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What to write as reference for helper we are firing

  1. #1
    peainpod is offline Registered User
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    What to write as reference for helper we are firing

    Our helper has been with us for over 2-1/2 years (we renewed her contract just 4 months ago) and we really liked her - a lot. She was smart, reliable, worked independently, cheerful, kind, patient, the works. The only problem is, she has just told us that she is in debt for over HK$100,000!

    From the various conversations we had, it appears that most of it was racked up in the past few months - she signed two large loans with Public and Heisei Banks (but there are others emerging as well), one she says she shared with a friend who has skipped town and another one with her sister (who changed employers and is currently in Phils awaiting her visa) and her niece (who was fired and does not want to come back to work anymore.) She also has some loans with two helpers of a friend whose son plays regularly with mine.

    Anyway, we have told her that we cannot help her shoulder this debt and will have to let her go. I have promised her one month's pay in lieu of notice if she will continue to work until our new helper arrives (i was lucky in securing a replacement relatively quickly) - but that won't be until Oct 1. We were going to keep her until then, only the last two weeks (since the big reveal), the phone calls and letters have been mounting and just yesterday, my husband even got a call on his mobile from one of her collectors.

    We think it's best if we let her go sooner and I have been working on the termination docs - but am not sure what to do about the reference letter.

    She has been a great helper, and continues to do her job well (even her marketing accounts are completely clear) so a one-liner saying she was employed by us seem a bit unfair, especially if she really was betrayed by her family and friends.

    On the other hand, there are some signs emerging that this may not be as innocent as she makes out. First, almost all her loans were taken up after she renewed contract with us, and she herself told me that a renewed contract can get much more in terms of loan money. She also can give me no good reason for the big sums, other than saying it's not all hers. I can't help remembering that I hired her with no reference as she was terminated abruptly (again in the third year, so after contract renewal) from her previous employer - and I am now wondering if this was the reason (altho she says it isn't.)

    If this does turn out to be a set-up, (and she has made clear she will try to come back and work for a new employer, whether or not I give her a reference), I certainly don't want my reference to accidentally harm a new innocent employer.

    Sorry for the long post. Not sure what to think and do. Any advice would be very much appreciated!

  2. #2
    Portia is offline Registered User
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    You could write her a reference that states what she has done well, eg cooking, but state that she was let go due to her getting into major debt. I would steer clear of saying that she was honest if you have doubts. That should be enough to prompt a prospective employer to ask the right questions.

  3. #3
    mummymoo is offline Registered User
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    I would write her an average referral and ask any prospective employers with children to please call you for more information. The you can give them the low down. These debt collectors ect can be pretty frightening especially when you have young children underfoot and it is not fair to put that onto someone new (not that it's really your problem) but it seems as good as this helper is she's doesn't seem to care about the safety of your home or any other employer's home.

  4. #4
    giginium is offline Registered User
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    If she is in debt and you have already kindly broke the news of terminating her employment, I would be very very weary of her taking precious items from your home and selling them off to help herself repay her debt.

    Just a thought

  5. #5
    thanka2 is offline Registered User
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    This kind of reminds me of when my helper started working for us about 2.5-years-ago. She came to HK to pay off her husband's gambling debts and free her children from the harassment of really scary loan sharks. They really were in a predicament over his horrible choices.

    I remember when she came to tell me that she was planning to take out a loan. She was so nervous...more like terrified because she told me, "I have heard that employers often fire their helpers for taking out big loans." I found that sort of shocking. In this day-and-age, there are plenty of people around the world who are drowning in debt for various reasons--some are unforseen circumstances, some are poor financial choices. I can't imagine my employer firing me if she found out I was up to my eyeballs in debt. However, I do understand the situation with unscrupulous loan sharks and their harassment of helpers and the families they work for. Anyway, my helper took out the biggest loan she could and began the process of loan consolidation in HK. She took out loans to the max of what she was allowed and paid off all the scary people back in her home country in lump sums and then worked on paying off all her debts while here in HK. When she rounded the 2-year-mark of working for us she was completely debt free. I am very proud of her and now for this second contract (which she has informed us will be her last as she didn't come here to "get rich"--only to save her family and then go back home) her plan has been to save as much money as possible so she can go back and buy land and materials to build a house for her family and parents. So, just because a helper has debt--even major debt doesn't mean they can't be trusted or are dishonest. However, in the case of the OP's helper, it seems she isn't at all fazed about the stress she is causing her employer and that signals something else altogether. In the case of my helper, she was almost in tears just telling me about her plans because she was afraid I was going to fire her on the spot and she told me, "If you don't want me to take out the loan, I won't."

    I'd say, if you are indeed firing her just be brief, courteous and to-the-point about giving a report about her work performance. List the reason for her dismissal clearly. Something such as, "Her personal financial missteps were causing too much stress for our family." Honesty is the best policy. It's just like a "credit rating" actually--if any of us goes out and is irresponsible with our money and then we want to take out another loan any creditor is going to look at our history and evaluate it. Choices have consequences. No need to "punish" the helper who has done a good job for you for her mistakes but it's important to be honest.
    carang and shwetakhanna like this.
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    To such a woman childbirth is a monument of joy within her memory.
    She turns to it in thought to seek again an ecstasy which passed too soon.”

    ~ Grantly Dick-Read (Childbirth Without Fear)

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  6. #6
    mummymoo is offline Registered User
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    Thanka2, I would say your helper is the exception to the rule. She was obviously very mindful of causing you and your family any inconvenience in the event that the loan sharks came around and harassed your family. I doubt you would be as understanding if they came around to your home and threatened you, your children, called up your personal cell phone or banged around outside your door as has happened to my in-laws.

    Also if you took out some major loans that's your personal business (i agree there are lots of people in precarious financial situations), BUT if the creditors came to your work place and harassed your co-workers and called up your boss on their personal mobile phone all the time, I DOUBT it would remain your own personal business. And it may be a factor in them letting you go, depending on what line of work you were in.

    OP, I think you should do unto others as you'd wish they do to you. I would want a heads up that the brilliant maid that I was hiring was going to bring some tough guys around to my house and cause me no end of anxiety. I would give it as pass as good as the care of my children and the cooking was.......it's not worth it in my opinion for this kind of stress.
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  7. #7
    thanka2 is offline Registered User
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    Quote Originally Posted by mummymoo View Post
    Thanka2, I would say your helper is the exception to the rule. She was obviously very mindful of causing you and your family any inconvenience in the event that the loan sharks came around and harassed your family. I doubt you would be as understanding if they came around to your home and threatened you, your children, called up your personal cell phone or banged around outside your door as has happened to my in-laws.

    Also if you took out some major loans that's your personal business (i agree there are lots of people in precarious financial situations), BUT if the creditors came to your work place and harassed your co-workers and called up your boss on their personal mobile phone all the time, I DOUBT it would remain your own personal business. And it may be a factor in them letting you go, depending on what line of work you were in.

    OP, I think you should do unto others as you'd wish they do to you. I would want a heads up that the brilliant maid that I was hiring was going to bring some tough guys around to my house and cause me no end of anxiety. I would give it as pass as good as the care of my children and the cooking was.......it's not worth it in my opinion for this kind of stress.
    Aren't there laws to deal with harassment of any kind? Is firing always the answer? Again, I wouldn't like it but if my helper was marvelous and got herself into trouble I would probably rather deal with it that way. It's the right and choice of the employer, of course. Harassment is illegal even in the case of someone making poor financial choices. If someone showed up at my place of employment or home to harass me about someone else's debts I would immediately call the police.
    “Many women have described their experiences of childbirth as being associated with a
    spiritual uplifting, the power of which they have never previously been aware …
    To such a woman childbirth is a monument of joy within her memory.
    She turns to it in thought to seek again an ecstasy which passed too soon.”

    ~ Grantly Dick-Read (Childbirth Without Fear)

    Mother of Two
    JMW, boy, born November 29, 2007, 9:43 pm, USA
    MJW, girl, born March 17, 2011, 4:14 pm, HK

  8. #8
    peainpod is offline Registered User
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    Thanks for all your replies. it's interesting to see the different responses this situation has elicited. To be honest, I feel conflicted about it myself - as I genuinely liked our helper and there is a part of me that feels sad I am letting her go, not for work performance but bc of her personal situation . So in that case, thanks2, I do hear where you are coming from.

    But like mummymoo said, the situation has now got to the point where there is genuine harassment to my family. Phone calls to our landline and my husband's mobile when he was at work, and we also received a "flyer" with red ink saying "debt owed" in my mailbox. So no more nice innocuous white envelops anymore.

    To this day, I don't know whether to trust my helpers version of this or not. But it doesn't matter as we are feeling extreme stress over having debtors come to our door and possibly scaring my 4 year old.

    Thanks for the suggestions of what to write as reference. Actually someone just told me that her helper says it doesn't matter as agencies will write fictitious ones for them, and some even arrange for fake employers to provide references!

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