We Just Fired Our Domestic Helper ...

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It's really rather sad. She was sweet with the kids, seemed to genuinely like our family. She cooked rather nice meals. We really liked to think of "Auntie" as part of the family.

So, why did we fire her?

* We just found out that her reference from when we hired her a year ago was actually not her former employer, but just her friend impersonating an employer.

* Little items kept disappearing from around the home. "Gee, did we really use 5 lbs. of sugar in month?" (Or was it used in some Phillipines cooking party on a Sunday day off?) "Why does the calling card have no time left on it? Did my wife or I use it, and forget, or was it the helper?" On and on.

* We asked her not to use her mobile phone during working hours, but, when we were not around, she continued to use it. (Thus, not watching the kids as carefully, or not cleaning as well, etc.)

* She kept ruining a lot of clothes in the laundry. She resisted (even resented?) my wife's efforts to set up a better laundry system.

* She gets into (on at least a couple of occasions) to drunken brawls on her Saturday night/Sunday time off.

* She, although a married woman with her own kids back in the Phillipines, may have had an affair with a man here in HK.

* She (as a disciplinary measure?) bit our 2-year old daughter's hand. The helper never would have told us, but for our daughter's ability to articulate what Auntie had done.

* Loan sharks have been calling our home, on my landline, looking for her and her payment(s).

Bottom-line: Our trust in her has more or less evaporated over the last few months. We don't know what to believe and what not to. It was causing my wife a lot of stress, and a reluctance to leave the kids with her even for an evening out, let alone a weekend away.

Any thoughts out there? Did we do the right thing? How should we have handled it? It was devestating to our helper when we told her, but not surprising. Really sad for all of us.

Re: We Just Fired Our Domestic Helper ...

[quote="JohnBoyd"]

* Loan sharks have been calling our home, on my landline, looking for her and her payment(s).

Any thoughts out there? Did we do the right thing? How should we have handled it? It was devestating to our helper when we told her, but not surprising. Really sad for all of us.[/quote]Oh we've had that before. I don't think you should be sad. A person who has been that devious certainly has a contingency plan. Probably, the worst thing for her is that she's got 2 weeks to find another job before the visa runs out.

You did the right thing. You put your trust in her, and she couldn't do the job!! we had the loan shark problem - you won't know when some of your posessions have mysteriously disappeared.

Did you examine the references carefully? I've seen references that looked like they were written by another domestic helper. It's easy to spot the grammatical differences. There are also reference letters that are claimed to have been written by local HK people. Those have certain grammatical idiosyncracies as well.

Be careful of those helpers whose previous employers cannot be contacted due to 'emmigration'. And another thing is those helpers who've worked in HK before are generally smarter and need less training, but also have a greater propensity for less desirable behaviour.

Helpers who work for expats are a different species altogether. They have different expectations (even asking for own phone line) and different wage demands.

All in all, there are good and trustworthy helpers out there. Just like any other group of people, there are some who can fit in with your family and those who can't. You will find few good helpers who've worked for other families in HK because the good ones have had their contracts renewed by their employers.

Just remembered one interesting story. We were about to hire a helper from the Phillipines who had worked in HK for one and a half years. She looked OK, we rang her up in Phillipines and communication was OK but we couldn't get hold of the previous employer. This was important because it really bothered me as to why a contract would be broken after 1.5 years. My wife managed to persuade the prospective helper to give us the phone number of the previous employer.

This helper had:
- slept with the the other helper in the house (both were female).
- inappropriate disciplined the child (the employer didn't believe this until the 9 year old secretly recorded part of the conversation)
- and some other stuff which I can't recall.

Needless to say, we did not employ that person.

Honestly speaking, we have not yet had a helper that has lasted long enough for a contract renewal. Our present helper seems fine though.
Just keep a close eye on any 'inconsistencies' for other prospective employees.

Firing helper

John, sorry to hear you've had bad luck with your helper.

In answer to your question, I think many of us who have hired helpers would have fired them for just one or two of the litany of ills you've ennumerated. Biting your child, stealing, brawling, loan sharks -- I think you've been plenty forbearing.

Good luck in finding a replacement!

Follow-Up: How to List Reasons for Termination?

Thanks, Mr Tall,

How should I fill out the termination letter that I submit with the immigration authorities? Specifically, the "reasons for termination"? I could write all the specific reasons, as I listed on my post a day or two ago. That, however, could have some very negative repercusions on our former helper -- who, despite it all, we still have some affection for. I imagine she would be deported back to the Philipines ASAP, without any hope of another job in HK. Alternatively, I could list the reasons for termination as "differences" or something similarly vague.

Yours, or others', thoughts?

Re:We Just Fired Our Domestic Helper ...

I would say something like "inappropriate discipline of child and other problems".

The negative represcussions - well would you wish her on another employer? If someone called you up and said "I'm thinking of hiring her, how was her work?" what would you say?

I think honesty in this case would be best.

Re:We Just Fired Our Domestic Helper ...

Hi John;

Yes, skmama's right on: the letter to Immigration can be kept very short. I wouldn't bother embellishing or feeling the need to justify anything.

I also agree with skmama about the honesty policy: I think you had enough trouble to warrant laying it on the line if you are ever asked for a reference (doubt that you will be, given the circumstances and her penchant for coming up with her own referees -- but you never know).

Mr Tall