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Need help in the home caring for another person? Employing a personal assistant is an alternative to a residential or nursing home.

They are a person who is employed to support someone to live as independently as possible. They can carry out a wide range of tasks to help you to stay independent. Depending on your specific needs, some of the things they can help you with include:

  • personal care
  • cooking meals
  • grocery shopping
  • accessing community and social opportunities
  • developing independent living skills

You have a say in what your personal assistant does for you and what hours they work. 

Employing your own personal assistant can give you more choice and control over the way your needs are met. You get more independence and freedom, without having to rely on family members.

You can pay for a personal assistant with your own money or with your direct payment if you receive one from the council. It is cheaper to employ one than using an agency, so the money goes further.

Finding a personal assistant

If you pay for your own care and you would like help to employ a personal assistant, you may contact these agencies to find one. You can also ask your social worker to contact them about getting a personal assistant on your behalf. 

Dorset Advocacy

PRO Disability (Poole Rights Organisation on Disability)

Curam Care provides a directory of carers.

Help and Kindness provides a list of community care micro providers.

Advertise and Interview

To find a personal assistant, you will first need to advertise your requirements. Think about placing advertisements locally, for example on community noticeboards, newsagents' windows, in the local newspaper, or on job recruitment sites.

Once the applications come in, decide which applicants meet the requirements of your job.

You will then need to interview your chosen applicants. We recommend you ask everyone the same questions and make notes. It's a chance to find out whether you might get along. You also need to ask for proof of legal entitlement to work in the UK.

When you have chosen an applicant you can give them a call to let them know but you will also need to offer the job in writing.

You will need to carry out checks for the successful candidate. You should send for 2 references (one should always be from a previous job) and get a Disclosure and Barring Service check.

Being an employer

Becoming an employer of a personal assistant involves being assertive and being clear when defining expectations. This helps to create a good relationship.

You must draw up a contract with conditions of employment and a six-month probation period for your assistant so that everyone is clear and understands their roles. We also recommend having regular meetings with them.

It is good practice to meet with your personal assistant before they start so that you can show them the tasks you want them to undertake and introduce them to other people. You must take out employer's liability insurance, by law, before your assistant starts work. 

Please seek advice before dismissing staff to make sure you do it correctly.

You may find it useful to speak to someone who is already employing a Personal Assistant.

Skills for care has information and advice about employing your own Personal Assistant including your responsibilities and legal obligations as an employer.

You should ensure that all employee's statutory rights are met. Create a budget that ensures that the national minimum wage is met and that holiday cover and employer's national insurance contributions are covered. This will include statutory holiday entitlement (5.6 weeks), statutory sick pay, pay in lieu of notice, and redundancy.

Allowing an amount to cover the unexpected is also advisable.

Register as an employer with H.M. Revenue & Customs (HMRC) for tax purposes and ensure all taxes are paid and HMRC requirements are met.

Monitor whether your employee is eligible for a workplace pension.

Provide your employee with a statement of employment and keep records of hours worked, when sick and holiday leave is taken and payroll information for 3 years.

Ensure risk and health & safety assessments are carried out.

Are personal assistants employed or self-employed?

HMRC (Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs) decides whether a personal Assistant is self-employed or employed based on the type of work that they do. It is not as simple as you and the person you work for just deciding what kind of employment arrangement you would like.

This is important because if a personal assistant working as self-employed is found to be employed then their client can become liable for all the tax that should have been paid.

The law says that it is the nature of the arrangement between the worker and the person paying them which determines whether the work is being done on an employed or self-employed basis.

HMRC advises that a personal assistant is almost always ‘employed’ if they:

  • have to do the work themselves i.e. it would not be acceptable for them to send someone else
  • work for only one person
  • are told how, when and where they will do their work
  • have to work a set amount of hours at times set by the client
  • are paid a regular amount according to the hours they have worked, and get paid for working overtime.

This means that a personal assistant might work for some people and be self-employed but work for others on an employed basis because of the nature of the work.

The rules are the same whether the person paying the worker is paying them privately or whether they are using Direct Payments provided by the Council.

Where to get advice

You can contact HMRC by calling their mobile-friendly general enquiries helpline – the contact number to call is 0300 200 3300

If you are unsure whether a contract would be considered self-employment or employment, check with HMRC:

What about training?

Skills for Care provide funding for training for PAs/Carers such as moving and handling, and also for yourself for things like making contracts.

You might have to think about any training your chosen Personal Assistant might need before they start work.

Useful information:

Skills for Care offer an 'Employing Personal Assistant Toolkit. Hard copies of the 'Employing Personal Assistants Toolkit' can also be requested from Skills for Care by emailing marketing@skillsforcare.or.uk.

A wealth of templates can also be accessed via the toolkit link, it is best practice to use such templates when producing documents for your personal assistant.

You can calculate a personal assistant's holiday entitlement by using Government holiday entitlement rights

Employers should utilise the Employment Law Advice Service for any employment law-related queries and for checking any contracts and disciplinary/grievance processes, etc.

Sign up for information from Dorset Council

If you would like to receive information from Dorset Council to support you as a personal assistant. Email to Dorset.Carers@dorsetcc.gov.uk, providing a contact name and email address.