Employing your own personal assistant

Direct payments allow you to control who provides you with the support you need and decide when you want it. You can choose who comes into your home, when and what they do for you. If you want to take your personal budget as a direct payment to employ your own staff it means you will become an ‘employer’. There are different options available if you want to employ a personal assistant. You can:

  • employ a personal assistant through an agency
  • employ a personal assistant who is already set up as ‘self-employed’
  • recruit and employ a personal assistant by yourself

This page provides a summary of the things you need to consider when recruiting a personal assistant.

Being an employer: What are your legal responsibilities?

See Being an Employer your legal responsibilities which provides more information on what you have to do to ensure you meet your legal obligations when you become an employer. You can also get a copy of the leaflet by calling 01753 475111.

How to find the right person to employ

If you are going to employ someone using direct payments the first step is to think about what kind of support you need and how employing a personal assistant(s) will help you meet these needs. You can look at your support plan to help you think about what outcomes you want to achieve and what you will need the personal assistant to do to assist you. The list that you write can be used as a part of the job description.

The job description and person specification

A job description describes the role and the main duties. The person specification describes the sort of person you are looking for. The documents should include:

  • a list of the things you need the personal assistant to do
  • the days and time you need them to work for you
  • the qualities, skills, experience or training you would like your personal assistant to have
  • anything else you will expect of your personal assistant, for example, if your direct payments are to help you go out then you may want someone who has a car.

You will also need to include details of:

  • hours of work: (List the days and hours of work – you can add ‘flexible hours to be mutually agreed’ if you choose)
  • rate of Pay: (If the hours include evenings, sleepovers or weekends, list the different rates of pay e.g. weekdays - £8.00 per hour, sleepover - £37.80)

A sample job description and person specification can be found in the toolkit at www.employingpersonalassistants.co.uk

Where to find a personal assistant

People you know

You can use direct payments to employ someone you know, like a friend or neighbour. You can also employ a relative who does not live with you. If you want to employ a close relative or partner who lives with you will need to talk to the Slough Borough Council first, but this can only be permitted in exceptional circumstances, and you will need to discuss this in detail with your care coordinator.

Employing someone you know can be a good idea because they may understand your needs and you may feel more comfortable with them. However, this can change your relationship with that person because you become their employer as well as being their friend or relative.

You should think about whether you would be comfortable telling them what to do, or talking to them if they have done something you don’t like. You should be clear at the start about the work you need them to do and about how you will sort out any problems.

Advertising

If you do not know someone who can provide you with the support you need, you can place an advert in a local shop window or notice board. This can be quite effective if you want to recruit someone who lives near you or someone who has particular skills or interests. Other places you can place an advert to recruit a personal assistant include:

  • a local newspaper
  • the Job Centre
  • the internet

In the advert you will need to:

  • explain briefly what the job involves
  • what kind of person you are looking for
  • how many hours per week they will work
  • how much you will pay per hour
  • explain how people can apply (application form or CV)
  • give a contact number.

Interviewing

The council cannot choose your personal assistant for you. It is your decision who you want to employ. So once you have people interested in your job you need to decide whether you want to interview them. Interviews give you a much better idea of what the person is like and if they would be good at the job.

You can hold interviews in a variety of places, such as a café, at the house of someone you know, a hotel foyer, the local community centre or at a location that the personal assistant will need to go with you (e.g. a sports club). It is usually not a good idea to hold interviews in your own home and you may want to ask a friend or relative to sit on the interview panel with you.

You should plan the questions you want to ask people in advance. You should choose questions which will help you decide who would be best for the job so they should be based on the job description and person specification. Ask the same questions in the same order to compare the different candidates.

If you decide you do not want to employ someone you will have to write to them and tell them they have been unsuccessful.

Staying safe

When you have chosen the right person, we strongly advise that you:

  • take up references
  • carry out a DBS check (see below)

References

It is strongly recommended that you ask your personal assistant for two referees. One of these should be their last or their current employer.

Things you could ask the referees include:

  • How reliable are they?
  • Are they always on time?
  • How much time have they had off sick?
  • Are they trustworthy?
  • Is there anything that means they would not be good at the job?

The Disclosure and Barring Service Checks (DBS – previously CRB checks)

The local authority must ensure that the person is aware of how to access Disclosure and Barring Service Checks (DBS – previously CRB checks) on individuals they wish to employ, for example by ensuring that a check has been made by the agency providing the service, the local authority, or by another body. Individuals cannot apply for DBS checks on other individuals, and the local authority should make people aware of this, and the importance of thorough checks and employment references in the recruitment process.

As an employer, you should only arrange a DBS check on a successful job applicant. You can’t register directly with DBS. Instead, use an umbrella body:

Document checks

The law requires that all employers need to make some basic checks on every person they want to employ. By doing these checks you can make sure you are not breaking the law by employing illegal workers.

There are penalties for employing someone who is not allowed to work so it is important that you carry out these checks.
You should check that each of your personal assistants has any one of these and keep a photocopy of the document for your own records:

  • a document giving their permanent National Insurance number and name and a full birth certificate issued in the UK, which includes parents’ names.
  • a passport or other Home Office document which states they have a current right to live and work in the United Kingdom
  • an application registration card from the Home Office to an asylum seeker stating that they can work in the UK

If you have carried out these checks and found out that someone is not allowed to work you should not employ them.
Further information and lists of documentary evidence to work in the UK are available from the UK Border Agency.

Being a good employer

If you use direct payments to employ people then as an employer you have certain responsibilities. The Being an employer: what are your legal responsibilities? leaflet provides more information on what you have to do to ensure you meet your legal obligations when you become an employer.

Training and support/Workforce development

‘All staff working in adult social care should be able to access and take part in learning and development so they can carry out their role effectively and deliver high quality care. Skills for Care knows that there is a strong business case for investing in qualifications and development of staff and that employers recognise this. The Workforce Development Fund is available to support employers to make that investment which benefits the organisation, the workers and those who need care and support.’ (Skills for Care workforce development)

People who employ their own care staff (individual employers), can apply for funding from Skills for Care to cover the full cost of care related training and development of both themselves and their personal assistants.

Using someone who is self employed

You should always treat your personal assistants as employees unless you are certain their work with you counts as self-employment whereby you will ‘contract their services’. If you control the work your personal assistants do and when they do it then they are almost certainly employees.

If the answer to all the following questions is yes then the situation is probably self-employment:

  • does the personal assistant provide the main items of equipment needed for the job themselves?
  • will the personal assistant be agreeing to do a job for a fixed price, no matter how long it takes?
  • can the personal assistant decide what work to do and when?
  • does the personal assistant regularly work for a number of different people?

Self employed workers are:

  • responsible for their own insurance.
  • responsible for their own tax and National Insurance.
  • not entitled to holiday pay, sick pay or other employee benefits.

You should think carefully before treating a personal assistant as self-employed. HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) may disagree with you and may decide that your personal assistant is actually your employee. If this happens you may have to pay tax and National Insurance on everything you have paid to your assistant.

You can get further information from HM Revenue and Customs on 0845 607 0403 or the HMRC website

Statement of terms and conditions (contract)

The statement of employment terms and conditions (a contract) details information such as:

  • hours of work
  • rates of pay
  • probationary period
  • notice
  • annual leave
  • disciplinary procedures.

The personal assistant must be given and be asked to sign their agreement of the terms and conditions within the first two months of employment, but ideally before they start working for you.
Further information can be found at: GOV.UK employment contracts  or ACAS.

Probationary period

This is a trial period, when you can find out what your new personal assistant is really like. It will give you a chance to get to know them without committing yourself completely. A trial period gives you and your personal assistant time to settle in. You can make sure that you have chosen the right person for the job. It also gives your personal assistant the chance to make sure they are happy with the job. Set a probationary period that is suitable for you, for example three months.

During this time you and your personal assistant would normally only need to give one week’s notice if you want the employment to finish.

It’s a good idea to make some time to speak with your personal assistant during the trial period so you can both talk about what is working well or not going so well. You could also use this as an opportunity to talk about any training that your personal assistant may need.

Even during the trial period there is a formal process you should follow if you want the employment to finish. See the ‘if things don’t work out’ section below.

Equality

All employees and potential employees should be treated fairly and equally. For example, you should not discriminate on grounds of race, colour, nationality, ethnic or national origin, disability, sex, sexual orientation or marital status.
Further information and codes of practice can be found on the Equality and Human Rights Commission website.

Health and safety

As an employer you must make sure your employees work in a safe environment. You should identify any risks or dangers your personal assistant may face when working for you and take precautions to prevent any harm to them. This is called a risk assessment. It is important to do a risk assessment because your employer’s liability insurance may not cover you if you have not taken precautions to make sure your personal assistant is safe.

Some of the things you should consider are:

  • ensuring your home is safe, for example, making sure nothing is left lying around that could cause someone to trip over
  • providing clear instructions on food hygiene and safely preparing meals
  • providing clear instructions on safely using any equipment, for example, kettles or hoists etc.
  • making sure your personal assistant is able to do the job and identifying any training that would make their job safer, for example
  • providing gloves or other safety equipment for certain tasks
  • providing clear instructions on minimising the spread of infection caused by contact with bodily fluids
  • speaking to your personal assistant about any concerns they have and asking them to let you know if they see anything that may harm them.

You should record the risk assessment so you can share it with your personal assistant and have a record of what you have done. It is also a good idea to review it each year in case anything has changed.
You can find more information on risk assessments from Workplace Health Connect and the Health & Safety Executive website or you can request advice by telephoning their Advisory Team on 0300 003 1747.

Training

As part of your risk assessment you should make sure your personal assistants are properly trained for the tasks you ask them to carry out. Much of the training can be provided ‘on the job’ but you may want to send your personal assistant on a suitable training course for specific specialised training if required. There may be courses run by the council that your personal assistant can attend.

Paying your personal assistant

If you become the employer of a personal assistant you need to work out their wages including their National Insurance and tax contributions. This is called a payroll.

Doing your own payroll

You may choose to do your own payroll for which you will need to set up a Pay as You Earn (PAYE) scheme with HM Revenue and Customs and ensure you comply with all the legal requirements of becoming an employer (see Being an employer: your legal obligations). You will be responsible for working out tax, National Insurance and statutory payments to pay your personal assistant.

Payroll services

Many people do not wish to run their own payroll and prefer to use a specialised payroll service. Such services will take on responsibility for paying wages, statutory payments, tax and National Insurance, based on information you send them. However, as the employer, responsibility for making the correct payments will still be yours.

The council can give you information on companies who provide a payroll service for people using their direct payments to employ personal assistants.

Real Time Information

Following the introduction of a new system called Real Time Information (RTI) there are changes to the way that you report your PAYE payroll information to HMRC. As someone employing a PA, you may be able to operate RTI using paper rather than having to use a computer to send the information electronically.
More information at Disability and Tax - real time information

Pension

Employers are now required to help their employees to save for retirement. You need to give details of the pension scheme you are using and how contributions will be made by both you and your personal assistant. More information at Employing personal assistants - providing a pension

Insurance

If you use direct payments to employ a personal assistant you will need to have insurance to protect you as an employer. It is important that you have insurance in place before your personal assistant starts work.

  • You need employer’s liability insurance in case your personal assistant is injured whilst helping you because you may have to pay compensation.
  • You need public liability insurance in case your personal assistant causes an injury to someone or damages their property whilst they are working for you because you may have to pay compensation.

It is up to you what insurance company you use. The council can give you information on companies who have policies designed for people employing personal assistants.

Arranging backup cover

When you use direct payments you are responsible for arranging your own support. It is likely that at some point your usual personal assistant won’t be able to work for you. For example, they may be ill or take holiday leave. You should plan for what you will do when this happens so that your care support arrangements don’t break down.

There are a number of people who you could consider for providing backup cover:

  • you can use friends and family, as long as they do not live in the same house as you
  • you can arrange for your personal assistants to cover for each other if you employ more than one
  • you can use a care agency to provide cover until your personal assistant returns

You should keep your back-up arrangements up to date. It is a good idea to check regularly that the people or organisations you plan to use are still able to provide you with cover.

The council can provide advice on making your back-up arrangements but the council does not employ any personal assistants and cannot organise your care for you.

How to get the most from your employees

It can take time for you to get to know your personal assistant. It can also take time for your personal assistant to get to know you and to understand the work you want them to do. It is a good idea to set clear expectations at the start of the employment. This can save a lot of misunderstanding later on.

It can be confusing if you ask your personal assistant to do something that is very different from what is in the job description. It can be useful for both of you to review the job description regularly and to praise the personal assistant for good work. This lets them know when they are doing things right and you can discuss when things are being done differently.

If things don’t work out

If you are not happy with a personal assistant’s work you should tell them as soon as you can. It is important to be clear about exactly what it is that you are not happy with and how you would prefer the task to be done. It is worth telling them verbally and noting it down as well.

Most work problems can be sorted out informally by discussing things with your personal assistant. If this does not work then there is a formal process you and your employee must follow as a minimum.
Further information is available at GOV.UK - dismissal  or ACAS.

Record keeping

You will have to account for the direct payments money that you spend. We will tell you what records you need to keep and what information you’ll be expected to provide and how often. Information such as time sheets signed by your personal assistant, services purchased from an agency and bank statements showing the payments made will need to be provided regularly.

The council will have to satisfy itself that the needs for which it is giving you the direct payments are being met. We will tell you how often the information should be sent for monitoring and we will review your direct payments within the first six months.

Contact information

The information on this page is only a short guide to recruiting a personal assistant. More information regarding your legal obligations and employing a personal assistant is available at:

Employing personal assistants toolkit

The employing personal assistants toolkit guides you through the process of employing a personal assistant, what to do when they are working for you as well as helping you to understand your responsibilities as an employer and your legal obligations. There are some really useful templates that you can use such as job descriptions, application forms and contracts of employment.

There is an online interactive version of the toolkit or you can order a paper copy of the toolkit from marketing@skillsforcare.org.uk or call 0113 245 1716.

Further information

Further information on being an employer, aimed at people using direct payments

Status – check to see if the person engaged is employee or self-employed

Does the direct payment recipient need to register as an employer?

Becoming a new employer 

Information on taking on a new employee