Personal assistants care for people with support needs and help them live independently. If you need some help, they can be a great option.
When you hire a personal assistant, you will be their employer. This means you have certain responsibilities towards them. But it also means that you’ll have consistent support from one person and will know what to expect from your days.
We know that hiring a personal assistant can feel a bit daunting – there’s a lot to learn. We’ve put together this guide to help you.
Personal assistants might also be called PAs, support workers, carers or personal care assistants.
How can personal assistants care for me?
Personal assistants can support you with most things that you might find difficult. Whether you need physical, practical or emotional support, you can hire a PA to help you.
Some people might employ a personal assistant for a few hours a week, whereas others might need someone to support them every day.
Personal assistants might help with some of the following:
Personal care and some healthcare
This might include washing, dressing, or help going to the toilet. Some people may also need support with various healthcare tasks, including medication support, stoma care or wound care.
This may include meal planning and preparation, and feeding if necessary.
If you need a little help around the house, a PA can help with your cleaning, laundry or washing up.
Personal assistants can do your shopping for you or accompany you while you shop.
Some people need support outside of their home, whether that might be going out to socialise, for work or school, or to appointments.
A personal assistant can help you arrange appointments, make phone calls or help you with your day-to-day life.
You may not need practical or physical help, but want someone to spend some time with you.
What are the alternatives to having a personal assistant care for me?
Some people prefer not to hire a personal assistant, and instead choose an alternative option.
Using a care agency
Some people who want care at home may choose to use a care agency rather than a personal assistant. If you choose this option, you would have visits from carers following your agreed-upon care plan. This avoids the need to become an employer.
However, this may cost more than employing a personal assistant directly. In addition, using an agency means that you may not see the same carer every time, and you may receive support from people you don’t know. Employing a personal assistant gives you more control over who will help you and when.
Getting help from family or friends
If you don’t need a huge amount of support each day, you may be able to ask family or friends for support. For example, if you can manage at home but just need some extra help getting out and about, your loved ones may be able to help with that.
However, this option does rely on family or friends being available at certain times. Some people feel less independent if they’re waiting for people to help them, and it can be difficult if your informal carers are ill or away.
Hiring individuals for specific tasks
If you struggle with cleaning or driving, you could hire a cleaner or arrange for taxis or Ubers whenever you need. Depending on your other needs, you may be able to hire others to help.
However, this method can be more complicated than simply hiring one personal assistant as you’re co-ordinating more people.
Moving to residential care
Some people may choose to move to a care or nursing home, depending on their needs and personal situation. This might be a good option for people whose home is no longer suitable for them, or who need a lot of care during the day and night.
However, some people feel like moving into residential care takes away a lot of their independence. If you have pets, you may not be able to take them with you, and you may need to sell or donate a lot of your belongings so that everything fits into one room.
How can I hire a personal assistant?
How you hire a personal assistant will depend on your circumstances, including whether you need financial support and if you already have a potential PA in mind.
1. Decide what support you need
Once you have decided that a personal assistant is the best option for you, you will need to think about the areas where you need help. If you don’t know exactly what support you need, you can ask your local council for a needs assessment.
2. Arrange a needs assessment
A needs assessment can give you an idea of the support you might need.
If you would like to receive direct payments to pay your PA, you must have a needs assessment. If your local council does not think that you should receive direct payments, they will still be able to give you advice on where you can find help.
During your needs assessment, someone from the local authority (usually a social worker or occupational therapist) will ask questions about how you manage daily tasks. It may help to have a family member, friend or carer with you during the conversation.
Needs assessments may take place face-to-face, over the phone or over a video call. They are free of charge.
3. Write a job description
Before you start looking for a personal assistant to support you, think about what you would like from them. This should include regular tasks and any requirements you may have – for example, does your PA need to have a driving licence, have any specific qualifications or speak a particular language?
A job advert should include how many hours a week you would like your PA to work, and how much they will be paid.
4. Advertise the role
You may already have someone in mind for the role, such as a friend or former carer. However, if you don’t, you can still find a personal assistant to care for you.
Some people find personal assistants through word of mouth or recommendations from people they trust. If you are involved with any local support groups, day centres or charities, they may have advice about what would work best in your local area.
You could place adverts in local newspapers, on job sites and on local social media.
Some local authorities may offer advice on employing a PA, or keep a register of personal assistants. If you have a social worker, they may be able to support you with this.
5. Interview prospective personal assistants
Once you have received some applications, you can invite your top applicants to interview. You may prefer to do this in person or over a video call. You may want to invite a friend, family member or carer to support you during the interview.
During an interview, both you and the applicant will have an opportunity to ask questions of each other.
You could ask questions such as:
- Have you supported someone with similar conditions before?
- Describe how you would help me with a particular task.
- Can you tell me about how you’ve reacted in an emergency situation?
- What do you think will be your favourite and least favourite parts of this role?
- How would you previous clients or colleagues describe you?
Personal assistants care for you in an intimate way, so it’s important to make sure that you get on well with the person.
Take notes during the interview, so you can refer back to them later.
6. Pre-employment checks
Before you employ someone, you must make sure that they have the right to work in the UK. If you do not check properly and the person does not have the right to work in this country, you could receive a fine.
You should also contact references for a job applicant. It’s usual for one of these to be their previous employer or client, and the other is often a personal or character reference.
You should also check whether your prospective personal assistant has a criminal record. This is done through a DBS (Disclosure and Barring Service) check, which was previously known as a CRB (Criminal Records Bureau) check.
Some people may want to check whether their PA has specific qualifications. If you have included these as part of the job description, you might want to ask to see certificates that prove they have these.
7. Enjoy your newfound independence
Once you have hired a personal assistant, they can begin supporting you!
What are my responsibilities?
Personal assistants care for and support you, but you will be their employer. They must have a written employment contract, and you will have some specific responsibilities.
Insurance can protect you and your employee in case anything goes wrong.
If you employ any staff directly, you are legally required to have Employers Liability Insurance. This will cover you and pay any necessary costs if your personal assistant has an accident while working with you.
If your personal assistant will be driving your car, you must add them to your car insurance policy.
Your insurance policies must be in place before your PA begins working with you.
If you are receiving direct payments or other funding to pay your personal assistant, this may also cover insurance costs.
Your personal assistant may need to take training courses, and you may need to pay for this.
The types of training that they need will depend on your needs and their duties. Training can protect both you and your PA – for example, moving and handling training can reduce the risk of either of you becoming injured.
Training you might consider includes:
- Moving and handling
- First aid
- Food hygiene
- Infection control
- Medication administration
Some training will need to be repeated on a regular basis.
Your personal assistant is entitled to time off. This includes:
- Rest breaks
- Annual leave (holiday)
- Sick leave
If you need more care than one person can provide, you may need to look into employing more than one personal assistant.
If you would be unable to cope without a personal assistant, you should have a backup plan for what would happen if your PA is unwell or unable to support you. This may be having a second PA, a contact at a care agency, or a family member who would be able to help.
Paying your personal assistant
You must register with HMRC as an employer.
Your personal assistant is entitled to receive at least the national minimum wage. If your PA is earning the minimum wage and the national minimum wage increases, you must increase their pay.
You must give them payslips, showing their earnings and any tax or National Insurance deduction.
As part of paying your PA’s wage, you must also pay the employer National Insurance contribution and, depending on their age and earnings, enter them into a pension scheme and make contributions.
You must also pay any statutory benefits that your PA is eligible for, such as sick pay or maternity pay.
All of this can sound quite daunting. However, there are lots of payroll and support services that can help you with these requirements for your personal assistant. Your social worker or local authority may be able to signpost you to them.
Funding for personal assistants
Some people may pay for a personal assistant from their income or savings. This is often called self-funding.
Many people use funding from their local authority. If you have had a needs assessment and are eligible for local authority funding for your social care needs, you can choose to receive direct payments. Direct payments can pay for some or all of the costs involved with employing a personal assistant.
Depending on their health needs, some people may also be eligible for funding from the NHS.
If you would like more support than your funding will pay for, you can top this up with your own money.
What do I need to provide to my employees when hiring?
To ensure your employee has a comfortable and safe start to their employment with you, make sure you have everything in place. This includes:
- An employment contract: This should outline their job title, hours of work, place of work, salary, holiday entitlement, sickness, pension, and any notice periods or disciplinary action
- Maximum hours: It’s your responsibility to ensure that your employee is not working more than the maximum hours allowed per week, which is 48 hours in the UK as of 2022.
- Wage: You need to guarantee that your employees payslips pay them at least National Minimum Wage.
A number of other workplace rights may be available to your employee, depending on their eligibility requirements:
In order to ensure your employee’s health and well-being, you need to know exactly what you should offer and to whom. We’ll cover all of these sections below.
Hiring your PA
Whether you are employing a carer for yourself or on behalf of someone, you may be eligible for direct payments. If you require care and support services, you will be assessed by social services as to whether you can receive direct payments which can then be arranged to go directly to your employee i.e. your carer.
Read more about applying for Direct Payments and how you’ll be assessed for this.
Direct payments: quick tips
- If you are paying for your own care via direct payments, you might create your own payroll or outsource this to someone else – you will need to register if you wish to do this yourself
- You must make sure that any potential employee is legally entitled to work in the United Kingdom
- Ensure that your potential employee has been checked by the Disclosure & Barring Service
Hiring your carer independently
You may already know someone who is a registered carer that you would like to employ as your carer, in which case you could hire them independently. Alternatively, you could advertise the role with a job board such as Indeed.com, or use a recruitment agency to assist you in finding the right person.
If you do choose to hire a personal assistant independently using your direct payments, you should know that there are limitations to who you can hire. As a general rule, regulations prevent you from employing cohabiting family members, including your spouse or partner, or any relatives who live in your home. Note that exceptions can be made by your local authority.
Using a home-care agency
A home-care agency employs trained and qualified carers to visit you in your home. The advantage to using a home-care agency is that the agency will often handle the employer responsibilities for you, such as pay, tax, holiday pay etc, with you only needing to pay the agency directly each month.
The negative, however, is that you have less control over who provides your care. It’s unlikely that you’ll always have the same carer through an agency, and you might not be able to agree on the exact hours of care that suit you best. We would recommend researching several agencies before going down this route to make sure you find the right fit for you.
Insurance for PA’s and carers
Among other things you’ll need to think about when hiring a Personal Assistant is insurance. Here, we’ll cover what insurance you need, and what you may like to consider to protect you (or the person receiving care), your employee, and other members of the public.
You might also want to read: why carers need insurance.
Employers Liability Insurance
All employers in the UK are required by law to have employers liability insurance in order to protect both the service users, the personal assistant/carer, and other members of the public from unexpected incidents, injury, or damage to property.
Specifically, employers liability insurance covers you in the case of your employee bringing a claim against you due to an injury, illness, or the loss/damage of their property.
Our home employment insurance and direct payments insurance bundles employers liability cover in with a number of other elements that are highly recommended for anyone hiring their own care. This includes:
- Public liability: Cover for you and your employee against a wider range of claims in connection with their work, such as accidental injury, accidental damage to your carer’s property, or accidental injury to a third party. These claims cover you whether they’re made by you, your employee, or a member of the public.
- Legal expenses: Covers the potential cost of defending your legal rights in court as a result of an insured event. You’ll also have access to a 24/7 legal advice helpline and an employment manual that provides guidance (and updates) on employment law.
Provided your carer is qualified, our carers insurance policies cover a wide array of healthcare tasks as standard, too.
Working eligibility requirements
If you choose to hire a personal assistant directly, you will need to check their eligibility to work in the UK.
In order to do this, ask to check the people you interview’s passports or ID to confirm they’re a resident of the UK, from the European Economic Area (EEA), or have a visa that means they are eligible to work in the UK.
Tax and National Insurance payments
While you do not run a company, it is still important to ensure your staff undergoes the appropriate checks, receives the correct pay, and is taxed properly. As an employer, you are responsible for conducting these assessments.
If your PA is your employee, you will need to deduct tax and NIC on any payments you issue them under the PAYE system. Read this guide to running payroll for more information.
Paying your employee
It is between you and your employee how much you pay them for their services. You will need to ensure, however, that you are paying them at least the national minimum wage.
Here are the current National Minimum Wage brackets as of April 2022 and for April 2023.
|April 2022 Rates
|National Living Wage
|21 – 22 Year Old Rate
|18 – 20 Year Old Rate
|16 – 17 Year Old Rate
Statutory Sick Pay: how much is it and what are the eligibility criteria?
Your employee is eligible for Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) of £99.35 per week, if they have completed some work for you whilst being employed, earn a minimum of £113 per week (before tax), and have been ill for at least four days in a row (including weekends and non-working days).
Your employee will not be eligible for SSP if they have already received the maximum amount from you, which is 28 weeks, or if they are currently receiving Statutory Maternity Pay.
Statutory annual leave (holiday) entitlement
Full-time workers are legally entitled to 5.6 weeks’ paid holiday a year (28 days). A part-time worker will have their statutory annual leave issued pro-rata to the hours they work per week.
Employes can choose whether or not to include bank holidays as part of a worker’s statutory annual leave.
Statutory maternity leave: what is my employee entitled to?
If your employee is pregnant, they may be entitled to statutory maternity leave when the baby is born. Statutory Maternity Leave and Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) consists of ‘ordinary maternity leave’, which is 26 weeks and ‘additional maternity leave’, which is another 26 weeks, totally 52 weeks.
Employees are paid SMP for up to 39 weeks. GOV.UK states that the amount your employee is paid works out as:
• 90% of their average weekly earnings (before tax) for the first 6 weeks
• £156.66 or 90% of their average weekly earnings (whichever is lower) for the next 33 weeks
Other things you may want to keep in mind that any employees going on maternity leave:
- Ensure you pay your employee for any time off they take for ante-natal classes – this is a legal entitlement for pregnant women.
- Make sure that their work does not pose a health and safety risk to them, for example, lifting anything heavy.
- Confirm your employee’s maternity leave dates with them- your employee is required to disclose this information no later than 15 weeks before their baby is due.
- Work out what pay they are entitled to during their leave (for example, Statutory Maternity Pay or Maternity Allowance for self-employed workers)
This guide provides a useful overview of maternity leave, pay, and other rights for employees. The government website has a helpful employer guide for navigating SMP and what your employee is entitled to.
Disciplinary procedures for employers
In some situations, unfortunately you may need to bring disciplinary action against your Personal Assistant. For example, if you (either as the service user or as a family member/guardian for the person being provided with care) feel that your employee is not meeting health and safety standards.
A disciplinary procedure is an understandably sensitive topic, and it’s important to handle this sensitively. This step-by-step guide to disciplinary procedures for managers covers some key factors you might like to know, including:
- Why to have a disciplinary procedure
- What a disciplinary procedure looks like
- Investigating an allegation of misconduct
- Next steps
We provide redundancy cover on all our direct payments insurance policies, up to £7,000 on our Gold cover.
If you are in a situation in which you need to make your personal assistant redundant (for example, if you are moving into a care home and no longer need a care at home), you will be responsible for any redundancy payments they are due. If you are in this situation, it may be best to contact your account or direct payments authority first.
What happens when your employee resigns?
As the employer of a Personal Assistant, you may also face the situation in which your carer resigns from their position. A few basic procedures to follow here include:
- Asking your employee for written notice of their resignation
- Having an ‘end of contract’ interview to ask your employee if they have any grievances
- Confirm your employees notice period with them and agree their leaving date
- Ensure your employee receives the correct pay (including holiday pay) when their employment ends
Certifications & Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checks
Personal care assistants are not regulated, and therefore do not have to be registered carers unlike if they were working with an agency.
With that said, it would be a good idea to check for yourself that they have the relevant training to provide the appropriate level of care you need. For example, professional private carers should have QCF and NVQ qualifications which include training in providing personal care, as well as lifting/manual handling.
You might also want to make sure that anyone you are interviewing has undergone a criminal record check via the DBS.
Getting help with hiring your PA
For some people, the extra responsibilities that come with organising and hiring your own personal assistant can be quite overwhelming.
If you are using direct payments to hire personal care, you can entrust a friend or family member to be your ‘nominated person’, and help you manage the finance and employment responsibilities that come with hiring a carer.
If you are hiring a carer with your own money, using a care agency can be a good way of finding quality care that suits your needs, without needing to worry about the extra responsibilities of agreeing on a contract with a direct employee, as well as things like organising tax for your employee.
Employing personal assistants resources:
- Skills fo rCare provide a highly informative toolkit to employing personal assistants: Before Your PA Starts & Employing personal assistants
- Curam Care is the UK’s leading online source of private carers, allowing you or your family member to post a job, review applications, hire vetted and insured carers, and arrange their payment all in one place.
- CarersUK provides an in-depth guide into applying for direct payments including who direct payments are open to, and how to apply for them.
- Money Helper: Arranging and Paying for Care. A guide to paying for your care services with direct payments.
- Surewise – This guides on Home employment insurance and Insurance for those employing carers: why is it important? provide more insight into the different types of insurance you might need as an employer of a personal assistant. Our policies make sure you’re fully covered when employing a carer or personal assistant in your own home.
Personal assistants – care and independence
Having personal assistants care for you can give you a great degree of independence. You’ll be able to continue living in your own home, and keep your daily routine as much as possible.
You can be confident that you will see the same person regularly, and that they will help you in a way that suits you.
Lots of people prefer having a personal assistant because they are able to have a tailor-made support package.
Many people find becoming an employer of a PA quite empowering. Having a personal assistant can help people work or go to school, continue or take up hobbies, and live independently in their own home.