Recruiting a personal assistant (PA)
Your PA should be able to support you. By law, there are things that you as an employer must do when you recruit and employ someone.
Write a job description
Writing a good job description will help you to find good candidates and test those candidates in interviews. You could also ask friends who employ PAs for recommendations.
A job description and person specification are:
- the tasks you need your PA to do
- the training you want them to have
- what you think your PA should be like, such as being reliable or having a good sense of humour
Tasks that you need your PA to do
If your local authority has assessed you, look at your care and support plan.
Common tasks include:
- household chores such as washing, ironing, cooking and cleaning
- helping with dressing and personal hygiene
- looking after pets (some agencies might not allow this)
- transport and going out with you
- help with medical appointments and medication
- almost anything that will help you to live the life you choose
It’s also important to check if they have any restrictions and agree what tasks they will do. For example, you need them to buy meat but they’re a vegetarian or vegan.
What your PA should be like
All good PAs should be reliable, professional and willing to adapt to your needs. Think what is important to you: is it being patient, sharing similar tastes in activities or having a sense of humour?
Your PA should be someone you can spend time with and who can support you to do the things you want to do. It can be helpful to hire someone you feel could be a companion, but that you could stay in charge.
A PA should also be able to support you to do things that are important to you. For example, if you like going to the pub, you need a PA who is happy to support you to do that. You might want to have a trial period to make sure you’re getting the right support and the person can do what you need.
Warning Do not discriminate
Legally, employers must recruit people who are the best fit for the job description. They cannot discriminate because of things like age, race, religion or sexual orientation. These are in the Equality Act 2010, and are called protected characteristics (Citizens Advice).
If it’s important to you that your PA is a man or a woman, you must say why. This could be because you need a man or woman to help you get clean and dressed.
Write your job advert carefully. The Equality Act means you have to treat people fairly and offer equal opportunities.
Someone you know
You can employ someone who you already know to be your PA.
If your local authority agrees, your PA can be someone you live with. Your local authority will only do this when they think it’s the best way for you to get the care that you need.
Your relationship may change if you employ someone you know. You should be able to trust them with your wellbeing and things like money. For example, if they buy you something from the shop, do they give you the right change? The relationship still needs to be professional even if you are friends.
You could advertise using:
- local newspapers
- online job sites
- the jobcentre
- local PA registers
- social media
The advert must say:
- what the job involves (the job description)
- how much it pays
- how people should apply, with contact details
- if you want them to have any qualifications
- what kind of checks they will need to pass before they start, for example, references, right to work in the UK and Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check
Writing a job advert (Skills for Care)
Example: Part-time assistant required
Personal assistant for disabled father of 2 children (aged 7 and 8). Daily tasks will include taking children to and from school, cleaning and ironing.
Applicant must have experience of dogs and have worked with young children. Knowledge or experience of multiple sclerosis desirable but not essential.
Successful applicant will be need to pass a full DBS check paid for by employer.
Will work up to 16 hours per week. Hours to be agreed, but will be between 8.30am and 6.30pm Monday to Friday, with occasional weekend work.
Wage to be agreed – will be about £8 per hour.
Asking your local authority
Ask your local authority about personal assistant registers in your area. They might call this ‘brokerage’.
Find your local authority
Some local authorities run services that help disabled people and people who want to work as personal assistants meet.
Choosing who to interview
When you have some applications, you can interview the people who have the skills and qualities that best match the job description.
Contact candidates with a date, time and location for an interview. You might want to do an informal pre-interview chat to talk about:
- where they’ve worked before
- their qualifications
Ask questions that let you test if candidates can meet your needs and the demands of the job. You could ask them to:
- say why they would like the job
- tell you about a time they needed to be patient and what it was like
- say what they would do if you asked them to do something that was important to you: “It’s raining and it’s late. I want to go to a friend’s house. What would you do?”
- make you a cup of tea, and see if they ask you how you take your tea before they bring it to you
- Ask someone you trust to sit with you in the interview. This could be a family member or friend. Both take notes if you can.
- After the interviews, compare notes and decide who’s best. Make sure that you feel comfortable with that person and that they have all the skills they need to support you.
- If you choose to hire someone, you will need to do checks before they sign a contract. This includes references, the right to work in the UK (GOV.UK) and a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check.
- The candidate you choose might not pass their checks. Keep a good relationship with the other people you interviewed. This can help if you need to pick someone else.
Warning Being an employer
If you pay a PA or any other support staff, you are an employer. If you pay an agency, the agency is the employer.
If you are an employer, there are things you must do when you employ someone. This includes checking that they have the right to work in the UK and having a written contract.
Employing a PA legally
If you cannot find someone
Recruiting a PA can be hard, and it might take a while. This can be because of how much you can pay. You may need to negotiate depending on your budget. This could include when using agencies. They may be able to help you find someone, even if you only use them for a short time.
It can also be difficult to find someone who is reliable, and who can work the hours you need them to. You might need to look at the qualifications you’re asking for and your person specification. Decide what’s the most important to you. The best PA for you might not be the person with the most experience or qualifications.
If you try one way to recruit a PA and it is not working, try another one. Pooling personal budgets with other people and sharing a PA can help.
Pooling personal budgets (Disability Rights UK)
Template letters for employing a PA
Skills for Care have templates and sample documents for people who want to employ a PA:
- job description and person specification
- interview checklist and sample
- interview questions
- letter telling people they've not got an interview
- letter offering the job
- contract of employment
- risk assessment
- application form
- letter inviting people for an interview
- letter asking for a reference
- letter turning down an applicant
- safety in the home checklist
- disciplinary form
Last reviewed by Scope on: 13/12/2018