Keeping House in Hotels

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A career as a housekeeper in a hotel can be challenging as it requires a great deal of organisational skill, the ability to communicate well with guests and staff, and the discipline of upholding service excellence.

“An executive housekeeper can earn well, depending on the hotel,” said Carina Camilleri of the Hotel and Catering Personnel Agency based in Gardens, Cape Town. Some housekeepers have to run 400 bedrooms in a four to five star hotel which would involve a higher degree of organisation and receive better remuneration than a smaller establishment.

What the job entails 

Michelle Levendal, executive housekeeper at the four-star Capetonian Hotel in Cape Town, said she runs the housekeeping department. This involves “supervising 20 staff; linen stock-taking and ordering; disciplining staff; and allocation and cleaning of rooms”. She also has to deal with guest complaints. She manages a staff of nine permanent women, some casuals and a number of three-month contract workers.

Shanaz Smith, the assistant executive housekeeper at the Table Bay Hotel, said she “oversees staff” such as cleaners, floor supervisors and the valet manager. She maintains a “room standard”, looks after linen and she monitors supervisors in eight floors of the hotel.

Working conditions 

Smith said she worked “long hours from 5am to 4pm and sometimes even to 7pm if the need arises”. Levendal said she worked from 7am to 4pm with alternate Saturdays off. Cleo Louw in the One and Only Hotel, HR Department, said there is a 24-hour rota of three shifts for housekeeping.  

Camilleri said benefits include 21 days of leave, sick leave and family responsibility leave. Hotels usually follow the Basic Conditions of Employment Act (BCEA) on work conditions. Smith said she received 20 percent medical aid. 

Job prospects 

Levendal said you could work yourself up to a top position. She said from an executive housekeeper you could move to a front office managerial position or a rooms division manager.

Louw said for a position as a housekeeper you need to have held the same position for a year or longer at a similar hotel. Camilleri said some major hotel groups require a hotel school diploma or a degree in hospitality for the executive housekeeping position. 

Assistant housekeeper Smith said you need management training as you have to deal with staff. You also need computer training as staff and floor records have to be stored. She said you have to be a “people’s person, a problem-solver”, you need to be calm when guests have complaints. 

She has been working for 11 years at the Table Bay hotel. She started as a linen counter; after that she became a floor supervisor and then a linen supervisor which led to a valet manager position. As a valet manager she was in charge of three departments where she was made a permanent member of the Sun International staff. She continued to become a housekeeper administrator then moved to assistant executive housekeeper. She said the top position in this sector would be a head executive housekeeper servicing five Sun International hotels.

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