Another pregnant helper
I am at a total loss as to how to deal with a pregnant helper situation. To cut a long story short, we had just put our first pregnant helper (F) on a plane last month for her to be home to deliver her baby when our second helper (S) casually dropped a bomb on us. She handed us a certificate of pregnancy. She was 12 weeks pregnant. We had signed on S last December. At the end of February, we let her go home cos her mother was unwell. I almost stopped breathing when she said that she intended to deliver her baby here. 12 weeks into pregnancy and she was asking that I engage another helper to take over household chores, cooking and shopping. She would only take care of the kid at home. I asked if she might consider going home to deliver her baby. She said that I could not sack her and she intended to come back to work for me after her maternity leave. According to her, she had debts back home and she needed to work. She quoted an example of a friend (never identified who that was) who had tendered resignation during pregnancy after getting $60,000 in compensation from her employer. I have no idea if she was bluffing. $60,000 would be equivalent to 15 monthsí full pay for her. Sheís been with us for a few months only and Iím not entirely satisfied with her: personal hygiene issues, unable to cook properly etc. and Iím not willing to splash out 60,000 on her. She and F were in the same household for 3 months and I believe she knew how much Iíd paid F before sending F home. She might think that we were generous but then the case of F was different. F had been with us for almost 4 years. Fís contract was due to expire at the end of April. We did not renew her contract (with mutual agreement) but we paid her all her statutory dues plus (though she had not worked for 5 years) long service payment, a gratuitous sum to cover her medical expenses if she chose to deliver in a private hospital in her home city plus a special bonus. Iím feeling very stressed. S is not at all young (43) and having a baby in my household. Iím not discriminating but I am very worried about any complications that she may encounter during pregnancy. I myself have gone through five miscarriages in my life and know how unpredictable things can be and Iím spooked off imaging all the possible complications. I donít think I can handle another pregnant helper at home both financially and psychologically. Sorry for posting this long-winded rant. I need something sensible to help clear my muddled mind. I have a hundred questions but Iím unable to articulate at the moment.
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Posted by Enohpi (414 days ago)
Sometimes Dh are very tricky, a friend of mine told me about her DH friend that she really intented to get pregnant so that employer can't fire them or so then can negotiate $$$$..
Posted by cara (414 days ago)
sadly, once the letter informing you of her pregnancy SEVERLY limits your options. you cannot legally fire her while she is pregnant.
i would strongly suggest you talk to the labour dept regarding what the bare minimum is that you have to provide. when you talk to them do not include all of your emotional baggage. just lay out the facts:
1) employed since december
2) had holiday in february
3) now 12 weeks pregnant
4) she is refusing to cook/clean
see what you can do... perhaps her refusal to do her work is equivalent to her quitting her job. that would be like a teacher saying, she will continue to work, but just not dealing with any kids....
you need to know your rights and responsibilities from the horse's mouth, rather than from on a forum.
Posted by madtown (414 days ago)
The labor dept. won't be helpful, I can guarantee that. A pregnant helper is the dilemma for which hong kong has no definitive answers. It gets too grey due to the fact that helpers must live with their employers. too touchy for immigration or labor to handle.
Trust me, if their were easy answers, Cara would know. I'm sure Cara has heard this dilemma 100 times and yet she (nor anyone else) can give you straight answers.
You can summarily dismiss a helper (even if she is pregnant), but you must be able to prove she was guilty of wrong doing etc.
YOU can choose when she begins her maternity leave (no earlier than one month from due date). Get due date from doctor ASAP and make her take leave one month before (if you want). Also, if she claims she can't do routine tasks due to her pregnancy, you can begin her maternity leave even earlier! In other words, don't accept ant BS. Although she is pregnant, she can still work within reason, and if she doesn't you can get rid of her.
If she is disrespectful and lazy and taking advantage of the situation , you can legally terminate her one month after she returns from leave ( must give her one months notice or payment in lieu). Make sure she knows this!
But,....if you need to negotiate out of things...I recommend only giving her 3.5 months pay. Because that is the equivalent of her allowed maternity leave plus one months notice.
If you are still concerned or worried, i would recommend contacting a llawyer who specializes in this area.
Posted by lagrue (414 days ago)
isonoawabi I am sorry to hear about your plight. It is hard when you come across any manipulative employee and harder still when they live in your home.
I agree with Cara that you should obtain advice from the labour department but that they might not be able to help in a very useful way. However I think now is an important time to start documenting EVERYTHING in the event that things really go south for you, and you do need to fire her.
Firstly I would let her know that although she is pregnant, she can not 'down tools' UNLESS she has a medical reason. Cite to her that pregnant ladies who have done so have been successfully sacked. Unfortunately she is a an advanced aged mother, and in all likelihood could get some certificate for lighter duties. If she does present you with this, I would get a second opinion. If she develops something like pre-eclampsia or some other real pregnancy related medical problem, unfortunately, it may be just easier to pay her off. Offer her 3.5-5 months in this scenario. She may agree to leave with 20,000 in hopes she could find some other family to bleed.
Secondly, if she no longer wishes to cook, clean, shop ect have that in writing with her reason as to why this is the case. Also have her co-sign a list of her duties for the day to ensure that later one when and if you two go to the labour department (should it get to that) that her duties don't look too onerous and that she by default looks like she is taking advantage of the situation.
Thirdly, unless you have it in the contract that she is paid 4000 per month, I would reduce her wage to the minimum, 3740 I think it is, if relations have soured to that point. She does not deserve the extra as usually this is paid for exceptional service.
Finally, don't let her senseless talk get to you! Get whatever outlandish claims/demands she is making to you down on paper, recorded or videod. Most of this is mental stress, take a deep breath focus, you will get through this!
Btw I am relly glad to hear how well you treated your last helper, this one seems to want to climb onto te gravy train without all the hard work that goes with that!
Posted by cara (413 days ago)
the reason i suggest talking to labour dept is not so they can tell you what to do... rather it is so they can tell you what you are legally allowed to do and what you are not legally allowed to do.
good luck. i think you're going to need it!
ps> i think lagrue's advice is excellent!
Posted by madtown (413 days ago)
If you can, please let us know how your talk with the Hong kong labour dept went. I have yet to hear from anyone who says they are helpful in these matters, most leave even more frustrated and confused than when they started.
Also, I forgot to mention that, in case you didn't know already, that you only have to pay your helper 4/5 salary during maternity leave.
Posted by Sarah99 (413 days ago)
Oh christ - been there, seen it done it, been to the labour department - been disappointed with advise, however, I believe you may just have an ace up your sleeve.....if she started with you last December she won't have worked for you for 40 weeks yet? If so she is still entitled to 10 weeks maternity leave but WITHOUT PAY, that may deflate some of the air from her ballooning threats.
The problem is where does she live etc during ther leave if she wants to stay here - when I enquired about that the labour dept just replied "it's not clear" and recommended that I encourage her to go back to the Philipines for the birth, the implication being that if I didn't let her stay with yme and she remained in Hong Kong there could be a dispute with no firm guidelines to resolve it.
For termination, I was told I could do that after she came back from maternity leave but that I needed to let her work for at least two days, before either paying her off the one month, of giving her one months notice and letting her work it out.
Good luck with it all, it is an incredibly stressful time
Posted by madtown (413 days ago)
sarah, that is exactly the dilemna for which almost no one has a clear answer. It is a tricky situation in that it doesn't seem right for the employer to have to house the helper during her maternity leave (when she is not working) and yet it doesn't seem right to throw the poor girl out of her primary (and perhaps only option) residence.
From what I have heard, the helper is entitled to stay at the employers house during her maternity leave....however her child is not. Which usually means the helper stays in some boarding house or church related housing.
Good point about the 40 weeks employment...I just assumed the second helper had that figured already. Most helpers who get pregnant wait until just after the 40 week expected date before trying to get pregnant.
If you want some 'real' hardcore advice, ask a local how they would deal with it. This problem (of helpers getting pregnant) tends to affect the expat population more than the locals....because most locals don't tolerate it nearly as well.
Posted by lagrue (413 days ago)
Sarah99 this is GOLD. This is the reason why we have these forums! Good work!!!!!
Posted by Sarah99 (413 days ago)
agreed madtown - even the labour department doesn't one, interesting to hear your comment of mother vs child entitlement - I was not given any indication of that.
Yes it is a huge dilemma, and different relationships require different handling. In hindisght I wish I had been hardcore in my dealings, but rearview goggles are not the same as dealing with the situation with the best intentions at the time!
Posted by madtown (413 days ago)
sarah, you are obligated under the FDH contract to provide housing for your helper while she is employed or under contract by you. The fact she becomes pregnant I don't think would change this, and I would assume she is still technically employed and under contract while on maternity leave thus giving HER a right to housing, meals and any other provisions she normally had while working. But nowhere in the contract does it say the helper is entitled to bring family, friends or anyone else into your house at any time. While it is true that Hong Kong labour laws could over ride any employment contract, there is obviously no general labour law requiring any employer to house any employees child under any circumstance.
Again, just my thoughts. Not 100% sure.
Posted by malka (413 days ago)
The 40 week rule includes the gestation period -
A helper is eligible for 10 weeksí paid maternity leave if-
she has been employed for not less than 40 weeks immediately before the commencement of scheduled maternity leave;
Posted by isonoawabi (412 days ago)
My heartfelt thanks to everyone who's posted here. It's comforting to know that someone else has been there and survived! Thanks for all the useful information and sharing.
Got one of the girls in my office to call the Labour Dept. Basically, the information they gave was the same as what's been posted here.
- Pregnant helper can't be sacked from the date of her notifying the employer of pregnancy to and including the date on which her maternity leave ends and, in that event, the employer would still need to comply with the law like giving of one month notice or payment in lieu, unless the helper is dismissed for reasons justifying summary dismissal.
- 10 weeks paid maternity leave (if helper qualifies), calculated at 4/5ths of her average daily wage; no comment on any compensation over and above the statutory paid maternity leave. not against the law if helper resigns voluntarily
- employer not responsible to foot her bills for prenatal checks etc; helper herself will pay
- if helper wants to return to employer's home after delivery, employer must allow it but employer is not obliged to let helper's baby enter employer's home - the baby is not an employee.
lagrue, thanks loads for the very good suggestions.
Others thanks for everything.
Does anyone know where to get part-time help for childcare? We're going to need it for a few months from 3pm to 8pm five days a week. Seems that Sparklemaid and Merry Maids only do cleaning but I have a young child who can't be left alone without adult supervision (so says the law).
Posted by Susie1 (412 days ago)
I'm glad you have some more information, what Lagrue suggests, reducing her salary to absolute minimum if a figure isn't written in the contract is a good idea.if she is on food allowance ? 200hkd, then keep it at that, and make sure she doesn't raid your cupboards. Make a list of reasonable jobs cleaning that she has to do 6 days per week. Best of all tell her what the labour dept said, that she will only get 4/5th of her salary when on maternity leave, and she can't bring the baby back to your home. Also if she does decide to have baby in Phils she should be booked into a public hospital for the delivery, you are not obliged to pay for a private clinic, and if I were you I would never give a helper the cash for hospital or anything else, she spend it on something else, that will dampen her money grabbing spirits, it is just a shame that she has used a baby to extort money, then the poor thing will not even be brought up by her.
She has played games and planned this in the hope of getting money out of you, just make sure she doesn't succeed, as long as she has the roof over her head and min. food allowance and everything is documented she can't get one pesso more out of you than she is allowed.
Posted by mike204 (406 days ago)
Do not let this helper bully you into getting another helper. Have her see a doctor and you should go with her. If the doctor says she is fit to do clean and cook even while pregnant (get a certificate if possible) then she has no excuse. If the doctor says otherwise then you have no choice.
Posted by sleepingbunny (403 days ago)
go follow mike204's advise ASAP. and if she still refuses to work then you have grounds for termination.