Domestic Staff Job Descriptions

It’s been a long time coming but here it is – the definitive list of butler and all other household staff job definitions and descriptions. I’ve come full circle and am just collating the wine cellar these days… I know my place!

Like many other ( ahem) movers and shakers in the domestic staff industry worldwide I was asked for my input and played a small part by sending my thoughts to the collators, those lovely people and serious butling folk over at – The International Institute of Modern Butlers.

Having been asked, for years, about where Butlers came from and their origins I have always cited the bouteiller arguement – the premise that a modern day butler’s ancestry goes back to the senior household servant who held the keys to the wine cellar. Bouteiller essentially translating from the French as ‘Bottler’ and hence – you guessed it!

Employers and domestic staff alike have long sought to define what a Butler does in todays modern world and many romantics might say that this is undefinable. However the fact of the matter is that the world needs to know the difference between a Butler and a Houseman, a Chef and a Cook, a Housekeeper and a Lady’s Maid.

So Bravo to all who helped compile the following and no doubt it will be argued over, updated and discussed for decades to come! In the meantime I have to get back to my cellar!

Estate Manager and Butler Administrator (EM/BA)

Responsibilities & Duties

  • The EM/BA is the senior manager and principal’s representative working usually in an administrative capacity in one or more large estates, while being capable of hands-on service when required.
    Responsible for policy generation and enforcement, long-range planning and the efficient and effective management of often large numbers of staff, including yacht crews and flight attendants, and the servicing of principals & guests
  • Will manage multiple properties, ensuring consistency and continuity of services and standards, and information exchange between properties
  • Overall financial management for all properties and ancillary services including authorisation of larger purchases and investments
  • Overall management of staff in all properties
  • Responsible for ancillary elements such as stables and race track, golf course
  • Storage and presentation of collectables including vehicles, antiques and fine arts and may include museums and exhibits
  • Management of docks, yachts and airstrip (in conjunction with yacht and flight crew)
  • Project management and management of contractors
  • Overall security of properties and ancillary elements
  • May be involved in aspects of the employers business
  • May fill the role of Personal Assistant to a principal
  • May assist with aspects of an employer’s business(es).

Reports directly to the principal or sometimes to a principal’s management company.
Generally requires business-hours schedule, along with 24/7 availability for emergencies.

Other titles used for this position include Director of Properties and Services, Director of Residences, and General Manager of Properties and Services. Where this is the case, the likelihood is the position is being/to be filled by an individual with a corporate background and no formal training in private service. Sometimes, this position can be referred to as Majordomo, although this title also applies to a Butler or Household Manager position (see below).

Qualifications & Skills

  • Business and management training and experience with successful demonstration of skills, including in human resources/personnel handling.
  • Certified qualification and experience in household & property/project management and residential service
  • Experience in property and project management, including major construction and or renovations. Where properties may have ancillary elements such as stables and race track, golf course, car museum, dock and yachts, airplanes and airstrips, etc., needs expertise in their management.

Butler, Household Manager, Majordomo

Responsibilities & Duties

  • Responsible for the smooth running of a household and servicing of principals and guests, usually supervising others but also providing service himself or herself in any number of capacities
  • Engaging and overseeing outside contractors, service providers and suppliers
  • Overseeing household staff including hiring, firing, payroll management and performance reviews

While the Nanny, Chef, and Personal Assistant (Personal Secretary of old) are managed generally by the butler in terms of payroll, schedule, etc., performance is often rated, and their needs communicated by, the principals directly, particularly in the case of the Personal Assistant.

  • Writing of household manuals and policy documents for principal’s approval
  • Staff training and development of SOP’sFinancial management, budget administration, and purchasing
  • Household project management
  • Maintenance of the property on regular and routine basis
  • Overall security and communication systems and record keeping
  • Regular interaction with principals to maintain direct communication and compliance with their needs
  • Ensures efficiency, harmony, and morale encouraged and maintained throughout the household
  • Organization and orchestration of social and family events
  • Reception and cosseting of guests
  • Care and serving of wines and other libations
  • Serving of refreshments and meals
  • Maintaining fine silver, china, antiques, and other household and Estate items (such as fine cars)
  • The butler in a household with no other staff, and dependent upon the principal’s needs, may also be called upon to perform the duties of a valet, chef, housekeeper, nanny, pet minder, gardener, or chauffeur.

A guiding principle for the B/HM/MD is to learn (from observation or inquiry, as appropriate) virtually all household and personal needs of the principals, and to then anticipate, obtain, and conduct timely, thoughtful, discreet and unobtrusive delivery of any such needed items or service. If there are delays or there is an inability to bring them the desired results, then the role of the B/HM/MD is to inform the principals in a timely manner and recommend other options.

The Butler, as opposed to the Household Manager, traditionally cuts a more formal figure knowledgeable in etiquette and protocol, formal service, fine wines and household trappings.

Reports directly to the principal, to any Estate Manager or Butler Administrator, or sometimes to a principal’s management company.

As the B/HM/MD position involves a significant level of hands-on service to the principals and their guests, the schedule will often vary in days or hours, requiring a degree of flexibility. Occasionally, such positions are live-in, where security and/or 24/7 on-call services are appropriate.

Qualifications & Skills

  • Business & management training and experience desirable but not required including in human resources/personnel handling.
  • Certified qualification desirable and experience in household & property/project management and residential service
  • Experience in vendor and project management.
  • Knowledge of etiquette and protocol
  • Formal service of fine wines and food
  • Ability to represent the household from telephone manner to reception of guests
  • Knowledge of and expertise in caring for fine arts, antiques, silver, china, and cars
  • Valeting skills for both males and females
  • Eye for detail and ability to anticipate
  • Ability to read mood of principal’s and other household members and adapt accordingly
  • Experienced in delivery of thoughtful, discreet and unobtrusive service
  • Demonstrated discretion and confidentiality


Terms of old that are falling out of use in the greater community are “Gentleman’s Gentleman,” and for the fairer sex, “Lady’s Maid.” The valet is often covered by the Butler or Man Friday (such as Wooster in Jeeves & Wooster), or by a Housekeeper for the Lady’s Maid.

Responsibilities & Duties

  • Assists a gentleman or lady with wardrobe & personal item purchase, care, and management
  • Laying out of clothes and assistance with dressing
  • Packing and unpacking suitcases for travel
  • Can travel with principal
  • When there is only one principal in a household, vendor interaction, light housekeeping, cooking, and/or chauffeuring may be required.
  • This one-on-one position contrasts with the Butler’s, whose remit relates to the whole household, family members, guests and other service staff.

Qualifications & Skills

  • Knowledge of fabrics & garments, their purchase, care, laundering and ironing
  • Some knowledge of fashion and dress co-ordination
  • Confidentiality and discretion
  • Organisational skills and eye for detail

Reporting & Schedule

Reports administratively to any Butler or Butler Administrator/Estate Manager and otherwise enjoys a direct line to the principal. The nature of such close personal assistance requires the utmost in flexibility of schedule and duty assignment, and so such positions are occasionally live-in.

Personal Assistant

Responsibilities & Duties

  • Liaises between the principal and other staff particularly an HM/B, to satisfy the wishes or needs of the principal.
  • Secretarial/home office functions, includingmaintenance of the principal’s IT requirements
  • Liaison with office
  • Calendar management
  • Travel arrangements
  • Budget management
  • Organizing social event running errands, & shopping
  • Special projects
  • When required, media and public relations
  • May require traveling with the employer.

A PA’s duties can overlap with the HM, so where there is no HM, the PA may find himself or herself hiring, training, and supervising employees. Where there is an HM/B, the PA can relay occasionally the principal’s messages to the HM/B, but the latter has a direct line to the principal and reports to him or her, not the PA.

Where the PA has only secretarial responsibilities, the title is often referred to as Social Secretary.

Qualifications & Skills

Excellent interpersonal, communication, and organizational skills
A high level of integrity and correct use of the power enjoyed in relaying information for the principal.
Reporting & Schedule

Reports administratively to any B/BA/HM/MD but otherwise enjoys a direct line to the principal
P.A.’s generally retain the same 24/7 requirement of on-call flexibility in service to the Principals as all other household managerial positions.


Responsibilities & Duties

  • Primarily responsible for cleaning , the Houseman can be required also to provide light food preparation, as well as perform shopping and other errands.
  • On larger estates, tends to specialize in heavy, exterior cleanup and minor maintenance/repair projects not requiring a contractor
  • On single-staffed smaller properties, may be found performing virtually any non-managerial domestic duty needed.

Qualifications & Skills

  • Handyman skills and hands-on caring for vehicles and other equipment or materiel
  • Knowledge of cleaning techniques

Reporting & Schedule

Reports to the B/HM/EM/MD in estates with one; otherwise directly to the principal. Occasionally is a live-in position that doubles as a security presence during off hours, in addition to various on-call requests. Females in positions with identical duties could be called “Houseman,” but generally is referred to as “Housekeeper.”

Private Chef

Responsibilities & Duties

  • Take care of all matters relating to the purchasing of foods and associated commodities, menu planning, preparation, cooking and presentation of food
  • Cleaning of their utensils and workspace.
  • In the absence of other staff to perform support roles (often in more casual households), dining room management (table settings and service) may become the responsibility of the Chef to perform hands-on, along with wine cellar upkeep and occasional non-managerial interaction with property service vendors.

Qualifications & Skills

Formal training and experience as a chef, they are usually selected for their familiarity with certain cuisines, their culinary training and style, and understanding of dietary issues, wines and spirits, their experience with social and household entertaining and catering.

Cooks generally have experience in all of the above but lack formal training.

Reporting & Schedule

Reports to the B/BA/HM/MD where there is one, otherwise directly to the principal. Menu requirements may come directly from the principal or via the Butler, or in some estates, are suggested and approved by the chef
Schedule is flexible and the position usually live-out.

Executive Housekeeper/Head Housekeeper

Responsibilities & Duties

In larger estates with multiple housecleaners, housekeeping attendants, and housekeepers, the Executive Housekeeper/Head Housekeeper generally has a supervisory role involving the performance, training, and attendance of housecleaners or assistants under him or her, but must be able to step in and carry out any of the functions if needed

Qualifications & Skills

  • In depth knowledge of and experience in caring for all fabrics, materials & surfaces
  • Organisational skills and eye for detail
  • People skills

Reporting & Schedule

Reports to the Butler administratively and for daily requirements, but sometimes to the principal.
Live-out position and the schedule is usually customary work hours, but flexible according to principal needs.


Responsibilities & Duties

  • In smaller residences, cleans and cares for the entire inside of the house herself or himself
  • In larger households, responsible for the performance, training, and attendance of housecleaners or assistants, yet retains a hands-on cleaning function as well.
  • Responsible for the cleanliness of all interior surfaces and items, as well as laundering and ironing of clothes and linens.
  • May also be responsible for pet shampoo and grooming.
  • In smaller, casual, or single-staffed households, an expansion of duties may include light cooking, errands, telephone and guest reception, and non-managerial interaction with vendors.

Qualifications & Skills

In depth knowledge of and experience in proper cleaning and maintenance of all surfaces within the residence, including rare or delicate flooring, hardware (rare metal platings, etc), wall coverings, drapery, and objets d’ art.

Reporting & Schedule

Reports to any Head or Executive Housekeeper. Where none, and there is a B/HM/MD, reports to him or her; or where no such positions filled, reports to the principal (usually the Mrs.)
Sometimes, where long in service with the principals, may communicate directly with the principal—in which case, the housekeeper would be sure to keep the Butler appraised of the principal’s wishes.

Live-out position that usually follows normal business hours, with flexibility for principal needs.

Housecleaner/Housekeeping Attendant

Responsibilities & Duties
Full or part time cleaning of a residence, as instructed by either the principal or, when acting as an assistant to the Housekeeper or Executive Housekeeper, by the Housekeeper/Executive Housekeeper.

Qualifications & Skills
Working knowledge of and experience in proper cleaning and maintenance of all surfaces and materials, including laundry and ironing, within the residence.
Become trained as needed for specialty surface and materials cleaning.
For positions where laundry and ironing constitute the majority of the responsibility, this position may be referred to as Laundress, although flexibility with performing cleaning duties as needed is expected. Now the same as a Housekeeper in Great Britain.

Reporting & Schedule
Reports to Housekeeper, or Head or Executive Housekeeper.

Responsibilities & Duties
Now generally only found as a title in the Far East as an additional interior staff member whose main duties include bed making and turndown service, and general household duties that are not carried out by housekeeping attendants—such as cleaning fireplaces and removing garbage.

Qualifications & Skills
Physically adept and with hands-on experience often trained on the job

Reporting & Schedule
Reports to whoever is his or her senior, whether housekeeper or butler or other.


Farm Manager
Sometimes combined with Estate Manager or Butler Administrator. The Farm Manager is responsible for exterior production acres and overseeing decorative gardens, while the Estate Manager/Butler Administrator is responsible for the Household.

Life Manager
A nebulous term that describes myriad responsibilities including Estate Manager, Real Estate Advisor, Construction Project Director, Event Planner, Travel Agent, Personal Fitness Coach, Nutritionist, Personal Assistant, Counselor, etc.

And on the lighter side:

Executive General Factotum
A just-invented term taken from the old style General Factotum (“does everything”) and Man Friday, to which is added the executive duties of the Estate Manager/Butler Administrator, and Personal Assistant/Secretary.

General Dog’s Body
Also known as Chief Cook & Bottle Washer who sees to the unpleasant or boring jobs that no one else will, or wants to, do.

Let us have your input in the comment section below.

There’s a ‘print’ icon at the top of this post if you want to print this page or save this to a file for future reference but we’d rather you just signed up in the e-mail box, top right, to get the word when we post new items here.

Related posts:

  1. What is a Valet?
  2. Best Shave – Tip Top Shaving Tips
  3. How To Shine (Bull) a Shoe – The Butler Way

Filed Under: AgenciesCV / Resume AdviceDomestic Staff Agencies & ConsultantsDomestic Staff InfoFeaturedHiring IssuesInterview TipsJob DescriptionsJob HuntingNanny AgenciesOn The JobSalary GuideSecurity Checks

Tags: butlerdomestic staff job descriptionsestate managergeneral factotumhousehold managerhousekeeperhousemanmajordomoPApersonal assistantvalet

Facebook comments welcome:

RSSComments (1)

Leave a Reply | Trackback URL

  1. Blogwam says:

    Excellent list thank you!

Leave a Reply

If you want a picture to show with your comment, go get a Gravatar.