Managing problems with your PA

You spend a lot of time with your PA, so it’s important to deal with performance or behaviour issues before they become major problems.

There are ways to deal with these matters without spoiling your relationship with your PA.

You might have issues with your PA:

  • not being punctual
  • not performing tasks in the right way or taking shortcuts
  • being dishonest, for example lying about time off
  • doing things that you would rather do yourself

Being assertive

Try raising the matter with your PA informally.

Try using ‘I’ statements, such as

“I would like to talk about X…”

or

“Let me explain why I disagree with that point.”

You could:

  • take responsibility – suggest what you would like to do to address the issue
  • listen actively – pay attention to your PA’s response and see if you can agree a way forward
  • be sincere and direct – say what you believe the problem is
  • speak calmly and confidently – write down what you want to say and rehearse it beforehand
  • think about your body language – try to maintain eye contact

If it helps, have someone with you for support, like a friend, family member, advocate or social worker.

Giving feedback

Try to avoid blame and give constructive feedback.

Link everything that you say to specific examples, such as:

“When you do X, it has this negative impact on me.”

You could help your PA to look at the problem without being defensive by:

  • outlining a problem and suggesting a solution
  • talking about the situation rather than what your PA is like
  • also talking about the things that they do well

Listen to your PA and try to be flexible

Having a good working relationship is a two-way street. Your PA may also have comments or concerns about their role. You should also remember that your PA has a life outside of their job.

Having regular reviews can help you both share any concerns. These can be every couple of weeks at first, then every couple of months, depending on what suits you.

Find out more about building a relationship with your PA.

What to do if the situation does not improve

If you cannot resolve the situation informally, you can move to a formal process. Hold a disciplinary meeting to discuss it, and make sure everything is written down (acas.org).

It’s particularly important if your PA has been with you for more than 2 years. This is because if you later dismiss them, they may be able to take you to a tribunal for unfair dismissal (GOV.UK).

During the disciplinary process, you should record performance issues and the targets that you have agreed.

Disciplinary procedures at work (GOV.UK)

Firing your PA

If informal and formal steps to improve performance do not work, you can dismiss your personal assistant. Because being a PA is not part of regulated professions there are no external tribunal procedures that you can pursue.

If your PA has worked for you for less than 2 years, you can dismiss them with a week’s notice. If it has been longer, you should give a verbal warning and then a written warning before terminating their contract. Your PA may find it awkward to come to work during their notice period.

If your former PA takes you to an employment tribunal (GOV.UK), seek employment law advice through a local law centre, Citizens Advice or someone with specialist HR knowledge.

Notice periods

If your PA has worked for you for less than 2 years, you can fire them with a week’s notice, unless their contract states otherwise. If they have worked for you for more than 2 years, the minimum notice period is 2 weeks.

The length of minimum notice period increases by a week for each year of employment, up to a maximum of 12 weeks. You should pay them as normal during this period.

Notice periods (acas.org)

If you are firing your PA because of gross misconduct, such as stealing or holding a party at your house without permission, you can dismiss them immediately.

If you need further advice on issues with your personal assistant, contact our helpline.

Your local authority may be able to put you in touch with a disability rights or advocacy service.

Last reviewed by Scope on: 27/02/2019

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