If you want to arrange extra support at home in later life, you don’t necessarily have to arrange it through a domiciliary care agency. Another option is to hire a private carer to take on various responsibilities. A private individual hired to provide care or support is sometimes called a self-employed carer, a personal assistant or a personal care assistant.
If you hire a personal care assistant, you decide what the role will encompass. For some, this will be helping with personal care, such as washing, dressing or meal times. For others, it might involve help with getting out and about, or household tasks like shopping and cooking. A personal assistant could also help with paying bills or managing a .
There are many reasons you might want to hire a private carer rather than going through an agency, but there are some important factors to be aware of before you go down this route.
On the plus side:
But there are negatives to consider:
If you hire someone to carry out care for you at home – paid by you personally or with from a local authority – it’s your responsibility to establish their employment status. In other words, are they self-employed or will you be their employer?
If you employ an individual directly, who works solely for you and carries out your instructions, then you are probably the employer. If you employ an individual via a business, such as an agency, which has several employees and carries out work for more than one customer, the business will usually be the legal employer.
If a private carer wishes to be considered self-employed, they would need confirm this status with HMRC. Be aware that employment status is not a choice. There have been cases where a court has ruled that a carer who was previously considered ‘self-employed’ is in fact legally an employee.
You’ll need to operate PAYE if the employee earns over a certain amount – the lower earnings limit is £120 per week in 2021-22. If an employee earns more than this amount, you’ll need to deduct Income Tax from their pay.
Before employing someone, you must check they are legally entitled to work in the UK. To establish this, you can either:
You’ll need their date of birth and a right to work share code.
Personal care assistants don’t have to be registered with the . However, if you’re employing a personal assistant, you should check that they’ve had relevant training (such as RQF Adult Care qualifications), including experience of moving and handling of people.
You can accept a previously issued certificate, but you must check that the applicant’s identity matches the details on the certificate, and the certificate is appropriate for the role applied for.
From 1 April 2021 a carer aged 23 or older must be paid at least the National Living Wage of £8.91 per hour. The National Minimum Wage applies to younger employees and is £8.36 an hour for people between the ages of 21 and 22 years, and £6.56 per hour for people aged 18 to 20 years.
Be aware that to get reliable and experienced personal care assistants, you may need to pay well above the National Minimum Wage.
Most employees can’t be required to work more than an average of 48 hours a week unless they expressly agree otherwise. Most workers are also entitled to 5.6 weeks’ paid holiday per year. See for more details.
There is no statutory limit on the amount of time employees may take off due to sickness or injury. If eligible, the employee will be entitled to for up to 28 weeks in any three-year period. The rate of SSP is £96.35 a week for 2021-22.
After one month’s employment, employees are entitled to one week’s minimum period of notice, rising by one week for each year of service up to a maximum of 12 weeks.
All employees have a right not to be unfairly dismissed. Any potential reasons for dismissal should be clearly communicated to an employee before they start working for you. offers more information about notice and dismissal.
Job applicants and employees have the right not to be discriminated against because of age, disability, gender, marriage or civil partnership, pregnancy or maternity, race, religion, or sexual orientation. Equalities legislation also limits the circumstances when you can ask health-related questions before offering someone a job.
Employers must take out employers’ liability insurance and have the option to add public liability insurance, which provides cover for personal injury or damage to property belonging to a third party following negligence by an employer.
Employers must give employees the chance of joining a workplace pension. If a personal care assistant is aged between 22 and the , and earns more than £192 per week on your ‘staging date’, you need to provide a pension scheme. For more on the staging date and compulsory employer contributions, see the .
There are a number of ways to go about finding a private carer.
Word of mouth: Many people find a self-employed carer simply through word of mouth. Ask friends and relatives if they have anyone they could recommend and you’ll often end up with a list of names.
Write an advert: placing an advert in a local paper, shop window, a local college or university, or on a classified ads website such as Gumtree, or community website such as Nextdoor, is another good way to find a private carer. Your local Jobcentre Plus will also advertise your job for free.
Use an introductory agency: some companies act as ‘introductory agencies’ (or matching services) which can help you find suitably trained and vetted carers. Introductory agencies recruit home carers, do background checks and often provide training. But although the carers are recommended by the agency, they won’t be under their direct supervision. The family or person receiving the care is legally involved in a direct contract with the carer and they are directly responsible for paying the carer, rather than the agency. Remember to check the fees the agency charges for this service.
If you’re happy to go ahead and employ a private carer, meeting someone in person for an informal interview can give you a good idea of whether they will be suitable or not. Try to shortlist two or three candidates, if you can, to give you a range of people to choose from.
Before the interview, make a list of any ‘rules of employment’ you want them to abide by. Discuss these up front to gauge how each carer feels about them. Examples might include:
When you've found someone you want to hire, request references (preferably written) from their previous two employers.
Write a simple job description, detailing their specific duties, so they’ll be clear about what’s required of them. Employees have the right to receive a written statement of their terms of employment within two months of starting work. It’s good practice to draw up a contract before the employee starts which includes all the required information.
If you want to avoid the responsibilities of being an employer, one alternative is to use a service broker who can act as an intermediary. Brokers help to arrange the support that you need, and assist with recruitment and employment issues. Your local authority or local might be able to recommend a broker in your area.