A housekeeper is responsible for the general management and running of a household or hotel, in particular ensuring that all staff working within the premises carry out their jobs correctly and efficiently.
Being a housekeeper is a very demanding job. The main task is to ensure that all jobs within the house or hotel are completed in time and to the best possible standard, and for this reason the housekeeper has to oversee all staff working on the premises. There is some hands-on work involved, but the job is mainly managerial based.
The average salary for a housekeeper starts at around £14,000, rising to about £18,000, although a junior housekeeper can earn as little as £8,000. Senior housekeepers earn around £28,000 a year, but a lot more responsibility goes with this increased wage. Some housekeepers may have their rent and living expenses deducted from their wage, meaning they will earn a reduced amount, but on the other hand they may earn extra money for working anti-social hours.
A lot of staff will usually be working within the house or hotel, although the exact amount depends on the size of the property. The housekeeper is responsible for all of these staff, and their job includes recruiting, dismissing, training and supervising them, as well as drawing up shift rotas and determining the salary for each of them. It is also the role of the housekeeper to discipline any members of staff if necessary.
The housekeeper must inspect any work which has been carried out around the house or hotel to ensure that it is of the highest possible standard. This will probably be done on a weekly or monthly basis, with a lower member of staff usually having the responsibility of ensuring that the house or hotel is presentable on a daily basis. Alternatively it may be left as the responsibility of the cleaning staff to guarantee that the house is presentable without the need for regular monitoring. In all parts of the house, there will be certain standards that need to be met, and if they are not then it is the housekeeper who will take responsibility.
One of the most important responsibilities is managing the budget for the house or hotel. The largest quantity of this budget goes towards staff pay, but the housekeeper will also have to allocate certain amounts to products that are used in the house, which could include food and cleaning equipment.
Housekeepers have to ensure that all faults in the house are recorded and that repairs are carried out accordingly. They may not be responsible for arranging for repairs to be done, but they need to be aware of everything that is happening in the property.
Housekeepers will not usually have to complete formal qualifications in order to gain employment, with experience counting far more to employers. However, some qualifications are becoming increasingly desirable within the profession. A basic education including GCSE Maths and English is usually essential, but BTECs and NVQs are now available, and useful courses include the following:
- BTEC National Certificate/Diploma in Hospitality Supervision
- NVQ in Hospitality, Hospitality Supervision, or Hospitality and Supervision
- BTEC HND/HNC in Hospitality Management, Hotel and Catering Management
Great attention to detail is needed to be a housekeeper, as cleaning in the house must be completed to an excellent standard. The extra special touches will set you above other housekeepers, and things such as displaying towels or making beds in attractive ways will be looked upon well.
The housekeeper may be set a budget that they have to keep to, so money management skills are essential, as is a good understanding of maths. Certain amounts of money will need to be allocated to the various areas of the house, and in larger houses the housekeeper may even be responsible for paying the other members of staff out of this budget. If the allocated amount is exceeded then this will often be deducted from the housekeeper’s wages, so it really is in their best interests to stick to this amount.
Housekeepers need to have the ability to motivate their team, which involves creating a pleasant but also hardworking environment in which to work. They need to be able to cope with a crisis and think on their feet without panicking, and excellent organisational skills are essential.
Strong communication skills also are necessary so that orders can be received and relayed effectively, which in turn ensures the smooth running of the property.
Shift work is common for housekeepers, although the more superior housekeepers will usually only work days and put lower members of staff on the rota for the overnight shifts. These shifts will usually last for around eight hours with a break included. It is also normal to work on weekends and bank holidays, but these are often shared out with other members of staff occupying managerial positions.
The housekeeper will usually do less ‘hands on’ work, with the majority of their work being office based.
Many housekeepers will have worked their way up the hospitality chain, starting as a chambermaid or a room attendant. If competent communication and organisational skills are shown in these earlier positions, then promotion is more likely. This in turn leads to a greater understanding of the different aspects of a housekeeping job as progression is made within the hospitality industry. It is essential that a housekeeper has a working knowledge about how a hotel or a house is run, and experience within the hospitality industry is therefore invaluable.
All hotels need to employ a housekeeper to oversee the running of the establishment. However, large houses will often want to hire their own housekeeper, and this will be considered a private position. Companies such as the National Trust have a number of large houses which need housekeepers to run them.
Housekeepers tend to stay in their position for long periods of time, as once the role of senior housekeeper has been reached it is hard to take this further. However, some housekeepers may end up owning and running their own hotel if they can get the capital behind them. If not, it is also possible to move on to running larger establishments such as holiday centres or health spas where a higher level of service is required.
Some housekeepers may end up taking a different career path which can include training other people to work within hospitality management positions.
Also known as…
- Domestic worker
What’s it really like?
Amelia Humber has worked in the hospitality industry all her life, and she now runs her own Bed and Breakfast.
I started working in hotels at a very early age, initially as a chambermaid to earn some extra money whilst I was at school. I left school at 16 and started working full-time, but the long hours meant that I knew I was going to have to do some further education if I didn’t want to be stuck doing such hard work for the rest of my career. I went back to college and did an NVQ in hospitality which taught me the business side of the practical work I had been doing.
After this I started working as a receptionist at a hotel, and gradually gained more and more responsibility in my job. I began to learn more about the money aspect of running a hotel, and was taught how to cash up and how to delegate money to various departments. I worked in this position for a number of years and earned the trust and respect of my employers. I was later awarded with an assistant housekeeper job which can be likened to vocational training, and I learnt skills on the job which went towards a diploma in hotel management.
After a few years in this position I left the company and joined the hotel chain Novotel, and after working as an assistant position for a year I was promoted to head housekeeper. This was a very demanding job and I was unable to remain in the position full-time once I had had children, but I replaced this with a job share and returned to full-time work once the kids were all at school.
After 15 years of being back in this position my husband and I decided to turn our house into a Bed and Breakfast and make our money out of the spare rooms we now had available after the children had left. I would not have been able to make this decision if I did not have the experience of being a housekeeper.
The job of a housekeeper is demanding as you have to be great with people but willing to stand your own ground. It is very rewarding though, and if you do it well you will receive a huge amount of satisfaction from the job.