Cadbury the Butler Q&A


Dear Cadbury,
How do you decide what is the appropriate salary for someone working in the home?
An Employer

Dear Employer,
Salaries are a reflection of the value placed on the excellent performance of a job while taking into consideration the supply and demand and the location of the assignment.

One back of the napkin method for calculating a fair wage is to compare the wages of other professions or related trades in the area. If a top rated server is making on average $20 per hour in your area, than a Butler starting wage can be approximated by multiplying this rate with the expected hours of duty including overtime. Calculate a Housekeeper salary by using the rates for contracted Housekeepers. This helps you get to a range of salary independent of the salary history of candidates. However, don’t get too creative by thinking that the value of housing and food given to staff is the same as if they were paying for it independently. Working in the home involves a considerable loss of privacy and freedom and at the end of the day, the professional needs to feel that the compensation is worth the hard work and personal sacrifice that is often involved when one is at the service of another’s lifestyle.
– Cadbury

Dear Cadbury,
I currently work as an Assistant House Manager for a wealthy couple in Australia. I am 33 years of age and have been in the position for 6 months and have had extensive hospitality experience over the past 14 years. I have 9 staff, which report to the House Manager and me. They include gardeners, chef, housekeepers and the maintenance manager. Some of my duties include the daily upkeep of the house, organizing functions and ordering of household items.

I currently earn $35,000 (AUD) plus superranuation with no other benefits. When my first year in my position is due in February I would like to ask for a pay rise and a car but I am unsure as to how to go about it as I have no idea what Managers in other establishments earn so I can make a comparison.

I hope I have given you sufficient information and look forward to receiving a response.
Thank you, NP

Dear NP
When the annual meeting with the employer comes up, a good approach is to present a “state of the union” type of written presentation to the employer. If your employer evades a face-to-face meeting, then send him / her the written document. Essentially this document is a positive recap of your first year on the job. Here is a sample presentation. 1) Discuss what you have accomplished, what remains to be done, plus plans for the next year 2) Make comments intended to show that you understand the employer’s point of view -“I believe that I understand your hopes for my position. You would like to see a rise in the household standards, justify costs, improve budgeting, improve training etc”. End it with “I seek to further understand your goals for Adelaide House and move forward on them etc. 3) Next topic “On a personal note, I have found tremendous opportunity working here. It has been a very rewarding experience etc. I can appreciate that it is a trial period for both of us during the first year. I trust that I have met your expectation as you have met mine in most respects. One of the more difficult tasks an employee has to do is to negotiate compensation. I need to have an increase in salary and to support my case, I present you with the following: a) research into salaries of others in the profession in Australia b) my statement of the number of hours that I devote on average to this position which equates into A$ x per hour which is the average pay of a taxi driver etc. 4) Conclusion “I hope that we can have a frank discussion of the salary issue. It is important to me and I do not want money issues to cloud what I feel is a relationship which is poised well for the long term.”

Dear Cadbury,
Can you please tell me the appropriate etiquette on tipping the house staff in a private home? For example, if a butler provides an extra service to a guest, is it appropriate to give a discreet tip? Or is it completely inappropriate? If it is done, is there a recommended procedure?
Thank you, Janet Sherman

Dear Ms. Sherman,
In most private homes, the professional staff is not conditioned to expect tips in this day and age. Unlike restaurant staff who depend upon tips to make up for low wages, most Butlers and other staff in a home that employs a Butler are paid a decent wage.

Tipping is a very personal thing, and if you wish to give a tip, you may certainly do so, especially when a staff member has gone above and beyond. Doing so discreetly is important, so the procedure may be to write the Butler a note and enclose a gratuity or use a private moment to “insist” on a token of your appreciation. More than likely the Lady and Gentleman of the house would discourage tipping, so using them as a conduit is not recommended.

The enjoyment of the guest in a private home is the product of the work of many staff- the Chef, the Housekeepers, the Driver, the Gardener and so forth all doing their part. A gift to one may become known to others potentially causing jealous twinges.

I recommend these ways to express appreciation:
* A heart felt thank you upon leaving the home after the visit
* Compliments in front of the Lady and Gentleman of the house about the great service
* A nice letter addressed to the staff of the house which can posted in the staff area.
* Consultation with the Butler about how to show monetarily your appreciation to all the staff.

– Cadbury

Dear Cadbury
Firstly I would like to say what a pleasure it is to read all these letters. It’s wonderful to collect all this information. Keep up the great work. And now perhaps you can shed some light on my question. I work as butler/valet to a Russian gentleman in Surrey. In fact there are two of us, and the way it works is two days on two days off, starting at 7 am with one hour off in the afternoon but not always. We might finish at midnight if lucky but sometimes this can go on until 2-4 am, and then back at 7 am, so in fact in the two days work we could work 36/40 hrs.

We are about to receive new contracts that the Estate Manager had spoken about with the company Lawyers. They have come up with something which to me I have never heard of and I have been a butler for over 20 yrs. They say that because we work (rounded off 3.5 days per week) we are only allowed 14 days paid holiday per year and no mention of the eight bank holidays. Would you be so kind as to comment on this, your input would be highly appreciated.
Thank you. JMS

Dear JMS
Thank you for your message and kind words. In regard to your query, it would be my thinking to respond that full time employment is based on the number of hours worked in a 7-day period. A salary agreement simplifies the bookkeeping and can work to the advantage of both parties, but the underlying legal structure is still based on hours. 30 hours per week is generally full time and benefits mandated for full time employment are therefore applicable. In addition, there must be credit given in England as in USA for hours worked beyond the normal work-day (24 hour period) generally 8 hours i.e. overtime pay. My sense is the Russian employer or his accountants / attorneys are being creative in their thinking, but likely this is not legal.
– Cadbury

Dear Cadbury,
I am approaching my 10th year as Estate Manager in Colorado. What would be reasonable for a number of paid vacation and sick/personal days?

Dear OS
My philosophy is that sick days are to be taken when one is sick and a doctor should be visited for illness beyond a day or two maximum. Personal days are taken for personal reasons and if scorekeeping is required, then 1/2 day per month is reasonable for paid sick and personal days. Vacation days should be 3-4 weeks per year at your level. We are assuming that your position is in many ways a 24/7 position where you are responsible even if you were not supposed to be working on a certain day and issues come up. Since the term Estate Manager is not a clearly defined term we are using the definition that places your job in the higher salary range of $75 to $150,000 per year and responding accordingly.
– Cadbury