A domestic worker using smartphone for call

“Intentional Laziness” of Your Domestic Helper

One common malpractice of employment agencies is that they will teach the helpers to misbehave so that the employers will fire them, which in turn benefits the employment agency. However, as employers become aware of such a practice, they also become too sceptical, which might harm the employer-helper relationship! If you observe that your helper “intentionally” makes mistakes, check this article to see what to do.

Do not assume!

Common reported behaviours of helpers who “want to get fired” are: using her phone while working, showing a bad attitude, being unhygienic while preparing food, wearing provocative clothing, etc. However, all of these might be due to understanding only! If your helper is using the phone too much, set strict house rules with her. What you see as her bad attitude might be due to cultural differences and language barriers. While some things she says might sound really offensive to you, it could be just because the language is new to her, so when she makes simple sentences, they sound blunt and rude to you. If she is seen being unhygienic while preparing food, such as not washing her hands after she sneezes, it might be because of her lack of knowledge about hygiene rather than an “intentional” mistake. When she wears provocative clothing, to you it might seem like she wants to seduce your husband, to her it might just be looking her best while working. Therefore, do not just assume if you see mistakes in your helper’s work! The next section will tell you how you can communicate with your helper.

A domestic worker using smartphone for call
Has your helper been using her phone a lot lately?

Communicate, communicate, communicate

The best way to find out an answer to something is communication. For example, if your helper is talking on her phone excessively while at work, you can ask why. She might tell you that it is the only time her child is free during the day. If you think her demand is reasonable, you can allow her to use her phone, given that it does not cause danger due to negligence to the children or elderly she is taking care of. When you see that she is showing a bad attitude, ask why instead of concluding that she wants to get fired. Firstly, it might be due to cultural differences and language barriers. Secondly, it can be due to personal issues she is having at the moment. They can be issues as big as she finds out that her husband is cheating on her, and her son drops out of school to join gangs. Since your helper is living with you, she has less privacy to deal with those issues, so you might see her exhibit her negative emotions.

What if it is clear that she is asking for termination

Sometimes communication cannot solve the problem. If you are convinced that your helper is misbehaving to get fired, such as she always says “fire me because I have enough money already”, or her work performance is getting worse to a point that might harm the children or elderly she is taking care of, you need to know how to deal with such situation.

Firstly, if you used an agency to hire your helper, communicate with them to observe whether the agency is colluding with the helper. If they are, they might not give you useful advice, they might just advise you to terminate the contract, pay her to buy the flight ticket and look for a new helper in their agency – they might even give you a discount! If you are very convinced that the agency uses this practice, you can report the agency to the Labour Department or the Consumer Council.

Secondly, if you are terminating your helper on the grounds of serious misconduct, such as stealing money, abusing the children and exhibiting violence, it is summary dismissal and you do not need to give her the one-month notice period, payment in lieu of notice or pay her pro-rata annual leave pay. When you pay for her air ticket, buy a ticket for her instead of giving her the money for the ticket. A common malpractice of employment agencies is that they arrange accommodation for the helpers in Macau while they wait for their new job and visa. The Immigration Department expects the helpers to return to their home countries, but it is hard to track where the helpers go after they leave Hong Kong. Therefore, buying the ticket instead of giving money can help stop this practice. Do not misunderstand that summary dismissal is a form of exploitation. If you fire your helper for the reason of summary dismissal, you can prevent this malpractice from happening. If you believe that the employment agency plays a part in the helper’s misconduct, you should never use that agency again and discourage your friends and family from using it. However, if her misconduct cannot be classified as “serious misconduct” to be fired for the reason of summary dismissal, you need to give her one-month notice period or payment in lieu of notice, and settle all other payments.

Therefore, the greatest tips we can offer are to avoid appointing unethical employment agency and to constantly communicate with your helper, especially in her first week.

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