Hiring a PA is a serious business. Not only are there considerations regarding the role itself to think about, you’ll also need to get to know at least a little bit about becoming an employer.

Here’s brief guide…

By Amy Armstrong

Disabled people sometimes need assistance with everyday tasks such as eating, washing and dressing. Local authorities within the UK have a legal obligation to provide or arrange services that promote independence for disabled people – under the Care Act 2014. They are obliged to offer a personal budget for anyone eligible for social care funding.

Care services provided by the local authority may not be to your liking and you might prefer to hire a personal assistant (PA). You can use direct payments from your local authority, which are paid into a bank account, to help fund this. However, by taking on a personal assistant, you become an employer with a number of associated obligations.

The following is a checklist which outlines the legal and financial issues to take into consideration, as well as the rights of your employee.

Finding a Suitable PA

Firstly, set out a list of exactly what you will need your PA to help you with. A job description needs to include everything the job may entail to ensure the employee is suitable. Your direct payments advisor can help with the wording of your job description as well as organisations such as Mencap and Age UK. There are then a number of methods of advertising the role such as through job centres, word of mouth, newspapers, disability organisations and online. You can check if someone has the legal right to work in the UK at:  https://www.gov.uk/check-job-applicant-right-to-work

Pay Matters

The pay rate varies depending on age in the UK. Skills and your funding also come into account when it comes to determining the amount you will pay your employee. By law, you have to pay national minimum wage. The national minimum wage changes regularly and can be found at: www.gov.uk/national-minimum wage. You should pay your employee by cheque or bank transfer. You can do this yourself or using a payroll provider.

You may also be responsible for tax and National Insurance deductions from your employee’s wage via PAYE. (PAYE is HM Revenue and Customs’ collection of income tax and national insurance.) You don’t need to register for PAYE if none of your employees are paid £113 or more a week, get expenses and benefits, have another job or get a pension. However, it is essential to keep payroll records. Visit: www.gov.uk/paye-for-employers to find out more.

Sick pay

Your employee is entitled to statutory sick pay and has to be off for four or more consecutive days (including non-work days) to receive this. days (including non-work days) to receive this. Your employee continues to accrue annual leave during periods of sickness. Visit: www.gov.uk/employers-sick-pay for further details.

Holidays and pay

Most workers that work a five day week are legally entitled to 5.6 weeks paid holidays per year. Bank holidays are generally included in this. However, for a PA role it is likely they will work irregular hours and may only be part time – you can calculate their leave entitlement at: www.gov.uk/calculate-your-holiday-entitlement.

The most important thing of all is finding the right person to work for you. Although it is a very personal role with a high level of care required, it is still a professional arrangement.

Disclosure and Barring (DBS) Checks

If you’re employing someone to help you manage your disability and help you with eating or washing etc, you have the right to find out if they have a criminal record. You can carry out an enhanced check and a barred list check.

Enhanced check with barred lists

This will show spent and unspent convictions, cautions, reprimands, final warnings and any info held by the local police that could be relevant to the role. It will also show if the applicant is on a list of people barred from doing the role. Although this is not mandatory, it is recommended if you are letting the prospective worker into your home and helping with personal care. For more information about DBS checks and how to go about requesting them, visit: www.gov.uk/dbs-check-applicant-criminal-record

Drawing up the Contract

Under the Care Act, local councils are obliged to provide advice to disabled people. You can receive advice and support when putting together the employment paperwork and payroll arrangements to coincide with employment law. When drawing up a contract it must stipulate a number of things, from working hours, pay, breaks and place of work, amongst other things. The contract must always be kept up-to-date and be signed by your employee to say they agree with their terms of employment.

Employers’ Liability Insurance

You must have an insurance policy in place by law. It must cover you against liability for an employee’s injury or an injury caused by the PA whilst at work. Your local council and support service should direct you to an appropriate provider.

Workplace Pension Responsibilities

You may need to enroll your PA into a workplace pension scheme. You can get in contact with the Pensions Regulator for advice with this. Visit: www.pensionsregulator.gov.uk

Your employee will need to be enrolled into a workplace pension scheme if they are not already in one, are aged between 22 and State Pension age and earn more than £10,000 a year. Once your employee is enrolled into the workplace pension, you as the employer will need to pay into the scheme.

NB: If your PA is hired through an agency – you are not the employer, the agency is.