Employing a personal assistant

If you or your child have care and support needs that require assistance to live an independent life, you may be interested in employing your own staff, such as a personal assistant. Some personal assistants operate as self-employed, please find guidance at the bottom of this page.

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Employing a personal assistant – an introduction

If you (or your child) need care and support to live an independent life, you may be interested in employing your own staff such as a personal assistant (PA).

Employing your own staff means you get to choose who provides your (or your child’s) care and support on an individual basis. Having the same person regularly means they are aware of any routines and individual needs.

Personal assistants are usually paid out of a person’s direct payments which they receive from the council. You are classed as an employer if you pay a personal assistant directly, even if you get money from the council. You need therefore to be aware of some important information and ensure that you do certain things both before hiring, and while employing someone.

There are a number of laws and systems in place to make sure that both you (as the employer) and your personal assistant (as the employee) are protected and treated fairly and safely. You can find information on these below; however, the council asks that you do not start the recruitment process until you have spoken to a direct payment support provider. This also applies if you already know who you want to work for you, as the council needs to ensure that you are employing them legally.

If you employ a PA, during your direct payment review the council will discuss the employment arrangement with you. The council is responsible for checking that you are fulfilling your responsibilities as an employer, and, if relevant may ask for information and documents relating to this.

What a personal assistant does

The role can include some or all of the following:

  • social support, for example help to go shopping or out for a meal, meet friends, engage in leisure activities and interests, or gaining education
  • help with personal care such as washing and toileting, showering, dressing, eating and drinking, help to shave, brush hair or put on make-up
  • independent living support such as meal preparation, paying bills, administration and paperwork.
  • mobility (including assisting with mobility aids), for example pushing a wheelchair
  • supporting their employer to make healthy living choices such as taking exercise and sorting out medication

Your care and support plan (or your child’s education, health and care plan) will clearly set out what the eligible needs are, and which outcomes are funded by the council. It will also set out the way that you have chosen to meet these outcomes. 

How to find a personal assistant

Finding the right personal assistant is important, and it can be difficult to know where to begin. There are many ways you can advertise for a personal assistant, however it is important to think about the job you are asking them to apply for, as well also your own safety during the recruitment process.

Skills for care have a useful ‘Recruiting a personal assistant’ toolkit on their website.

The council recommend that:

  • you do not put your home address, telephone number, or details about yourself on the job advert
  • you could ask the Jobcentre to advertise for you, they have their own process which will help you to stay safe or you can perhaps use a mailbox number
  • You make sure you ask for two written job references from the people you interview and follow them up
  • When you interview people, do it away from your home address if you can and have someone with you to support you
  • When the PA starts working with you, it is advisable to arrange for a friend, parent or someone you trust to spend  time with you when your PA begins

If you have autism, Skills for Care have also produced “How to be a great autistic individual employer guide” to help.

Get support employing a personal assistant

If you employ a personal assistant, you must comply with current employment laws.

You must obtain support to do this from a direct payment support provider. These providers offer support from the start through to the end of the recruitment process, and on an ongoing basis if you need help to manage your direct payments.

If you are intending to recruit personal assistants, the council needs to know that you are in touch with one of these providers so you can receive the correct advice.

For more information on support providers see the direct payments support providers article.


Appropriate insurance must be in place before your PA can start work:

  • Employers’ Liability Insurance - It is a legal requirement to obtain employers’ liability insurance as soon as you become an employer. This will provide essential cover for situations such as if your PA has an accident in your home, or becomes ill as a result of working for you. You can read more about employer’s liability insurance at GOV.UK.
  • Public liability insurance – this will insure you against any damages or injury caused to someone else either by you or your PA while working for you.

The council will fund the cost of this insurance within your personal budget as part of your direct payment. The council will strongly advise you take out a policy that covers you in the event that your PA takes you to an industrial tribunal, or you need to make someone redundant.

There are terms and conditions you must follow and these will be explained by the insurance company.  The council do not provide recommendations for insurance providers, but your direct payments support provider will share with you which companies provide this insurance so that you can choose one.

Other insurance to consider:

Comprehensive house insurance - to cover your property and its contents, including cover for accidental damage. You should tell your insurer that you are employing people to work in your house.

Travel and car insurance – for example if your personal assistant is going to be using your car. If the PA is driving your vehicle, you will need to add them to the insurance policy of your vehicle. If you will be travelling with your personal assistant in their car, they will need to be insured to use their car for business purposes. You must advise your PA to contact their insurance company and request business use cover and show you a copy of this.  Most insurance companies do not charge for this cover.

You are not required to provide insurance for self-employed PAs or agency workers, as this is the responsibility of the PA or their employing agency. You can however ask to see a copy of proof of cover before buying services with your direct payment. You should seek advice before recruiting anyone who claims to be self-employed.

Disclosure and Barring Service checks

The council strongly recommends that Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checks are carried out on personal assistants.  They are essential if the personal assistant is providing support to a young person aged under 18, or if there are children or young people in the home while the personal assistant is working. You must discuss this with your social worker who will advise when a DBS check must be undertaken for anyone you use to provide services.

Your direct payment support provider can also carry out a DBS check on the person you want to employ, and you can pay for this from your direct payment money. This will help you to make safer recruitment decisions. You can find out more information about DBS checks from GOV.UK.

Keeping safe

Abuse can take many forms such as physical, emotional, financial, neglect or sexual.

Harm is when someone does or says things to make you upset or frightened. You may be too scared to speak out or to stop them.

If someone has concerns that harm or abuse is taking place, this is called a ‘safeguarding concern’.

Staff (including personal assistants) who have contact with vulnerable adults have a duty to report any safeguarding concerns, despite any confidentiality clauses. They have a duty to act in a timely manner on any concern or suspicion that an adult who is vulnerable is being abused or is at risk of being abused, neglected or exploited.

Your personal assistant should:

  • be aware of and understand local safeguarding procedures
  • call the police and/or an ambulance where appropriate in situations where the abuse of the adult indicates an urgent need for medical treatment, or where there is immediate risk of harm
  • make a report to the police, and if a crime has been committed, ensure action is taken to preserve evidence
  • know what services are available and how to access help and advice for the vulnerable adult
  • know how and where to make a referral
  • keep a clear factual record of your concerns and any action taken
  • attend a safeguarding alerter course run by the council.

It is important if you or someone you know is being abused, that you tell someone so that they can help. You can use the following numbers:

01454 868007 ‐ Monday to Friday
01454 615165 ‐ Out of hours/Weekends
In an emergency call 999

You can visit our Adult Safeguarding website for more information on adult abuse.

Please report any safeguarding concerns you have about a child using the following numbers: 

01454 866000 ‐ Monday to Thursday 9am ‐ 5pm, Friday 9am - 4.30pm
01454 615165 ‐ Out of hours and at weekends

In an emergency please ring 999

Further information is available on the South Gloucestershire Children's Partnership Website

Employing people legally

You must check that a job applicant is allowed to work for you in the UK before you employ them.

GOV.UK has information on checking an applicant’s right to work in the UK.

Keeping records

By law you need to keep the following records – these are called statutory records:

  • tax and national insurance information
  • for most workers it is advisable to keep records of individual hours worked, therefore enable averaging over a certain period to meet the requirements of the Working Time Regulations 1998
  • holidays, again for meeting requirements of the Working Time Regulations 1998
  • pay, to ensure the requirements of the Minimum Wage Act 1998 are being met and to meet the statutory requirement that workers are issued with pay statements
  • paid sickness and Statutory Sick Pay
  • accidents, injuries, diseases and dangerous occurrences, the Health and Safety Executive can advise on particular requirements and necessary assessments

GOV.UK has information on keeping records regarding income tax, national insurance and payroll.

All confidential information should be stored in a secure place.  Further information is available on GOV.UK.

Contract of employment

You must make sure that you have an agreement between yourself and the person you employ. It means that both you and your personal assistant will be clear about each other’s responsibilities. This needs to be place from the day your PA starts work for you.

GOV.UK has information on what should be included in the contract. Your direct payment support provider can also advise on this and provide you with a model contract.

If you want to make any changes to the contract of employment, you must get your personal assistant’s agreement. You will need to consult with your personal assistant, explain the reasons for any changes and listen to alternative ideas for changes. If you do not, your personal assistant may have the right to take legal action. Once any changes are agreed, you must confirm these in writing within one month of the changes being made.

Skills for Care have developed a range of support for individual employers to help them to understand their responsibilities and complete any necessary checks before employing a personal assistant:

You can also find more information about employing someone to work in your home on GOV.UK

Health and safety

You have a legal responsibility to make sure that your personal assistant remains safe and healthy whilst doing their job.

What you must do:

  • carry out  risk assessments on your home, including pets or any animals you keep
  • think about any training your personal assistant might need
  • tell your personal assistant about health and safety, including fire safety.
  • record (and possibly report) any accidents that take place in your home.
  • take out employers’ liability insurance (see ‘Insurance’ above)

If you employ five or more people you will need a health and safety policy. The Health and Safety Executive website and helpline has lots of support and free leaflets, including a model policy.

There are also templates for safety in the home and risk assessments available in the Skills for Care Employing Personal Assistants Toolkit.

Paying wages, deducting tax and national insurance

If you are going to employ a personal assistant, the council will fund your direct payment at an hourly rate higher than the amount we recommend you pay your personal assistant. It is important not to pass on the full hourly rate to your personal assistant, as this would mean that you would not have enough to pay the other costs of being an employer, for example holiday pay and cover, pensions and payroll costs.  Your direct payment support provider can advise you on rates of pay.

You must pay your employee at least the National Minimum Wage. This changes every year so call the Pay and Work Rights Helpline on 0300 123 1100 for the latest rate or go to www.gov.uk/national-minimum-wage. You must also always give your PA a payslip.

Personal assistants must be paid at least the national living wage (or the national minimum wage for workers 24 and under) while they are on call or working a sleepover (this includes sleeping time).  The guideline rate that the council recommends should be paid to personal assistants is at the national minimum wage level.

Most direct payment users choose to use a payroll provider. It is convenient, saves time and ensures you are paying your personal assistants and deducting taxes and other contributions correctly. The provider also tells you how much Employer’s National Insurance to pay. They will sort out your paperwork and deal with the tax office (HMRC) for you. You can ask your direct payment support service about payroll providers. You can also compare prices from local accountants. Costs for payroll services are built into the hourly rate that is paid to service users.

If you want to organise paying your staff yourself, you will need to contact HMRC to register as an employer. You can do this up to 4 weeks before you pay your new staff.

HMRC has developed a programme of webinars (online seminars) suitable for people employing personal assistants. These cover issues such as payroll responsibilities, how to deal with expenses and benefits, and PAYE in real time: www.gov.uk/government/news/webinars-emails-and-videos-on-employing-people


New laws relating to pensions mean that every employer in the UK must put certain staff into a pension scheme and contribute towards it. This is called ‘automatic enrolment’.

As an employer, you will have duties in relation to everyone working for you:

  • who is aged between 16 and 74
  • who works in the UK
  • for whom you deduct income tax and National Insurance contributions from their wages

What you need to do will depend on whether you employ someone classified as a ‘worker’. Whether someone is a worker depends on the person’s age, and how much they earn. If the personal assistants you employ are workers, you must set them up with a pension scheme.

People employing personal assistants will have to consider whether the personal assistants qualify automatically for a workplace pension. Some personal assistants must be auto-enrolled into a workplace pension which the employer must pay into. These workers are called ‘eligible jobholders’. Some personal assistants do not have to be auto-enrolled but will have the right to opt into a workplace pension which the employer must pay into – these workers are called ‘non-eligible jobholders’. Others have a right to join a workplace pension, but the employer does not have to contribute – these are called ‘entitled workers’.

Skills for care have more information about types of workers and pensions in their ‘Before your personal assistant starts’ toolkit.

Only workers over the age of 22 and who are paid more than £192 a week or £833 a month have to be automatically enrolled.

The employer, the employee and the government all contribute to the pension. The employer must pay a minimum contribution of 3% of the workers earnings as a pension contribution.

Your direct payments contingency can be used for the costs relating to setting up and paying into a pension. Costs will be for your monthly contribution to your workers’ pension, and may include payments to the pension provider.

Your payroll provider can organise your pension payments for you and make the whole process as straightforward as possible.  Your payroll provider may also ask you to increase the payment to them for the help they provide to make pension payments.

If you do not have the funding to cover this in your direct payment, contact the council on 01454 868007 or speak to your social worker, for disabled children please speak to your social worker.

The Pensions Regulator website has more information.

You can also call: 0345 600 1011
or email: customersupport@autoenrol.tpr.gov.uk


You need to make sure any staff you employ are able to carry out the tasks you expect of them, and that you do not put yourself or them at risk of injury.

The council strongly recommends that you identify and access training courses relevant to your own training needs so you can provide formal guidance and training to your PAs. This could mean attending some courses together with your PA.

If your PA has not already undertaken training, these are the types of courses you might need to consider:

  • moving and handling
  • first aid
  • infection control
  • food hygiene
  • administration of medication
  • health and safety

Skills for care have developed an ‘information hub’ that contains a range of information and available support from a variety of sources:

Training provided by South Gloucestershire Council

Personal assistants who support South Gloucestershire service users can attend South Gloucestershire Council training sessions at no cost. If you are a PA and are interested in any of these courses you should talk to your employer. If the course is relevant to your job, your employer will pay for you to attend out of their direct payment.

To book a place for yourself or your PA on these courses email: HRWorkforceDevelopment@southglos.gov.uk or call 01454 868963.

If the personal assistant takes a course at a time they normally work, you will need to arrange for another member of staff or agency to cover for you.

All personal assistants will benefit from the Safeguarding Alerter course as this raises awareness of abuse and what personal assistants and others should do if they come across it.

Many courses are held in the council’s training centre at Kingswood Civic Centre. Full directions will be given when booking and refreshments are available on all courses.

The following courses may be of interest to you. For further details of each course visit https://learning.southglos.gov.uk/cpd/portal.asp, search and select a category for individual course overviews, dates, and how to book.

 General courses:

  • Administration of Medication
  • Basic Clinical Skills Training
  • Level 2 Award in Food Safety (Basic Food Hygiene)
  • Health, Safety and Personal Care
  • Manual Handling Induction
  • Manual Handling Refresher
  • Mental Capacity Act Essentials
  • Understanding and Responding to Anger and Aggression
  • Being Person Centred
  • Safeguarding Adults Alerter
  • Essential Skills for Dignity in Care
  • Emergency First Aid
  • Disability Equality at Work

Courses for personal assistants working with older people and/or people with mental health issues:

  • Anxiety and Depression
  • Understanding Loss and end of Life Care Training  – Module 1
  • Understanding Loss and end of Life Care Training -Module 2
  • Mental Health Awareness
  • Connecting with People who have Dementia
  • Understanding Personality Disorder

 For personal assistants working with people with learning difficulties:

  • Supporting People with Learning Disabilities Module 1
  • Supporting People with Learning Disabilities Module 2
  • Introduction to Signalong
  • Understanding Autistic Spectrum Conditions (Level 1 awareness training)
  • Supporting Adults with Autism (Level 2 training)

Impairment specific training:

  • Visual Impairment Awareness
  • Deaf Awareness
  • Epilepsy Awareness
  • Epilepsy Refresher
  • Stroke Awareness

 Courses for personal assistants working with children:

  • Children’s and Young People’s Development e-module
  • Awareness of Abuse and Neglect e-module
  • Working with Children with Disabilities e-module 

Lifeskills training

Lifeskills are offering free training to personal assistants in South Gloucestershire who support someone with a learning disability and would benefit from using the Lifeskills realistic interactive safety education centre based in Bristol.

Training scenarios can be used to practice anything, from everyday situations such as crossing the road and shopping, to dealing with emergency situations such as a house fire or first aid incident.

You can find more information and how to book:

Financial monitoring and contingency balances

The council will review your expenditure on a regular basis and may reclaim any unspent funding.

Sometimes funding builds up in the direct payment card account, above the four weeks contingency that service users are able to keep in their account (8 weeks for children). If this happens we will contact you to discuss the reasons, and if the funding can be returned to the council.

The contingency balance is particularly for people who are employing their own personal assistants, and is to cover the costs of employment such as:

  • annual employer’s liability insurance
  • support when a personal assistant is off sick or on a training course
  • paying personal assistants to attend training courses
  • the cost of payroll services
  • the cost of disclosure and barring services checks
  • the cost of pensions for your personal assistants
  • any tax or national insurance  contributions you need to make
  • any gloves or aprons your personal assistant needs to use

If you are using direct payments to pay for agency support, you may bank unused hours if you require more support at a particular time.

Keeping on track – if something goes wrong

Occasionally things will happen or changes occur and you will need to talk to someone about what to do.

If your needs are not being met, the council may have a responsibility to become involved in helping you. A review, or reassessment of your needs may need to take place. The council may have to arrange services for a period of time or support you to enable you to carry on using direct payments.

If you are assisting with managing direct payments for someone else, you should contact the council and let them know about any changes.

Although you will have planned what to do if your PA goes off sick, takes annual leave or does not show up for work, sometimes the best laid plans do not always work. The council has a responsibility to help you meet your outcomes as identified in your support plan, so if  this happens contact them.

If things are not going well with your PA, you should contact your current direct payment support organisation as soon as possible. Any employment situation can run into problems with absences, performance issues and sometimes disputes. The sooner these issues are addressed the better. You can get advice and guidance from the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS).

If you get into any difficulty you can contact the council on 01454 868007 for advice and support, for disabled children please speak to your social worker.  Your insurance provider can also give you advice on employment situations.

A note about self-employed personal assistants

You should seek advice from your direct payment support service before recruiting anyone who claims to be self-employed.

It is your responsibility to decide on the correct employment status of someone that works for you. You need to check the person supporting you can be classed as self-employed,  as you could become liable for tax and national insurance payments backdated from when they commenced working for you. Your direct payment may be suspended or end if the council are not satisfied that the arrangements in place comply with HMRC requirements.

If you are unsure of the employment status of someone that works for you, you can use the HMRC checklist online. Take a note of the unique reference number provided, plus retain a copy of the questions and the answers you provided. This will need to be produced should a query arise at a later date.

If you are unable to use the online checklist or are unsure of your worker’s employment status you can call the HMRC Status Customer Service Team on 03000 527450, 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday, except bank holidays.

Skills for Care have a host of useful information for those employing PAs and accessing support from agencies and self-employed PAs.  This includes the ‘Understanding the employment status of personal assistants (PAs)’ guide, which is in the external links section of this page.

If your worker is confirmed as self-employed by HMRC, you will not become the employer. The self-employed worker must have insurance and show you a copy of their insurance cover.

A self-employed PA should provide you with a contract of the service they are going to provide to you. This needs to include details such as notice required to cancel service, the work they are going to carry out and how much they are going to charge. It is advisable to get something in writing from the PA stating they will be responsible for paying their own tax and national insurance payments to HMRC.

A self-employed person can choose if and when they work for you. You must decide if this will work for you.

The PA should provide you with an invoice for the work they have done, ideally four weekly or monthly. The council would advise you ask the PA to sign the invoice to say you have paid them or obtain a receipt for any payments you make. Self-employed workers are not entitled to paid annual leave. If you have more than one PA, they will each need to invoice and be paid separately.