Hiring a personal care assistant (PCA) can help you to live independently in your own home and make difficult tasks more manageable. For many people living with a disability, illness, or in need of support for daily tasks, making the decision to hire additional help for their day-to-day needs can be a big decision.
Whether you are using direct payments to hire a personal assistant for your care needs or using your own money to hire additional help, there are certain responsibilities that you will be accountable for in your role as an ’employer’.
Below, we’ve provided a complete guide to what you need to know when hiring a personal assistant for your care needs.
What can a personal assistant/private carer do for you?
First, it’s important to know exactly what your personal assistant can do for you. Of course, everyone will need assistance and support with slightly different things, so your first step is to make a list of the things you would ideally like your PCA to assist you with and check that whoever you are hiring is capable of that.
In short, a private carer’s role is to provide the extra support you need to be able to live as independently as possible in your home. Tasks a personal care assistant may be able to assist you with include:
- Preparing meals
- Help with getting to appointments
- Driving you/helping you to get around
- Assistance with your medication
- Personal care (washing, dressing, getting to the bathroom etc)
- Providing respite for family members that may also care for you
The role of your personal assistant could be part-time or full-time, dependent on your needs. Regardless of the hours they work, hiring a private carer automatically classifies you as an employer.
Using Direct Payments to hire a Personal Assistant
Direct payments are one way you can receive your personal budget to cover the costs of the care and extra support you require, as assessed by your local council. Direct payments are paid directly to you or a nominated third party (such as a family member or spouse) and enable you to hire your own care directly.
Many people like to use their direct payments to employ their own private carer, as this gives you far more control and independence over the level of care you receive and who provides it.
Hiring a carer with direct payments does come with the additional responsibilities of being an employer, however, which means you are responsible for your employee – much the same as if you were using your own money to hire care.
You can find out more about this here:
Hiring a Personal Care Assistant
There are two main ways you could hire a personal assistant.
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 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.
Checking eligibility for working in UK
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.
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.
Drawing up a contract of employment
When hiring a personal assistant directly, you’ll need to draw up a contract of employment with them. The contract will need to include:
- Working hours
- Place of work (i.e. your home)
- Holiday entitlement
- Sick pay
- Notice period
- Terms of termination
Managing your personal assistant’s wages & tax
Carers aged 25 or older must be paid the National Living Wage at a minimum, which is £8.72 per hour (from April 2020). Realistically, to hire someone qualified and experienced enough to deliver a high level of care, you will be paying above minimum wage.
This is especially true if you need a carer with specialist skills, such as administering medication. You may also be required to manage your carer’s tax contributions and national insurance if you hire a carer independently. You can find out more about this via the HMRC website.
Understandably, the many elements that go into hiring a PCA can be overwhelming for some people – you may want to hire carer but not have to deal with the additional responsibilities of being an employer. In this case, using an agency or applying for support from your local council may be a more suitable route for you.
As an employer, you are legally required to have Employer’s Liability Insurance. This covers you should your employee make a claim against you due to suffering an illness, injury, or damage to their property as a result of their work. If using them, your direct payments should be able to help you cover the cost of your insurance.
We provide Direct Payments Insurance and Home Employment Insurance tailored for people hiring their own Personal Assistant directly. Both policy options include employers liability (legally required), as well as public liability and legal expenses cover against potential risks such as claims against you in the event of an injury to your employee, or claims against you or your employee as a result of injury to a third party or damaged/lost property.
Getting help with hiring
For some people, the extra responsibilities that come with organising and hiring your own Personal Care 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.