Unfortunately, it is sometimes necessary to terminate your helper’s contract. Be sure to follow the necessary steps if this is the case.
Consider if you really want to terminate your helper’s contract
Firing your helper will have an impact on her career prospects and on the family she is supporting back home. If you are relocating or suddenly no longer have the financial means, or if you are moving into a smaller apartment, you may unfortunately have no other option. But if you are terminating her contract for other reasons, the decision should not be taken lightly and you should consider:
- Have you spoken with your helper about the issues before? If you have not, she may not be aware that you are unhappy with her.
- Could we do anything to change the situation? If she is not very good at cooking, but great at her other duties, she may improve by attending some cooking workshops.
- How much longer is her contract valid for? If it is just another 2 or 3 months and the situation is not unbearable, you may consider to keep her until she finishes her contract. This also gives both you and her you enough time to find a suitable replacement.
- How angry are you? When you are upset, you can make decisions that you may later regret. Discuss the situation with your partner and see if they think the same. You may even want to talk to your children because they may be very attached to the helper.
If you are sure about your decision to let your helper go, there are a few things you will need to do:
Inform your helper
You will need to inform your helper that you are terminating her contract. This can be a very difficult conversation, especially if your helper has been with you for a long time. Allocate enough time to the conversation and do it while you both sit down. If you are terminating her contract because you are relocating, let her know as far in advance as possible so that she has time to find a suitable new employer. Regardless of the reasons why you terminate your helper’s contract, you will have to tell her when she is expected to leave. You will have to give her at least a month’s notice or pay her wages in lieu of notice if you want her to stop working before that time.
Settle everything with your helper
Make sure you handle things well when you terminate your helper’s contract. You want to end the employment of your helper as positively as possible. Make sure that you document everything and that both you and the helper have a copy of this. Draw up a letter where you state the new date of ending her employment and the reason(s). In case of dispute, you can ask a third-party to be present when both of you sign the termination letter. In this case, you also want to make sure there is a third-party witness for settling the financial and other administrative aspects:
- Pay all outstanding wages. If there are any outstanding wages due or if payment in lieu of notice is necessary, settle this as soon as possible.
- Pay her the severance payment or long service payment if applicable. The severance payment is due if the helper has worked for more than 24 months for you. The long service payment is due for any helper who has worked for more than five years continuously for you. You will only have to pay one of the two. The payment is calculated as follows: (latest monthly wage x 2/3) x reckonable years of service (service of incomplete year is calculated on a pro rata basis).
- Pay her outstanding annual leave. A helper is entitled to annual leave after working for a period of 12 months. When you terminate your helper’s contract you should pay her in lieu of any annual leave not yet taken. A helper who has worked more than three, but less than 12 months is entitled to a pro-rata annual leave pay.
- Pay her for untaken statutory holidays.
- Settle all the other sums as stated in the employment contract such as a flight ticket back home, food and travelling allowance.
- Finally, consider if you want to help her with other things such as helping her find a great new employer. You can do this by helping her create a profile on HelperChoice.com. Some employers will also give an extra leave bonus for their helper.
Inform Hong Kong Immigration Department
As stated in Clause 12 of the Standard Employment Contract, you and your helper both will have to inform the Immigration Department of any changes in employment. This has to be done within 7 days of the contract termination date. You can notify immigration of the changes by online notification, by post, by fax or in person. Remember to prepare the following:
- Visa reference number;
- The employment contract number;
- The employer’s full name and Hong Kong identity card number;
- The helper’s full name and Hong Kong identity card number.
Finally, make sure you inform the Immigration Department about the reasons why you terminated your helper’s contract. If you are terminating her contract because of relocation, for financial reasons or because of the death of the family member she is hired to take care of, the helper’s case will be handled differently. In this case the contract termination is considered as a “finished contract” and the helper will be able to start a new contract without having to leave Hong Kong. You will receive an acknowledgement letter from the Immigration after they receive your termination notification.
Give your helper a reference
Your helper is more likely to find a new employer without having to pay crazy fees while she is still in Hong Kong. If you and your helper part on happy terms, you can write her a reference letter stating at least the dates of employment. If your helper has been great, you can write her a more personal letter. Many future employers like to hear what you thought were her strong points and if she also has any major weak points. If you don’t mind being contacted, you can also leave your contact information.
Talk to your children
Finally, consider your children. They may have grown up with the helper and become very attached to her. When your helper leaves it might be a traumatic experience for them, especially if you are also relocating at the same time. It will always be difficult for them, but you can try to soften the blow by talking to them and acknowledging their feelings and emotions.