We've had a cleaning lady/housekeeper for over 2 years now. She's a hard worker and very trustworthy, but her time reporting always bugged me but I didn't have any proof.

We moved to a new house that has security cameras that trigger a recording when movement is detected. She's aware of the cameras, and I have also proof of informing her about them over a text.

I completely trusted her till now, but today I went over the recordings comparing the times she reported in December and I see a lot of discrepancies.

For example, one day she reported that she arrived at 10 AM and left at 5:30 PM (a total of 7 and half hours) and the recordings were triggered at 3.10 PM when she arrived, and at 5:30 PM when she left (total of 2 hours 20 minutes). Another time she reported 9:30 AM to 2:30 PM (5 hours of work), while she came at 11:50 AM and left at 4 PM (~4 hours of work), so again incorrect. 

My question is, how do I approach this with the utmost tact, since I'd rather not lose her. Finding a good housekeeper is a drag but also I'd rather she didn't steal from me.

She's paid by the hour.

To add a bit more info regarding the big discrepancy of the 7 hours window. We have someone looking after the cat and during that day when he went to feed the cat, he reported not seeing anyone and he went to the house at 2pm (1 hour before the camera picked up the housekeeper arriving).

Edit: added some more info and the fact she's paid hourly.

  • 16
    “ I completely trusted her till now, but today I went over the recordings comparing the times she reported in December and I see a lot of discrepancies.” and “ She's a hard worker and very trustworthy, but her time reporting always bugged me but I didn't have any proof.” are a contradiction. Did you completely trust your cleaning person or did you suspect they were not being truthful about their time card? You might want to reflect on that fact.
    – Donald
    Commented Jan 11, 2020 at 8:51
  • 71
    Have you tried setting the camera so that it records even if it doesn't detect motion? Then record for a full day and obtain evidence an actual fully-recorded discrepancy. Because the way it is now, as much as you might be >90% likely to be correct, it still leaves some room for doubt. And if you're going to accuse her of theft (or maybe fraud I guess), it shouldn't leave room for doubt.
    – user541686
    Commented Jan 11, 2020 at 9:13
  • 19
    Is there any part of her job that takes place off premises? If she spends some driving to stores and buying products and equipment for you, or dropping off/picking up dry cleaning or whatnot, would those be legitimate hours to turn in. Might she take home a stained table cloth and treat it there?
    – B. Goddard
    Commented Jan 11, 2020 at 13:26
  • 21
    The 5 hours instead of 4 hours I can believe. But 1h 20 min instead of 7 h, how is that possible? I mean was the apartment clean before she came? Do you think it is technically possible to do 7h work in 1h 20 min? Either way somehow this case most have been obvious even without the camera, if true.
    – lalala
    Commented Jan 11, 2020 at 16:45
  • 19
    To be clear: on the 4h vs 5h: she cheated on the arrival time to her advantage but she also cheated on the departure time on her disadvantage. Can you make any sense of that? It sounds more like mistake then intentional (really dumb) cheating.
    – Mayou36
    Commented Jan 11, 2020 at 20:13

10 Answers 10


Why not do as I do with my cleaner?

Draw up a list of tasks to check and execute. Eg. mop kitchen floor; any clothes in washing machine, take out and hang them

If the cleaner does all the tasks in 1/2 hour or takes 5 hours - I do not care - as long as it is done. The cleaner gets the set amount of money.

I am happy, cleaner is happy. All is good.

So, even if your cleaner only worked for 1.5 hrs and you are happy - why worry?

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Neo
    Commented Jan 13, 2020 at 3:02
  • 7
    I think this is a good point as long as the timing is reasonable. If the work is reasonably expected to take 6+ hours and she does it in 1.5, then my concern would be for the quality of the work. She's cutting corners somewhere. So while this principle does work for smaller variations in time +-20% or so, when there's a massive discrepancy it is still a red flag.
    – stanri
    Commented Jan 13, 2020 at 7:55
  • @Stacey It doesn't HAVE to be that. Some tasks take more time than others and do NOT need to be performed daily. If the lady is to do ALL the tasks DAILY, then I'd agree with you, but if the tasks are of a "XYZ needs to be clean/empty/ready for use", then it would stand to reason that on some days there'd be far less work to do than others.
    – MBender
    Commented Jan 13, 2020 at 9:42
  • 3
    @Shaamaan Sure, but then it's not really 6 hours of work a day to begin with? On the 'easy' days, there's time to do tasks that are required less often, like washing windows, etc. The point is that if the OP gives 6h work to be done on a given day, and it's done in 1.5h, it's a red flag. If it's a smaller house, then sure it's difficult to fill the time, but then he shouldn't be employing her full-time in the first place.
    – stanri
    Commented Jan 13, 2020 at 10:13
  • 4
    This is a brilliant answer. As long as your cleaner gets all of their weekly tasks done, why would you care how long they take? Paying them by the hour rewards inefficiency. Commented Jan 13, 2020 at 15:51

She's a hard worker and very trustworthy, but her time reporting always bugged me

So it looks like time reporting is the only issue with her, and she's great in every other respect.

how do I approach this with the utmost tact, since I'd rather not lose her.

Try to find out why is she doing it, and then see if it's possible to eliminate the reason for time stealing.

You may start with asking her if she's happy with the payment and the contract terms. Explaining that you're happy with her great work and may consider other options (pay-per-task, pay-per-visit, flat monthly rate) if she feels that the current conditions aren't quite working for her. Hopefully she may voice some issues you weren't aware of (e.g. no downtime payment).

Just guessing: you said the family was out during December (the whole month?). That may well have reduced the amount of cleaning hours required, but obviously hasn't reduced her cost of living. She may have perceived such downtime as an unfair situation.

  • 5
    She's already proved herself untrustworthy by stealing, it doesn't seem very productive to continue the relationship. Who knows how much she's bilked them for. And downtime payment is quite a stretch for a service job.
    – Eric Smith
    Commented Jan 10, 2020 at 15:26
  • 38
    And yet, the OP has clearly stated their intention to keep her...
    – Igor G
    Commented Jan 10, 2020 at 15:44
  • 28
    @EricSmith Anyway, I believe that finding out the root cause is worth doing. It may help preventing such scenarios in the future, be it the same cleaning person or a new one.
    – Igor G
    Commented Jan 10, 2020 at 15:48
  • 5
    Also another guess: She might have financial commitments, as very possibly a taken a loan of some kind. You may offer to refinance her loan if you trust her very much. If she's unhappy about small amount of work hours, get a nit-picky friend to list additional tasks you may demand from her, so that at least she'll be earning her extra pay.
    – Mefitico
    Commented Jan 10, 2020 at 17:39
  • 2
    @ИвоНедев, However obvious that reason may seem, it would still be a virtue to assume bona fide behavior of that lady. Ask first, accuse later.
    – Igor G
    Commented Jan 13, 2020 at 9:47

Stealing isn't being trustworthy

As AdzzzUK mentioned, while small discrepancies aren't necessarily a big concern, billing you for 7 hours work when you're confident she only did 1.5 hours work is a big integrity issue. I would say that someone behaving that way is not trustworthy, no matter how nice they are to you, no matter how good a job they do. I can't imagine keeping someone in my employment who I knew was stealing from me, because I could no longer trust them to act in my best interest.

  • 11
    On the other hand, fudging hours is better than literally stealing, which is presumably what some housekeepers might do and is fairly easy and tempting to do given their job. OP mentioned that finding a good one is difficult. Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good.
    – dbkk
    Commented Jan 11, 2020 at 20:38
  • 17
    Being a cleaner is not at all high-tier job and the actual cleaners are usually not that good at negotiating. The small hour fraud is an easy way for them how to get higher pay because they are worried they will be sacked when asking for more money. Life's not black&white.
    – Crowley
    Commented Jan 11, 2020 at 21:58
  • 4
    It does not really matter. There was an agreement, it is broken, she is criminal and not someone to keep in work.
    – TomTom
    Commented Jan 12, 2020 at 10:22
  • 1
    @dbkk I'm not sure I agree that timesheet fraud is "better" than literally stealing, or different really. It's better than stealing irreplaceable items like family heirlooms or things with sentimental value because they have value beyond their monetary value. But it seems pretty much identical to someone stealing cash to me. Not sure how the law would views it (IANAL), but in terms of financial impact to OP it seems the same. How would it differ from taking $10 to $50 in cash each time they cleaned the house (assuming $10/hr; adjust the math if the wage is higher or lower)?
    – bob
    Commented Jan 13, 2020 at 14:40
  • 1
    I feel comments here are like. A: "Why did you hit me?" B: Look at the brightside. I didn't slap you hard or stab you with the knife or murder you with a gun. Just because housemaid can do worser things, doesn't mean her current behaviour is excused.
    – user47813
    Commented Jan 16, 2020 at 17:10

If you're satisfied with her work/payments, don't change anything. If not, look for another cleaning lady. If you do not want to "catch" her wrong reporting - set a payment per work and not payment per hour.

I'm not really satisfied with her misreporting the hours though. If you noticed, she wrote down 7 hours when she worked only 1,5 hours.

She's not happy with the payment. As mentioned above, you can negotiate payment per work with her, so she won't have to cheat, and you'll be fine without misreporting. Or find another lady.

  • I'm not really satisfied with her misreporting the hours though. If you noticed, she wrote down 7 hours when she worked only 1,5 hours.
    – Xander
    Commented Jan 10, 2020 at 9:35
  • 1
    Not happy with the payment, or is using this tactic to boost her wages. Who knows who else she's doing this to.
    – AdzzzUK
    Commented Jan 10, 2020 at 10:24
  • 1
    Who knows who else she's doing this to probably the owners of the other three houses she cleaned during that 7 hour stint the OP paid her for.
    – dwizum
    Commented Jan 10, 2020 at 18:29

Im a self employed cleaner over 10yrs in the business built mainly on word of mouth. Being employed in someone's home,you must be fastidious in honesty, trust and respect. Any other employee in any business is accountable to someone for their time and resources when they are being paid,whether hourly or otherwise. Seems to me your cleaner is definitely taking advantage and has been doing so until the system change. I would probably explain whats happened and that you had been so disappointed as you were delighted with her work until then and now you feel betrayed and unable to feel relaxed keeping her in your employ.

  • 4
    "Any other employee in any business is accountable to someone for their time and resources when they are being paid". Meh, you'd be surprised the amount of enterprises where people are, well, just showing up (or not at all, if the security regime would allow for that) and do nothing useful with their time. The movie Office Space rings very true. I don't agree with that either, but it feels as if we're holding housekeeping personnel (or staff in family businesses) sometimes to an unfair different standard. Commented Jan 13, 2020 at 8:23
  • Thanks for the reply. For sure a long discussion is in order. What would make you feel more comfortable in terms of payment? Hourly, monthly fixed or per task?
    – Xander
    Commented Jan 13, 2020 at 8:23
  • @SanderVerhagen - on the other hand there are many jobs these days where you are measured by output not hours worked!
    – deep64blue
    Commented Jan 13, 2020 at 11:55
  • 1
    @AlanDev, I do not disagree with that. I was merely responding to the very absolute phrasing in the answer: "Any other employee in any business", which I disagree with. Commented Jan 13, 2020 at 15:24
  • @SanderVerhagen That's certainly true. In an office setting, I think the "present but did nothing" scenario is a grey-area, but the "I didn't show up, but said I did" or "I left way early, but said I stayed all day" scenarios are big-time no-no's. People get fired for such stunts. There are companies where that's tolerated. But it's definitely not ok. Basically slacking a bit can be ok, but lying about it isn't. Add in billing your employer for your hours worked and lying about those, and that's why the scenario in question is so bad. It's not a different standard, but a different situation.
    – bob
    Commented Jan 14, 2020 at 14:37

If there were a few instances of just an hour here or an hour there, it would be fairly reasonable to let it slide. As you said, you believed her to be trustworthy and had no issues with her work.

However, the instance where she's over-reported by a considerable margin is a cause of some concern. Can you be absolutely certain that the cameras were operational and there is no possibility of an issue in the morning (for example, could there have been an internet outage in the morning which knocked everything offline, but then was back up and running when she came back from say a lunch break or a trip out to pick up some supplies)?

Ultimately there is no easy way to tackle this. If there is no evidence to support an outage, she's stealing from you by over-reporting the hours. New cleaners are easy to find. You need to call her out on this one specific incident and see how she reacts. If need be, you need to be prepared to let her go and find another housekeeper. The reality is - you don't know how long during the last 2 years she's been inflating the hours worked to get more money out of you.

  • 2
    Thanks for the answer. Sadly over the years we noticed some issues like she wrote down she left at 5:30pm while we arrived home at 5pm and she wasn't there. I have updated my question also with some extra info. Since we were on holidays in December, I had someone feed the cat and on the date where the hours are way off, the person taking care of the cat told me he didn't run into the cleaner and he stayed at the house for 20 minutes. He arrived there at 2pm (1 hour before the housekeeper arrived).
    – Xander
    Commented Jan 10, 2020 at 9:57
  • 11
    Then I think you know the answer, as much as you might not want to let her go, she's proved she can't be trusted to report her hours honestly. Calling her out on the hours is impossible to do tactfully. She could start to resent you for calling her out and become more difficult as a result. There are likely to be many other cleaners that will do equally or better of a job. Putting down for a full days work when she believed the house would be empty so she could get away with it, shows me she thinks she can get away with it and is happy to screw you (and potentially others) over.
    – AdzzzUK
    Commented Jan 10, 2020 at 10:23
  • 5
    "New cleaners are easy to find". That really depends on country. Also the ones you find can be more expensive or even less trustworthy.
    – Sulthan
    Commented Jan 11, 2020 at 15:08
  • "call her out on this one specific incident and see how she reacts". Honest people tend not to be too thrilled about being accused of stealing. Crooks, on the other hand, tend to have a ready-made story, often a convincing one.
    – dbkk
    Commented Jan 11, 2020 at 20:42
  • @Xander - So I go back to the fact you said she was trustworthy, but every example you have given, indicates this person is NOT trustworthy. Only you can decide if these actions are a deal breaker.
    – Donald
    Commented Jan 14, 2020 at 20:23

This has two aspects.

Quality of work

Whether or not you are happy with the housekeeper depends on the quality of work they provide. Since you want to keep her, I have to assume her quality of work is at least decent. In this case she provides what you have paid for, however she does so in less time.

As you, the employer, are then happy and the employee is also happy, there is no reason to change anything. Other answers have expanded on this and I won't further.

Relationship to employee

Oftentimes on this SE we do not only discuss salary negotiations or proper office email headers, but rather social dynamics occuring in the workplace. In fact, I'd like to argue that such dynamics are a major player in where issues arise from. This is true for this case as well.

While you can argue that your cleaner provides the work you are looking for, this behavior, at least from what you described, does seem deceitful. You yourself seem concerned enough to open a thread regarding the issue, so the damaged trust is a problem from your viewpoint.

Now considering these two sides of the situation, ask yourself a few questions before you decide:

  • Is the quality of work provided in the shorter amount of time indeed satisfactory? Possibly quality of work suffers due to the cuts in hours, but you have other reasons for not willing to end the work relationship, some of which are in the bullet points below.
  • Do you trust this person otherwise? It takes time to trust someone in your home, so this is a really compelling reason for keeping your cleaner.
  • Is the hassle of finding a new cleaner the real reason for why you do not want to find a new cleaner, rather than trust and satisfactory work? If so, I think this is not a compelling one.
  • Obviously, w.r.t. social dynamics, the relationship is indeed damaged. You decided to make an effort and post the question on the web, so it seems to be something on your mind. Try to weigh this aspect against the other ones, such as trust and quality of work. I could understand being this the sole reason for letting the cleaner go. I could also understand the relationship you developed over the years being worth enough, that this deceit does result in terminating it. This depends a lot on context.

So what would I personally do?

Well, you can tackle this situation like any other work environment. Imagine you have a sysadmin. They are familiar with you and with the work environment. You trust them in the work environment and know they can handle problems on your own. You also find out, they have been handing in false timesheets over long periods of time.

Should I replace this person? My work environment may not be hard to get into, but that doesn't mean there is no cost in teaching a new person or even multiple new people, if the next person does not meet my expectations. Maybe I overestimate the value this employee puts on the table, because a new person might be able to achieve the same after two weeks training. Maybe I vastly underestimate the value this employee puts on the table, because we have developed a level of trust and I know, even though hours were not put in fully, whenever there was an actual issue to solve, my employee dealt with it. All of these are things to consider.

At least I wanted to confront them. Not necessarily in an offensive manner, but I would want to know, why the cleaner decided to put the wrong times on their sheet. I will also say, that the discrepancies in time are much too large for my taste. Anyone has cut an hour at some point, in many workplaces this is even no exception and not even frowned upon. Yet agreeing to being paid by the hour, then putting in 1.5 hours out of 7 - that is pretty bad, this is at least my opinion.

Ultimately no one here can make the decision for you, but I hope these points give you something to consider when you evaluate the situation.

  • May be 2.5 out of 7, assuming OP's times are more correct than their math, but still - good, balanced answer! Commented Jan 12, 2020 at 17:32

I'd like to answer the "utmost tact" part of the question.

Assume good intentions, and approach it as if you're confused by the discrepancy and are wondering whether one of you might have made a mistake.

If there's been a mistake, everything's good.

If there was intention to deceive, she's now aware that you have a method of confirming the hours she's working. This may be enough to change behaviour.

Either way, you'll have made her aware that things are not adding up, and you'll have done it without directly accusing her of anything (side note : if she acts as if you're accusing her of something, that may be an indication of dishonesty - someone making an honest mistake will usually assume that's what others are doing).

If you're happy with everything about her work except the apparent oddities in timekeeping, this approach is likely to result in a good outcome.

  1. How frequently these misreports happen? May they be attributed to honest mistakes?

  2. How trustworthy your CCTV system is? Is it possible not all her presence being recorded (e.g. not triggering the first time she enters in the morning and only the second time after she was going to the dumpster)?

After considering these possibilities, talk to her once.

Stealing is prone to escalation and an adult person is rarely going to improve even when confronted abouth their misbehaviour. Penalties are another matter, but you are in no position to apply them.

  • These questions have already been answered in the comments but two sum up: I employ this person for 2 years now and I have confirmed this 3 times so far but before it was like maybe 30 minutes to one hour. The CCTV system picked up the person catsitting at 2 and the cleaner at 3:10. The catsitter said, when asked, that he didn't see the cleaner in the house during the window he was there (2:00pm - 2:20pm).
    – Xander
    Commented Jan 13, 2020 at 10:48

I would come clean with her. Tell her you've found out that she doesn't work all the hours on her timesheet, but offer a compromise;

  • You do the tasks that need doing.
  • You get the house clean.
  • You take as long as it takes.
  • I will pay you the same amount of money each week, provided the house is clean.

Then if she's fast, she gets paid. If she's slow, she gets paid. As long as the work is done, she gets paid and you're both happy.

Surely it's better to know exactly how much you're going to pay each week / month anyway?

The whole idea of paying people by the hour is backward, archaic and dumb, and encourages people to work more slowly and "look busy".

The system was invented by the rich, in order to keep their workers in line and to squeeze everything they could out of them. The idea was that if you owned a factory, and as a result of putting in a brand new machine that boosted efficiency, this would result in your workers doing more work more than usual. If you paid by the piece, this meant you'd have to pay more. If you paid by the hour, you didn't. It's a hangover from the days of lords and ladies, serfs and peasants. It's utterly ridiculous that we still use it in the 21st century.

For most of us who go to work, we're still trapped in this system by virtue of the fact we have to turn up to a room of other apes, and sit staring at each other and being jealous, wishing that we were the ones that got to just get up and go home whenever we feel like it.

I work in a big office with a lot of people in it, so there's no way on earth that I can say to my boss:

"Look, I do my work in half the time of my colleagues (which is true), and I'm getting paid the same as they are, I should be able to go home early."

The real answer is that I should just slow down. I should work around the same pace as the slowest person in my department, otherwise I'm just wasting my effort (and no, nobody notices that you're faster, it won't get you a promotion any quicker).

If you do raise this issue with your cleaner, that will be her only option as well. She's not about to cut her own hours, she needs that money to live, so she will just work more slowly and pad out the time.

Who does that help? Nobody.

  • Thinking hourly wages abuses the payment of employees negatively, and not realizing that individual negotiated contracts that have mandatory unpaid overtime, that allows two (or more) employees to be paid drastically differently is somehow better is beyond bizarre. There is no singular way to compensate work. Commented Jan 14, 2020 at 16:33
  • It is better. Everyone is unique, no two people contribute the same amount to a workplace, everyone's renumeration should be unique to them and what they contributed. When you raise above serf class and into Executive, manager, VP, CIO etc then that is indeed the case, only serfs and peasants are paid by the hour, and it's a totally unfair way to do it and rewards laziness. If you don't realise this then you are the bizzare one. Commented Jan 14, 2020 at 17:04
  • Name calling is not respected anywhere. Ideas certainly can be, however. Your opinion on the subject is a heavily capitalistic one indeed, and naive, if you honestly believe there is no abuse happening. Hourly wages share many of the same problems as contractual ones. Although equality in workers is not the same, this can easily be compensated in hourly wages as much as contractual. Commented Jan 14, 2020 at 17:12
  • When my parents had a house keeper they would have the person come by for a couple hours every week. The amount of hours each week was set, it would not exceed a certain amount, but the fee was still hourly. So if the person could only work half those hours, so be it, only the hours they worked were paid.
    – Donald
    Commented Jan 14, 2020 at 20:18
  • @Donald That was the idea with our arrangement as well but I allowed her to do more hours on some days where there was more ironing than usual or the house's state after a party needed more work. But it seems she's abusing that privillege.
    – Xander
    Commented Jan 15, 2020 at 11:45

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