All across Asia, whether you’re teaching in China, South Korea or Thailand, the ESL industry is notorious for missing pay. You’re a foreigner, your working situation might not be completely legal, few of you are proficient in your country’s language, and 95% of you will be leaving eventually. Let’s face it, foreigners are the perfect mark for any type of scam, and just because you’re at your job doesn’t mean you’re safe. Sometimes companies short you on teaching hours, while others forget your overtime, but the worst way they rip you off is when you’ve decided to quit before you’ve finished your contract. Leaving a job can be financially dangerous for an ESL teacher; it’s incredibly common for your former employer to keep your whole paycheck and any other remaining benefits or pay, without any justification other than you’d quit. While this is predominantly a problem for part timers and people working under the table, it could and has happened to people working with a proper Z VISA. For the most part this is done out of spite, but plain old greediness has a huge role in it as well.
Any company that doesn’t pay you upfront or after the session will pay you monthly, usually half way into the next month, and if they decide they’re not going to pay you, you could be losing up to 6 weeks of pay. How much you’ll lose will obviously depend on your timing, and unless you’re in legal danger I highly suggest that you hold out until your next pay day to reduce the amount of money they could steal from you. Just because you have a penalty free resignation clause in your contract doesn’t mean you’ll be safe either, it’s fairly common for them to ignore the 30 day or 2 week notice you’d put in and screw you anyways. They might make up excuses about how your resignation hurt the company, or they might just tell you to fuck off, because they know at the end of the day that there’s very little that you can do to fight it… If anything. Unfortunately, this practice has become an accepted way of doing business for many ESL companies, and it’s an unavoidable evil you’ll eventually encounter if you’re not working on a Z VISA for a reputable employer.
A common tactic Western teachers use to protect themselves and minimize their losses, while probably reinforcing why the Chinese even do this, is to quit abruptly after they’ve been paid. Any work they do between the end of a pay period and pay day is for money they will never see, so they act normal until the end of the month, then do anything they can to avoid working afterwards. Some common methods include calling out on their busiest days, faking illnesses, and even taking vacation time. Food poisoning, or laduzi, is an excuse that works every time, since the Chinese know how terribly their food can affect a Western stomach. The soon to be gone teacher bides their time working as little as possible while acting content, careful not to let on that they’re unhappy and planning to leave. And once they’ve gotten their money, they quit or disappear as soon as it’s convenient. When they do it this way, they end up forfeiting only half a month’s pay as opposed to the potential 6 weeks worth, and depending on how much work they’d ducked out of, they might’ve lost even less.
I know this comes off grimy, and your conscience may get the better of you, but I’ve seen too many people who’d quit the noble way get robbed. I’ve honestly come to believe that this is the best way in most situations, or at least the safest. Some companies might be honorable, but most don’t have to be and therefore won’t be. Keep yourself safe and get taken advantage of as little as possible.