Employing a PA legally

Hiring a personal assistant (PA) to help with your daily needs can make life easier. Before you recruit someone, make sure you understand what you need to do legally when employing a PA.

These rules apply if you’re hiring a PA to work for you and you have a contract. You are an employer. They are an employee.

These rules do not apply to you if:

  • the local authority or a care agency provides your personal assistant
  • your PA is self-employed

Warning Self-employed PAs

There are different types of employment status, including:

What you expect from your PA can change their employment status.

You will need to check if what you expect from your PA changes their status from self-employed or employee.

Get legal advice if you’re not sure.

For example, your PA might not be self-employed if they:

  • have to work when you ask them to
  • are paid using Pay As You Earn (PAYE) and make National Insurance (NI) payments

Before you hire a personal assistant or support worker

There are a few things you’ll need to do before hiring a personal assistant or support worker.

Check they have the right to work in the UK

By law, you must check your PA’s right to work in the UK. You will need to keep a copy of the document.

Find out more about right to work on the Government’s website.

Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check

A DBS check (formerly known as a CRB check) checks the applicant’s criminal record. Your PA needs to have a DBS check. If they do not, they should apply and pay for this.

Checking an applicant's criminal record (GOV.UK)

Check the PA’s references

Get at least 2 references:

  • a professional reference from a previous employer
  • a personal reference from someone who is not a direct family member and has known the applicant for a number of years

It’s better if the personal reference is from someone with a position of trust in the community, such as a youth club leader, teacher or health professional.

Create an employment contract

An employment contract is an agreement. It should describe the job and the tasks required, the hours of work, pay, holiday and notice periods. Include the job description as part of the contract.

When you employ a PA, you should give them a contract when they start. Legally, you must agree on a contract before they have been working for you for 2 months.

You may wish to include a probationary period of 3 to 6 months in the contract. This makes it easier to dismiss someone early on if they are not suitable.

Managing problems with your PA

Employment contracts and conditions (GOV.UK)

Download a contract template (Acas)

Working hours (Citizens Advice)

Holiday pay (Citizens Advice)

Agree on how you will pay your PA

This could be weekly or monthly by bank transfer. Do not pay in cash. Decide what is best for both of you. If your personal budget is monthly, it makes sense to pay monthly.

Register as an employer and take out liability insurance

You should register as an employer 4 weeks before your PA starts work.

It’s also important to take out employer’s liability insurance. This will cover you against your employee having accidents at work. If you and your PA will be leaving the house frequently, you may also need to take out public liability insurance.

Register as an employer (GOV.UK)

Employer’s liability insurance (GOV.UK)

Set up a pension for your PA

You should set up a pension for your PA if they will earn more than £10,000 a year and are older than 22 but younger than state pension age.

You can use the NEST workplace pension scheme set up by the government to do this for free. Some local authorities may help you set this up.

Setting up a pension (GOV.UK)

After you hire a PA or support worker

There’s a few things you must do after you’ve hired your PA or support worker.

Pay at least the National Minimum Wage

You should pay your PA at least the National Minimum Wage (GOV.UK). You can decide how much you pay above this level. But if you pay too much, you might run out of personal budget. You may choose to pay your PA the living wage (livingwage.org).

Run a payroll

You will need to deduct Income Tax and National Insurance from your employee’s wages and pay these to the HMRC (tax office). You must run a payroll (GOV.UK) to calculate the amount of pay and tax deductions. You can pay an accountant or a payroll service to do this.

Income Tax (GOV.UK)

Employer’s National Insurance contributions (GOV.UK)

You might want to use software to help you run your payroll and automatically calculate any salary deductions. Brightpay manages payroll for you. Your personal budget should cover the cost of using it.

Advice on using payroll software (GOV.UK)

You must submit your payroll and pay to the tax office every month by cheque or bank transfer. Give your personal assistant an electronic or paper payslip (GOV.UK) on or before payday. Payroll software can produce these for you or you can use an online template (redtapedoc.co.uk).

Provide holiday and sick pay

You must pay Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) if your PA is eligible. You can pay more if you wish.

Holiday pay must be at least 28 days (you do not have to give Bank Holidays as paid leave). Your employee’s contract can say they only get sick pay and holiday pay after the probationary period.

Statutory Sick Pay (GOV.UK)

Holiday pay entitlements (GOV.UK)

Provide maternity or paternity leave

You must pay maternity leave or paternity leave to eligible employees.

If your PA suffers a bereavement, you can choose to give compassionate leave, with or without pay, but this is not compulsory.

Maternity leave (GOV.UK)

Paternity leave (GOV.UK)

Warning Smoking

If you smoke in the house, try to hire someone that does not mind. If your PA does not smoke, you must not smoke around them as under employment law your home is also their workplace.

If you do not want your PA to smoke in your house or around you, tell them.

Further help with employing a PA

Government guidelines on employing staff

Before your personal assistant starts guide (Skills for Care)

Templates for employing a personal assistant (PDF, Skills for Care)

Contact your local centre for independent living for information and further support. Ask your local authority for details or search online.

Last reviewed by Scope on: 14/03/2019

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