We have the best Agony Uncle at Sassy Mama – Andreas is the author of one of our most-recommended books: Hiring & Managing Domestic Help. It’s an absolute must-have for Hong Kong mamas and you can buy it here! Today we’re getting serious with a very common question relating to whether you should ever lend money to your helper, and if so, how much is too much?
Our helper, who is in her mid-forties, has now borrowed money from us several times to pay for family health issues and hospital bills in the Philippines. The first time she needed money, we were on holiday at the time in Europe, and had left some money just in case any emergencies came up… She ended up taking this money without our permission and sending it home. When we got back we discussed it, and decided to move past the issue because otherwise she is so excellent in all that she does for us.
A couple of months after this, one of her family members passed away, and she needed some of her wages in advance to pay for funeral bills (which she hasn’t paid back). As a nice gesture, I also paid for her flights home and gave her a week off.
Finally, today she came to me asking for more money because another family member was in a car accident. I’m at a loss really. On the one hand, I want to be compassionate and help (and I really don’t want her to go to an outside lender), but on the other hand, when does it stop?
As is evident in your story, money can poison any relationship. And while you are a very kind person to give and lend all this money, you have been far too kind.
Always remember that your helper is an employee, not a family member. You are an employer, not a bank. You are not responsible for her extended family. If you worked in an office, how do you think your boss would feel if you took money from the company petty cash to send to your kids in college as pocket money? What she did is no different. She stole from you. The fact that it was for a family member’s hospital bills does not change that fact one bit. That alone should be a firing offence.
You moved past the incident, once again showing how kind you are. But instead of learning her lesson, she hits you up for money again and again. She is using you. If she has money problems, that is her business. She is not your child or sibling and you are not obligated to help her. This money problem has infected your entire working relationship.
Not to be too cynical, but are you even sure these all issues are real?
Look for another helper and fire this one. Find one that is honest and would never steal from you even if you leave money or valuables lying around.
By all means lend money to your helper, but make sure you never lend more than a month’s salary, and never lend more before she has repaid the last loan. If your helper goes to an outside lender, that is her business. As long as it has no impact on her work and your family, that is fine. If it does, then you need to give at least a warning, and perhaps terminate the contract. She is an adult and should act like one, which includes professional conduct on the job.
On a final note, make sure you don’t poison the relationship with the new helper because it ended on bad terms with the old one. Give her the benefit of the doubt and trust her ever if the previous helper was not trustworthy.
For the only guide you’ll ever need on working with a helper, check out Andreas’ fab book ‘Hiring and Managing Domestic Help’ and buy it here.