Employing your own care worker

First published on 23 of March 2018 • Updated 11 of April 2018

If you need someone to provide care for you at home, the simplest way to find a care worker is through an agency. However, you also have the option of hiring someone directly. Here you can find out what is involved in hiring a care worker yourself, why you might choose to do this, and what your responsibilities will be as their employer.

The practicalities of hiring a care worker yourself

There is no reason why you can’t employ your own care worker directly, particularly if you already have someone in mind. The main advantage of doing so is that it might be slightly cheaper for you, as you won’t be paying for an agency’s overheads.

However, this approach can end up putting more of a burden on you (or on a family member) as you will be the care worker’s employer. For example, employing someone directly means that you have to:

  • Comply with the law – as an employer you have a number of legal responsibilities
  • Cover time off – when your care worker is sick or on holiday, you will need to organise alternative care yourself
  • Deal with any problems – if you have any issues with a care worker in your direct employment, it can be awkward to address these (whereas a care agency will have complaint procedures in place)

Your responsibilities as an employer

If you do choose to hire your own care worker, what are your legal responsibilities regarding them? Here’s a summary of what you (or a family member) will need to do.

  • Background checks – First of all you must makes sure your care worker has the legal right to work in the UK. It’s also in your own interests to check their training, qualifications and references from previous employees, along with a criminal records check as well. You must also take care not to discriminate against an employee on the grounds of age, race, religion, personal relationships, family life or sexual orientation.
  • Register with HMRC – To be an employer, you need to register with HMRC through the government website.
  • Draw up a contract – Having a signed contract between you both isn’t a legal requirement, but they do have the right to ask for one, and if they do you must oblige. Legal advice is useful here.    
  • Pay them correctly – You need to make sure you pay at least the National Minimum Wage, and you must deduct tax and National Insurance if they earn over a certain amount – this process is called PAYE and is a legal requirement. You’ll also need to understand how much sick pay they are entitled to. They may also be entitled to a workplace pension, in which you will have to enrol them.
  • Manage their time – Your care worker is entitled to time off, and should usually work no more than 48 hours per week (unless you have organised live-in care and have a different arrangement). When they take time off, you will need to arrange for someone else to support you.
  • Take out insurance – Every employer should have employers’ liability insurance to protect you in unforeseen circumstances.
  • Follow dismissal rules – If you no longer want to employ your care worker, you must give them appropriate notice.

Can I get financial help?

If you have had a means test that confirms you are eligible for financial help from the council, you can use it to help pay for your care worker. Instead of appointing a care worker for you (which is an option), the council can provide you with ‘direct payments to help pay for your own care worker.

If you receive direct payments, you will need to keep accurate accounts to prove that you have used the funds to pay for a care worker and not for any other expenditure.

What if I don’t want to employ a care worker directly?

As you can see, employing a care worker can be a major responsibility, and involves quite a few potential pitfalls. For this reason, most people who need homecare choose to hand over this responsibility to a care agency. Though the cost of an agency may be a little more, you have the peace of mind of knowing the care worker’s employment is being managed by someone else, and that replacement care is only a moment away if your current care worker is unavailable for any reason.

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