework, and assist older kids with homework. They may also run errands and drive kids to and from school and appointments.
A housekeeper is often confused with a housecleaner, but they’re not the same. Housecleaners usually handle larger jobs, like top-to-bottom deep cleaning of your home. A housekeeper is a more frequent presence and will usually come to your home at least twice a week. If you have a large home or estate, you may employ one or more housekeepers full time.
The duties of a housekeeper include light cleaning (e.g., dusting, vacuuming, and mopping), cleaning bathrooms, cleaning the kitchen, laundry, ironing, dishwashing, garbage and recycling removal, restocking household items, running errands, and grocery shopping. Some housekeepers also prepare meals.
Private chefs prepare meals based on each family member’s preferences. They may live in or live out, depending on their employer’s needs. They may oversee food prep staff during parties and other events. A well-trained private chef will be versatile and able to deal with last-minute changes and special requests. They’ll understand various styles of table service and party protocols, and they’ll be meticulous when shopping and adept at understanding food allergies. Some chefs may specialize in certain cuisines or diets (e.g., vegan, paleo, Mediterranean).
A doula supports mother and baby through the postpartum period and provides extended support to the whole family after a new baby arrives. A doula’s duties include breastfeeding support, newborn care (diapering, bathing, bottle feeding, and comforting), and emotional and physical support for mom. A doula may also help with light housekeeping, errands, light meal preparation, and caring for siblings. Doulas may be called on for a week, a month, or longer, up to five days a week.
Home Health Aides/Private Nurses
Home health aides assist people with special needs, including those who are chronically ill, disabled, or cognitively impaired. They also care for seniors who need assistance and companionship. The responsibilities of a home health aide include helping with personal hygiene, dressing, and toileting, checking vital signs, medication management, errands, shopping, light housekeeping, and arranging transportation.
A private nurse who works in the home may be licensed as an RN (registered nurse) or an LVN/LPN (licensed vocational/practical nurse). They often care for people with long-term illnesses like cerebral palsy (CP), traumatic brain injuries, or those who need a gastrostomy tube or ventilator. RNs have medical training and can administer medications, ventilators, tracheostomies, and gastrostomy tubes.
Determining Employee vs. Contractor Status
When you hire household staff members, it’s vital to identify whether the worker is an employee or a contractor. The federal government generally considers household staff member employees, not independent contractors. This is true even for staff members who work part-time and don’t live with you.
The IRS makes this determination based on one primary principle: control. If the employer has control over the worker’s schedule and the duties they’re required to perform, the IRS generally considers this person an employee. You must withhold income taxes, withhold and pay Social Security and Medicare taxes, and pay unemployment tax on wages to employees.
If, on the other hand, an agency provides the worker to you and controls what work is done, or if the worker is self-employed and controls what work is done and how it is done, the worker is not considered an employee.
Learn more about how to determine the difference between an employee and an independent contractor.
Get Expert Help When Hiring Household Staff
You want the best for your household or estate. Staffing at Tiffanie’s has been placing exceptional candidates with families for more than two decades—we have the connections and expertise to find you top talent.
We use a rigorous screening process to carefully select only the most qualified candidates, and we nurture you through the entire process of screening, interviewing, and hiring your perfect candidate—it’s how we’ve earned a reputation as one of the most trusted names in the household staffing industry.
Learn more about our household and estate staffing process, and then contact our agency at 866-484-5550 to find your ideal nanny.