The trouble of letting go

The hiring and firing process in the ESL world in Korea is contentious to say the least.  I myself have run into a great many issues regarding both, and not only in practical terms, but also the legal issues concerning the hiring and firing of people.

The hiring process is the easiest, simply because a lot of people are looking for a job.  This is where caution is due on the Employer part.  I have made it a rule, after a few bad experiences, that I will only hire if I am 100% convinced that that person is added value to the business.  The problem I have encountered is that quite a lot of people are either delusional about their abilities to perform or willfully hiding their inabilities.  It is difficult to distinguish. From an administrative point of view, hiring is easier than firing, because there is no legal requirements to take into account to be able to hire people, apart from the requirements set by the MoE (Ministry of Education) and Immigration.  You can’t be sued for not hiring people.

The hiring process is also the most crucial one, and if you see the budgets that HR gets allocated in well established firms, it comes as no surprise that smaller operations will always get what is left …. A serious Adverse Selection problem. I am sure many start ups faced many issues regarding HR before they got enough cash rolling to clean up and increase the effectiveness of hiring the right people.  You can’t ask a $250.000 revenue generating operation to spend $1M on HR can you now.  They simply don’t have the budget.

The firing process in many ways is really the opposite.  When you hire a person, you gain certain responsibilities, not only dictated by the contract but also by the Labor Law of the country.  Very few people, who will start their own school, will grasp the complexity and will be able to create proper processes to let people go.  Not a reason not to do it.  Every person I have fired, at this point, was fired in a different way.  You could cut it down to voluntary or forced.  Under voluntary, there are 2 ways you can lose a teacher, choice or bargaining.  Any individual is free to terminate their employment on the spot, without the requirement of a “notice”.  This is something most people don’t realize.  The problem in Korea is that your sojourn and place of living are connected to the employment, making it very uncomfortable to just walk away from a job.  One could also bargain the termination of employment, if the termination is due to external situation, I will do my best to find a replacement, or assist any way I can to ease the transition.  It is a bit hard to do when the person you are letting go is due to their inability to hold a class.  The forced termination is where you make use of the 30 day notice regulation to let the person go.  Even though this is a possibility, there are situations where the employee could file a case with the Labor Law for wrongful dismissal.  You need a documented reason to let a person go.  There are situation where an employer can terminate the employment immediately, but again the onus of proof lies with the employer to show that a continued employment might pose a threat to the safety of the business or its customers.

Once you have successfully terminated the employment, there is still MoE and Immigration to be taken care of. With MoE, you need to inform them that the teachers is no longer in your employment, this is rather a simple matter of telling them.  With Immigration, there are again 2 main options.  If the teacher leaves the country, the employer needs to cancel the visa, in person.  Most believe that the visa is simply cancelled when the person leaves the country, but there is still the administrative task of officially ending your sponsorship of the visa.  The easier option is that the employee finds a new sponsor, a Letter of Release can easily speed up that part of the procedure and the responsibility simply moves from one school to the other.

I see a lot of people complaining that schools do not, to spite the employee, give a Letter of Release.  Schools don’t have to.  If I prefer to simply cancel your visa rather than transfer your visa, that is up to the school.  This is the one leverage schools have vis-a-vis their employees, the ONLY one.