Your personal assistant (PA) is someone you are likely to spend a lot of time with. It is important that you can get on with them and have a good working relationship. Issues could include reliability and punctuality, or having different expectations of a task or responsibility.
Agree the job description
Making it clear what you expect from your PA at the start can help to avoid misunderstandings later.
You should set out what you expect them to do and when. This should be in the job description and person specification you used when recruiting for the PA role.
If you disagree on something, going back to these documents can help.
A good working relationship
Putting time and effort into the relationship is the best way to manage conflict.
Be honest about issues as they happen
You and your PA should speak to each other honestly about any issues, such as tasks not being done properly or at all.
Good communication can stop a problem getting worse. It can be hard to say what you feel. Often people are too afraid of not being liked so they stay quiet.
The best working relationship will be one where you both see each other as people and not just an employee or employer. Remember, your carer has a life outside of being your personal assistant. They should also treat you with respect.
Chat about everyday things
Talking about things outside of the working relationship will help you to get to know each other. Talking in a way that makes you both feel comfortable can make your time together more enjoyable.
Be open to discussion and criticism
Listen to suggestions that your PA makes. You do not have to agree with them, but being open to different ways of doing things can help build trust and make your relationship stronger.
Raise issues early
If something happens that you do not like, talk about it before it becomes a problem. If you are not comfortable doing this on your own, ask someone else you trust to do it with you. This could be a family member or an advocate.
Have a way to resolve problems and conflicts
Making time to talk about how things are going can help with this. You could meet every month to talk about how your support is working and how your PA feels about their work.
Why things might go wrong
Just as there are things that make a good relationship with your PA, there are things that can make it bad. These include:
having different expectations on specific tasks
not stating instructions clearly
lack of communication and misunderstandings, particularly around what you need or boundaries
your PA doing the minimum amount of work or not doing things properly
your PA lying at the job interview about things they are trained for or willing to do
your PA lying about why they needed time off, for example illness, bereavement or their car breaking down
Your responsibility as an employer
If you pay your PA directly and not through an agency, you are an employer. Legally, there are things an employer must do. This includes paying your PA on time and fulfilling your legal obligations on things like holiday pay and sick pay.
Warning Your PA has rights even when you pay them by the hour
Your PA may have ‘worker’ status, and be entitled to holiday pay even if you do not have a written contract with them.
Book in regular times to talk about any issues you both might have or to resolve any conflicts. You should agree in advance when these formal reviews will be. You might decide to have a review every 2 weeks at the start and then move to every couple of months.
The length of the review is not important, but it should be long enough to raise concerns and agree solutions. These should be recorded in writing, along with what needs to be done, by who and when.
Try to resolve any issues in a friendly and informal way. Talking it through may be enough. Describe what is happening. Talking about the issue without blaming your PA will help them to feel comfortable and will help you to avoid escalating the issue.
You could try writing notes and practising what you need to say.
If you are not sure what to say, you could try using ‘I’ statements instead of saying ‘you’. For example say:
"I am affected by situation X in this way"
instead of saying
"when you do X…"
If the issue is about hours worked or holiday time, it may be possible to reach a compromise by being flexible.
If the problem remains then you can then bring it up in a formal review. After the problem is raised, you can work together on what action needs to be taken to fix it and by when. Write everything down and discuss it again at the next review.
If you cannot solve the conflict between you, you might want to ask someone to be there who can help you to communicate. This could be an advocate, social worker, family member or friend.
If your personal assistant is hired through an agency or is provided by the local authority, contact them to discuss the issue.