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Giving Thanks to Household Staff

Giving Thanks to Household Staff

While it’s hard to believe Thanksgiving is next week, the holiday season is indeed upon us! If you haven’t already considered year-end gifts for your staff, now is the time. The act of holiday gift-giving to household staff is not merely a customary gesture but a nuanced practice requiring careful consideration. A clear understanding of industry standards for cash gifts combined with meaningful, personalized gestures let your staff know they are seen and appreciated. 

The standards of gifting will vary by location and type of household. Other factors may be considered as well, such as how long an employee has been with the family, their overall performance, and of course, the household budget. My experience is with large households in Los Angeles and Miami. Please feel free to add comments about the standard practices in your areas to help other Estate Managers.

One should separate a holiday gift from a year-end bonus, if that is offered. A year-end bonus should come with a performance review, be included in salary, and will be taxed as income. We’re discussing cash and gifts, just as a gesture of appreciation.

Gifting Guidelines:

A House Manager, Executive Housekeeper, or Lead Butler typically receives a cash gift equivalent to one to two weeks’ salary. In addition, a practical gift such as a high-quality leather planner or computer bag, or a professional development opportunity, like a management seminar, may be considered appropriate.

For the Chef, a holiday gift equivalent to a week’s salary is customary. For a traveling chef or one who works extended hours on a regular basis, that could be extended to 2 week’s salary. Additional gifts may include a new embroidered Chef’s coat, a high-end kitchen gadget, a valuable bottle of wine, or a dinner at the best restaurant in town.

Housekeeping, Housemen, and full-time facilities and landscape crew typically receive a uniform thank you of $1000-$2000. We do this because they tend to talk to each other and compare notes. It’s been important to us that all things are equal to maintain a harmonious environment. Practical gifts such as gift cards, and holiday meals are great, but also include something tangible. Our ladies might receive a small jewelry item and our gentleman scarves or watches. 

Our full-time, live-in nannies usually receive a holiday gift equal to one month’s salary. These individuals tend to be 24/7 and care for the most precious residents. Thoughtful gifts may include a personalized piece of jewelry, a weekend getaway, or a contribution towards a course or hobby outside of their professional duties. For our hourly nannies, we offer the same as the daily staff.

Security personnel may require special considerations depending upon whether they are employees or contracted services. It’s good to discuss with the team leader what is appropriate in regard to cash. Practical gifts might include high-quality outdoor gear or a subscription to a security-related publication that aligns with their professional roles.

It’s important to reiterate that these gift suggestions are indicative of industry standards in 2 major cities. Standards can vary based on specific employment contracts, regional practices, and the unique dynamics of individual households. While monetary bonuses are common, a thoughtful, practical gift tailored to each staff member’s preferences can express the overall sense of appreciation during the holiday season.



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