Guidance for individual employers on recruiting self-employed personal assistants

Personal Assistant (PA) employment status is not a matter of choice; it depends on the circumstances. The most likely situation is that your PA should be employed directly by you; it is very rare that a PA would be considered self-employed by HMRC (the UKs tax, payments and customs authority).

A PA is likely to be employed if:

  • You decide what work is done, how it’s done, when it’s done and who does it
  • They can’t send someone else to do their work

What is a PA?

  • A PA is usually someone who is employed directly by a person who needs care and support, or a friend, family member or other representative.
  • A PA always works directly with the person they’re supporting in a person-centred way and are likely to be involved in many aspects of their employer’s life. They may be asked to provide support in the home, at leisure or at work.

What is an Individual Employer (IE)?

  • An IE is someone who directly employs a PA using a personal budget (from either health or social care) or their own money (as a self-funder) for themselves or for someone else who needs care and support.
  • By recruiting a PA, individuals become an employer and take on all the responsibilities that entails.

What is Employment Status?

Employment status is a word used to explain the working arrangement between you and your PA.

  • Employed.
    Where you directly employ a PA using a personal budget or your own money. These PAs have employment rights and have more rights than those employed as ‘workers’.
  • Self-employed.
    Where the PA runs their own business and you contract them to provide a service. These PAs don’t have employment rights and responsibilities.
  • Worker.
    Where you employ a PA under a more casual arrangement where work may not always be guaranteed (for example to provide sickness or holiday cover for your usual PAs)

Why is the employment status of PAs important?

  • It helps to determine your PAs rights and your responsibilities as an employer or an engager of PAs (an engager is someone who doesn’t directly employ a PA but pays them or an organisation to provide services)
  • It makes sure that you and your PA pay the right amount of tax and national insurance. If the employment status of your PA is wrong, you and your PAs may have to pay unpaid tax and penalties or you could lose your entitlement to benefits.
  • A PAs employment status is not a matter of choice; it depends on the circumstances. It is important to make sure that you carry out your own checks to make sure that the status for the working arrangement between you and your PA is correct.

How does it tend to work?

Looking at the list below you’ll see that the jobs get more complex the further down they go.

Jobs towards the top are quite simple, and are more likely to be done in a self employed capacity.

Towards the end of the list the jobs get more complex, and are more likely to be done as an employee.

  • Gardening
  • Shopping
  • Dog-Walking
  • Cleaning

  • Support to access local community and socialise

  • Support with personal care
  • Assisting with moving
  • Providing meals

  • Delegated health care tasks
  • Life-limiting illnesses

  • End of life / palliative care

This is not a definitive list, nor does it mean there are not exceptions at every level. But it offers a general idea of the kind of jobs that are more likely to be self employed, and those that are more likely to be done by specialist employees.

Further reading

The UK Government website has lots of information about staffing and employment status, in particular their “Check Employment Status for Tax” service. This help employers or individuals to check the employment status of any workers:

ACAS offers lots of advice about employment status, employee rights and employer responsibilities. Their information about employing personal care workers and working out employment status is really useful:

The disability Tax Guide website contains information from the Low Incomes Reform Group, offering information about individual employment, employment status and other tax matters:

HMRC produced a video to help PAs decide if they are employed or self-employed for tax purposes, which can be viewed on Youtube here:

Skills for Care offer a great deal of information around employment and support of staff. They also offer advice for PAs about the role, in particular: