I had to fire my domestic assistant today and I feel awful about it.
Monicca's husband, Lucas, was a painter and Hubby used to hire him to paint the roof of our house. We heard that he was very ill and did not work any longer. When my previous maid (and friend) of 17 years moved on to a much better paying job at the end of 2007, I hired Monicca to come in twice a week to do the ironing and help with the cleaning.
All went well and eventually in June 2008, I hired her on a permanent basis to work half days, every day and this is where it all started going wrong. This was when we found out that she has a serious drinking problem. It started with silly things, like the cleaning materials being left in the bathroom, utensils being put away in the wrong places, burns on clothing and linens, etc. Things that anybody could get wrong sometimes, but she started getting it wrong more and more often.
Then she started staying away from work quire regularly, always with an excuse of having to go to Polokwane to look after her daughter, or mother, who was sick. This was no problem because her contract included a number of family responsibility leave days and when that was used up, she could take some of her anual vacation leave days, until one day, when another woman who lives near her and knows me well, phoned me and told me that she was now tired of Monicca's lying and nonsense and that Monicca never went to Polokwane, but was to drunk to come to work.
Of course I was furious. No so much about the drinking or the fact that she stayed away from work, but because she lied to me consistently over a period of time and therefor I could no longer trust her. By the time she returned to work, the fury had left and I was feeling quite sorry for her. Although it would have been within my rights to fire her, or at least give her a final written warning, I only gave her a warning and a long lecture about the misuse of alcohol and dependability. The content of the warning was not her misuse of alcohol but her staying away from work without valid reason. This had no effect and eventually in July this year I issued a final written warning to her.
During August she became ill and was admitted to hospital for a few days. When she returned to work I could not believe my eyes. She had no alcohol for a week and she looked so well! Her cheeks were round, her eyes were bright and the "limp" that she always walked with, had disappeared. I was so happy for her (and for me as I believed our troubles are now something of the past.)
Last Thursday night we received a phone call from a woman who was unknown to us and she told us that Monicca was taken to hospital in Mokopane by an ambulance. Now in my books, if you are taken to hospital in an ambulance, you must have a serious medical condition. To my astonishement Monicca phoned me at 06:30 on Friday morning to tell me that she was at home and that she is coming to work. I went off to work and when Monicca did not turn up at the house by 08:30, Hubby took the car and went to look for her, not sure what he would find. He found her along the road walking in the direction of her house and when he asked her what was wrong, she told him that she was to sick to come to work. However, he noticed that she did not appear ill, but drunk, in fact so drunk that she could not walk straight.
Realising that she was up to her old tricks again, I just left it and when she returned to work on Monday, I phoned her from work and asked her what happened. She admitted to me over the telephone that she was still drunk on Friday morning and after she phoned me, she walked halfway to work and then realised that she would not make it all the way to my house.
I realised that keeping her in service, I was setting myself up for serious trouble. Should she injure herself in my house while drunk on duty, I would be accountable under the Occupational Health and Safety Act and this could have very serious consequences. So I resolved to let her go. This was easier said than done though. I know I did the right thing. I know I am within my rights legally. I know that I could not risk employing her any longer. Yet I feel awful. I cannot help wondering what will become of her.
PS: I read through this post again and now I am wondering why I wrote it, surely it can not be of any interest to fellow bloggers, but I decided to publish it in any case, so please bear with me on this one.