Porto Alegre, the capital of the state of Rio Grande do Sul, the most Southern state in Brazil, is the land of proud and friendly "gauchos". Our state has received a large variety of immigrants and the early settlers were mostly Germans, Portuguese, Italians, Polish, Russians and much later people from Arabian and Asian countries.
Hiring a maid is something very common in our culture and from December 11, 1972 there are specific rules (law number 5.859) stating their legal rights. Their obligations vary according to the employers needs -- they may do all the work at home (clean the house, cook, wash and iron) or be hired specifically as a cook, babysitter, etc...
Their contract is done in their "worker's card"/carteira de trabalho after a trial period. In general, they work for 8 hours a day, five days a week. But, the law requires only one free day called "repouso semanal". The monthly payment is around U$200,00 plus transportation, social security (20% of their monthly fee paid to the government), Christmas bonus or 13th salary and a month's vacation after working for 12 months.
Live-in maids are very rare, but cleaning ladies are common because it is much cheaper than hiring a full-time maid. When hiring a cleaning lady (once or twice a week), you are only responsible for the daily fee -- usually around U$20,00 for 8 hour labor.
For security reasons, you have to be very strict when interviewing or hiring any servants who are going to have access to your house and family -- so check references carefully first!!
VisitorsAssistants (www.visitors.com.br) usually has some suggestions. When our clients leave the country and are pleased with their servants, they usually leave a letter of reference so that we may refer them to other families.