Need advice- 1st week with helper
- 10-01-2009, 03:31 PM #9Registered User
- Join Date
- Sep 2009
Just Singapore way:
My Indonesia maid started to work for us, she was really good and helpful. The agent advised me to take two months her salary as a kind of saving for her emergency. so I did. Turned out it was very helpful because after she worked for us 3 months, she said her family had some problems and she needed money to help the family. I agreed and took the money out from her saving. But we both agreed to save this part again from next month. This saving gave her a feeling thats her own money, if she really needs it, she can use it. For me, its better than advance payment.
Maybe it is not allowed in Hong Kong?
- 10-01-2009, 03:34 PM #10Registered User
- Join Date
- Nov 2003
- Hong Kong
I think you need to keep this as an employer/ee relationship. How would you interact with your employer? Would you ask or expect 2 months salary in advance? I doubt it. Would you complain when your employer didn't give it to you? I doubt it.
At the same time, do you want to help a family in Indonesia? If so, just give her the money. It will probably be more effective and make more impact than giving it to the Red Cross (sorry, I know the Red Cross do fantastic work, but you know what I mean). Don't make it a loan which she can't pay back. Make it an actual gift, but make it clear this is the last time and this is not an ongoing source of funds.
FWIW, our helper has asked us for money 3 times in 8 years of working for us. Nothing in the first few years.
Don't worry about looking after the baby ! You only have one child and if you're not working, it doesn't really take two people to care for one child. Mothers manage all over the world without helpers. I have two children and if I didn't work, I wouldn't go to the expense and trouble of having a helper.
- 10-01-2009, 03:35 PM #11Registered User
- Join Date
- May 2009
We've just hired our first live-in helper as well. First, we went through a great agency that I can't recommend enough called Arrow and they serve as a facilitator for the time being for difficult issues we run into with our helper. They do weekly check-backs with us to ask how things with our helper are going. They also check with the helper to see how she's adjusting.
This money thing is a HUGE issue that should not be taken lightly. To ask for two advances before you've even finished a 2-week period of continuous work is inexcusable. Then to try to guilt-trip a pregnant woman into forking over more money by putting on the "sad face" is even worse.
In every relationship there has to be clear, healthy boundaries--including the employee/employer relationship. If I were in your position, I would not be comfortable with the actions that your helper is taking toward you.
You can't solve all of her financial woes and be the provider for her family back home--even though as a compassionate person you want to do all that you can do. I'm not saying you can't help and the suggestions carang may be good places to start. Keep in mind that you hired an employee, you did not adopt an entire family or village. You gave her the opportunity to work for a wage she would not be earning in her home country now it's up to her to manage that money and do her best with it.
Not only can you not solve all of her and her family's problems it's not your responsibility to. You entered into a contract with her that has specific terms and at least until she has established some sort of work history with you (in Hong Kong, usually the minimum probationary period is 3 months) you shouldn't feel obligated to go beyond the boundaries laid out in that contract. Two weeks is not sufficient work history for her to start putting strong requests or demands upon your family. Even if she's doing a great job. Let her work for her wage for awhile and continue to have a good work ethic knowing she won't get any special advances and if her work ethic and performance continues to be as great as it is now, then at some point in the future, at your own comfort, you can decide whether to give her a raise.
Because as shenzhenjennifer said, it quickly has become a case of "give an inch, take a mile"--you were gracious to her with both finances and time off and now the requests just come rolling in. To your helper, you may appear to be extremely wealthy and she may think, "Well, what is a few thousand Hong Kong dollars to this person...they're already rich." And whether you can or cannot afford that is not the issue--it's the principle.
Let me make this clear, personally, I am a very generous, compassionate and caring individual. I am the type of person who sees every stray animal and wants to bring them home and rescue them. Everywhere I look it seems I can also see or pick up on needs of people and I want to come to the rescue and help. There comes a point where you have to set your boundaries, though in order to keep order in your own life and also so that you can truly be of benefit to other people.
Our helper has only been with us for about two weeks now and already we've needed to make clear boundaries. We made the decision to give her 1/2 of her first month's salary upon her arrival. Giving a portion of her first month's salary at the onset was a suggestion made my our agency. We chose to do this for two reasons 1) To show good faith and our gratitude that she has come here to serve our family 2) So that she will have funds immediately available for her own personal needs.
We also made her a welcome basket with a large set of shampoos and conditioners, snack foods from the Philippines and other odds and ends and toiletries. At first, she was overwhelmed that we would do that for her. But, I think that already our helper has picked up on my tendency to be soft-hearted and so within a few days she started mentioning to me on a pretty regular basis all of the different things that she doesn't have. She went to see her sister who lives here and bought some clothes and made kind of a big show of showing me the clothes and telling me and other people in our family that she doesn't have clothes and doesn't have this and doesn't have that and that everything is so expensive.
At first I was like, "Well, I should buy her this or that." But then my mother stopped me and said something to the effect, "While I understand that she is here to make money, there comes a time when you have to spend a little money just to have the basic necessities."
Basically, I don't want to give my helper the idea that I'm going to be her "sugar mama" and that she can just call on me to fill every need that she has. This is initially one of the biggest reasons why I was apprehensive about hiring a helper--I already have one child and a husband and I didn't want to have to "adopt" another grown individual. As an adult, your helper should either know how to take care of herself or start learning how.
Yes, she makes a lot less money than I do and that's how things are but I can't feel guilted so much that I just open my wallet anytime she flashes the "sad face." So, I basically just stopped responding to her "pity me" stories with sympathetic tones of my heart-strings being pulled. I listen to her in a matter-of-fact way but I don't want to give her the sense of "Anything you want, I'm at your beckon call." That is unfair to her to give her that sense and then get upset for her for assuming I'm going to take care of her like that. Because, afterall, I think it's just human nature to manipulate.
Likely, your helper has been the victim of dishonest business practices like charging huge agency fees. You can go here to read about the situation many domestic helpers in Hong Kong are in and how they got there.
- 10-01-2009, 03:48 PM #12Registered User
- Join Date
- May 2009
I would add, be careful about the agency you go through and find out EXACTLY how they treat their helpers--both on the Indonesian and Hong Kong side. It is supposed to be illegal to charge huge (10,000 HKD!--imagine how expensive that is when you consider Indonesian exchange rates!) fees to the helpers just for the "service" of finding them an employer but it goes on all the time in almost every agency. The big buzzword right now is Fair Trade. Fair Trade coffee and tea etc. What about Fair Trade agency practices? That's exactly why we went through the agency we did because they can guarantee that all of their helpers aren't charged a "finder's fee" at all.
If you fire your helper, just know that with most HK agencies, she's bascially "used goods" and she may not be able to find work here. Most prospective HK employers do not want to hire someone who got fired from their last job. Most agencies will turn their backs on her and she'll be on her own. If she doesn't find a new employer within two weeks she'll be forced to go back to Indonesia and then the vicious cycle starts over again because not only will she still owe her creditors that 10,000 HKD she paid to even get to Hong Kong, she'll probably have to pay another agency a similar fee if she wants to try to come back to Hong Kong to work. So, if I were you, and you are really a compassionate person who wants to help your helper, I would contact the ministries that help domestic helpers here like "Helpers for Helpers" and ask for advice on how to handle this situation. You need to sit down with your husband and write out some boundaries too--some ground rules about what you will and will not accept and stick to those rules no matter how you feel at the moment and no matter how sad the face that stands before you is. Work with your helper but don't put her into a position where it is easy for her to be tempted to manipulate and abuse your relationship--that creates a lot of negativity and shame in any relationship.
- 10-01-2009, 04:59 PM #13Registered User
- Join Date
- Jun 2009
- bel air
thank you all for your replies. I am going to have a sit down with hubby and decide if its worth keeping her.
Its definitely something I need to work through and its pretty obvious she's crossed the line. I was so relieved that she went out today as I have the place to myself.
not a good feeling at all..
- 10-02-2009, 10:43 AM #14Registered User
- Join Date
- Jun 2009
- Hong Kong
1stimemum: Good luck with your situation. I would like to know what decisions you have made.
Personal opinion: If I were you, I would pay her a reasonable amount of money and let her go. I do not want to live with someone that would 'haunt' me with her personal problems. As you said, you were so relieved yesterday that she went out and you had the place to yourself, that means you are not that comfortable with her.
- 10-02-2009, 05:26 PM #15Registered User
- Join Date
- Jun 2009
- bel air
hi to all. Final update
Well after deliberation. My husband and I are going to just let her serve out the month (She borrowed 6000 from us- this will only offset 2/3 ) and we are just going to use her 1 mths's service to offset the loan.
Not forgetting I paid $4000 already for agency fees+ air ticket, this has been a painful, expensive exercise and one I definitely wont want ever repeating.
Maybe other 1st time mums and employers will gain some perspective from my case. its really TRULY important to lay down ground rules from day one and just never waver.
we were complete pushovers. no more.
- 10-02-2009, 05:31 PM #16
if you have paid an agency fee, then you might be able to get them to help you find a new helper for only the cost of the visa. when we hired our helper, all of the agencies i contacted had a "1 yr guarantee"...
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