Page last updated at 12:22 GMT, Tuesday, 22 September 2009 13:22 UK

What does a housekeeper do?

The Magazine answers...

Baroness Scotland has been fined £5,000 for employing a housekeeper who isn't legally allowed to work in the UK. What exactly does a housekeeper do?

A housekeeper
The job description varies

She helped take the laws through Parliament and then breached them. Oops.

Attorney General Baroness Scotland has been fined for employing a housekeeper who wasn't entitled to work here. The UK Border Agency says she did not employ Loloahi Tapui knowing this, but didn't keep a copy of the documents she was shown by the Tongan, as required under law.

So now it would seem the baroness is out of pocket to the tune of £5,000 and without a housekeeper. But what exactly does the job the entail?

Housekeeper is an umbrella term for someone who does general domestic work and childcare
Whereas a cleaner just cleans
May be a live-in post

Housekeeper is an umbrella term for different domestic and childcare work. It is up to the employer to decide what they want the job to include, be it cooking, cleaning, childcare or managing other staff.

"Anything domestic can come under the title, it depends what a particular client is looking for," says a spokeswoman for Greycoat Placements, which specialises in the recruitment of high calibre domestic staff.

"It can include tasks such as cleaning, laundry, running errands and looking after children."

The job can also be about companionship for employers who are elderly and live on their own.

Mature age

Quite often the job is live-in, with accommodation provided. That can be anything from a room to a family cottage or house. Often couples are employed, with the woman doing housekeeping work while the man does gardening.

"The job can vary and so can the benefits, but experienced, trusted housekeepers are very sought after and the employment package they get can be very good," says the spokeswoman.

On average wages are around £10 to £12 an hour, or £400 a week in London and slightly less outside.

Being a housekeeper is one job where age is a benefit, with most clients wanting a mature person, says a spokeswoman for The Lady magazine.

Question mark floor plan of BBC Television Centre
A regular part of the BBC News Magazine, Who, What, Why? aims to answer some of the questions behind the headlines

"Age, as well as experience, are seen as an asset," she says.

The job has also proved recession-proof. The number of advertisements in The Lady for such posts remains steady, despite difficult financial times. But what has changed is the job description.

"People still want housekeepers but they want them to do more," says the spokeswoman. "For example they might be expected to do childcare and some driving now."

Of the classified advertisements The Lady publishes each week, 50% are for housekeepers. And the job is popular, with more than 200 responses to one job ad last week.

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