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Advice needed - helper refuses to house-sit

  1. #1
    Sage is offline Registered User
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    Advice needed - helper refuses to house-sit

    Our new helper joined us for less than a week. Before joining us, we have told her that we do take pretty regular holidays and our arrangements with her in terms of food allowance, no visitors allowed, etc. while we are away.

    We're going away next week and she has asked me for permission to stay with some relatives during that period. She said that she's afraid to sleep in an empty apartment. I have plants, pets and I keep the dehumidifiers running non-stop at home. I would like someone to come in at least once a day and feels a bit foolish, paying someone else to do this, not to mention inconveniencing my neighbour who has the keys to my apartment and therefore, has to unlock the door.

    Is it normal for helpers to stay out when employers are on holiday? Do they do house-sitting duties? I don't mind if she goes out all day but I thought it would be nice to have someone house-sitting, even if it is for a few hours.

    What should I do? Bite the bullet? I guess you can't tell someone not to be scared of the dark, can you? I just feel let down that it wasn't mentioned during the intensive interview we had, and all the questions she had asked my ex-helper about us; that she would not be in the house if we're not in the house.

  2. #2
    thanka2 is offline Registered User
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    Um, if your helper has been with you less than a week, my opinion is that she isn't exactly in the position to be bargaining or demanding certain things. If she was working in a normal, salaried position in Hong Kong she would still be in the early days of the probationary period (which often is about 90 days) in which you can't even request a day off. You're basically giving her the equivalent of a holiday in her first two weeks of work (if you're leaving for your trip that soon). Sounds like a pretty nice deal to me! I'm craving a holiday right about now and I've only been back to work for three weeks! :)

    If I were you I would sit down with her and clarify that she understood you when you told her a part of her job would be house-sitting when you're away. Whether she has objections to it or not is not really the point. You can share with her the statistics on crime in Hong Kong and assure her that the likelihood of anything happening while you're away is probably lower than where she is from (I'm assuming). There are locks on the doors, a locking gate, bars on the windows, there is probably a security guard downstairs and the number for the police is 999. If she's really worried, just give her a can of mace and a kitchen knife (okay, I'm being a bit sarcastic here).

    My point is that she's pushing your boundaries to test you. She is trying to manipulate you, I think. If you cave to this demand, it will set the tone for the rest of your working relationship together. While I understand you're trying to be reasonable, I think you've got to put on the "I'm the employer" cap and assert that in a clear and appropriate way.

    No, you can't tell someone to not be afraid of the dark but you can tell them to be an adult, get over it and do their job. (My son is afraid of the dark. He's 3-years-old and sleeps with the light on. I would suggest she do the same if that's her actual fear.) If I signed up for a job that required I climb up ladders and cut trees down knowing that I am afraid of heights (which I am), tough luck for me, eh? If she agreed to this position knowing that part of her duties were to house-sit for you then she also agreed to deal with her fears (be they real or phony).

    She wants to go on holiday at the same time you do and hang out with her pals and not be responsible for your house. That's what it seems like to me.
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  3. #3
    Obiwan is offline Registered User
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    Can she refuse to stay at your house when you are gone (granted her fear)?

    It is required that she lives at your address, regardless of whether you are home. Should you allow her to live out, that would be something for the 2 of you to agree on, but I don't think she had the right to refuse.

    Perhaps she can stay at your place to do housework / house sit during the day, and stay with her relative at night? It doesn't make sense for you to pay for a separate 'house sitter' when you already have a helper who is not over worked ....

  4. #4
    elle is offline Registered User
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    Particularly as you discussed housesitting would be part of her duties before employing her, her request/demand is wholly unreasonable. In fact,i I am very pro helper rights etc., as you can tell from some of my othe posts, but in would draw the line on this one as it is an example of an employee (either irrationally or deviously) refusing to do her job. Just about the only time I have ever asked my helper to work late (walk dog before bed between 9-10 pm) and on the weekend (again to walk dog), is when I am traveling, which I view as an integral part of her job (she doesn't do childcare, we have other arrangements for baby). We also offer daytime out of the house while we are away as long as dog is looked after.
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  5. #5
    elle is offline Registered User
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    Ps. I would "draw the line in the sand", so to speak, once. Sit her down, tell her that housesitting is an important part of her job, tell her that you thought it was clear that it would be part of her duties from her interviews with you. Put her on the spot and ask her, as you had explained her duties and the rules while you are away, why she thinks she doesn't need to do this (an adult being afraid is not a reasonable answer). She may just agree to it, in which case she was testing boundaries, or she may be really afraid. In either case (somewhat dishonest or very immature and childish) I would probably rethink her employment.
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  6. #6
    Sage is offline Registered User
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    Thanks very much, peeps. This is what I like about Geobaby forums - instant, empathetic and sound advice even on a weekend. :)

    I posted this thread late last night when my husband was looking for the FDH contract, convinced that we did not put "house-sitting" as one of the jobs that we expect our helper to do. We don't remember doing it for our ex-helper who had left for Canada. But we discussed our expectations when we're not in HK, and so, she would have known that it is expected of her to house-sit.

    This morning, before I checked this forum, my neighbour paid me a visit and said she saw my post here. So, letting someone (part-time) in would be a non-issue. But we agree that it's a employer-employee expectation thing.

    So, I took your advice, all your advice collectively, and talked to her. She said that she's willing to try it out for a few days but not for the entire holiday. I told her that since she's new, I'm willing to give her a chance to 'learn how to sleep home alone' but would expect her to be around in our next trip. Frankly, I can't enforce this either way but chose to give her the benefit of the doubt. She's only been with me for less than a week and I don't want to start the ultimatums without getting to know her better. It's just bad timing that we're going away so soon. Nonetheless, I agree that her fear should be taken with a pinch of salt because she's been in HK for 6 years and it's unlikely that she's never been alone in a flat at night before.

    Thanks so much again, people. Funny, I actually thought that keeping strangers out (sleepovers, cookouts, etc.) when I'm not around would be my main problem and not having nobody around.
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  7. #7
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    carang is offline Registered User
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    sorry, i am usually very helper-friendly but this is utterly ridiculous.

    i would NOT put up with it. she is playing you like a fiddle. a domestic helper's job is to "help keep up the house"... THAT'S why she is employed. you are NOT asking her to do anything above and beyond her normal duties. "house-sitting" does NOT need to be in the contract. she is taking care of the house while you are there... she should be taking care of the house while you are away... not a single change in your requirements.

    i would just let her go.... find someone else more responsible, reasonable and mature.
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  8. #8
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    Am having a hard time too as she's been in hk for 6 yrs.
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