Guide to employing private individuals

Care at home options from Bright Care

One way to get in support elderly care for a loved one by employing private individuals to directly to work for you in the care of your relative. This can be used as an alternative to using a professional care service. Sometimes this can work out more cost effective, although there can also be many pitfalls in going down this particular road, and it is not always advisable for someone who does not have experience in employing people and managing them effectively.

Sometimes families may choose to hire someone to carry out care and support for a relative at home, paid for by either you or with contributions through direct payments.  This means you maybe  legally be classed as an employer, which brings with it certain responsibilities. There may be cases where your relative would take on the employer’s responsibilities, but we shall assume in this case it is going to be you.

First, you need to establish if you are legally the employer. If you employ an individual directly as a personal assistant, who works solely for you and carries out your instructions, they are probably the employer (see the provisos below). If you employ an individual via a business, such as a care agency, which has several employees and carries out work for more than one customer, this business will be the legal employer.

If you are an employer

There are several things that you must do:

Operate PAYE

You will need to operate PAYE (deduct Income Tax and National Insurance contributions from their pay and pay employer’s National Insurance contributions) if the employee earns over a certain amount. For 2023-24, this Lower Earnings Limit (LEL) is £123 per week. For more information, see the HMRC website. Or speak to our Bright Care’s payroll specialist for free general advice.

Register as an employer

If you are employing someone, you will have to register with the HMRC as an employer. Read more on how to do this, and when it must be done, here.

Carry out employee checks

Equalities legislation limits the circumstances when you can ask health-related questions before offering someone a job. Further information is available from ACAS.

Before employing someone, you must check that they are legally entitled to work in the UK. It’s a criminal offence to employ someone you know, or have reasonable cause to believe, is an illegal worker.

You must check the person is allowed to work for them in the UK before they employ them. This includes:

  • See the applicant’s original documents (like their passport).
  • Check that the documents are valid with the applicant present.
  • Make and keep copies of the documents and record the date they made the check.

You can find out more about this on this page of the GOV.UK website.

Individual personal assistants are not regulated and do not have to be registered (where workforce registration is in force). However, if you are employing a personal assistant, you should check that the personal assistant has had relevant training (for example, QCFs, or their predecessor NVQ qualifications, in lifting and manual handling). Although you are not legally required to do so, you may also wish to ensure that the personal assistant has undergone a criminal record check, through the Disclosure and Barring Service (previously the Criminal Records Bureau), which operates in England and Wales, and the Protection of Vulnerable Groups (PVG) scheme in Scotland.

Bright Care has developed a very comprehensive methodology to screen and select candidates, feel free to use it. Our recruitment process is broken down here.

Pay wages

How much you pay your personal assistant depends on the age of their worker. Pay rates must be at or above the National Minimum Wage for all of their working hours. There are different rates for different aged workers.  Those aged 25 years and above are now entitled to the National Living Wage, with lower rates for younger workers. The rates change at least annually and are available on this page of the GOV.UK website.

DBS  / PVG check

An employer can accept a previously issued certificate but must check that:

  • the applicant’s identity matches the details on the certificate
  • the certificate is of the right level and type for the role applied for.

Please note that to get reliable experienced personal assistants, you may need to pay well above the National Minimum Wage.

Working time and holidays

Most employees cannot be required to work more than an average of 48 hours a week unless they expressly agree otherwise with your relative. Employees are also entitled to 5.6 weeks’ paid holiday per year (28 days for a full-time employee), which includes public and bank holidays

Statutory Sick Pay (SSP)

There is no statutory limit on the amount of time that employees may take off due to sickness or injury. If eligible (principally have done at least one day’s work for you, are sick for four full days or more in a row (including non-working days) and earn at or above the Lower Earnings Limited), the employee will be entitled to SSP for up to 28 weeks in any three-year period. The rate of SSP is £109.40 a week for the 2023-2024 tax year. For further details, see this page on the GOV.UK website.

Notice and dismissal

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. Once a personal assistant has been working for you for more than two years, they can only be dismissed if the dismissal is deemed to be fair, for example if they are incapable of doing their job or have committed some form of misconduct. For further details, see this page on the ACAS website.

Protection from discrimination

Job applicants and employees have the right not to be discriminated against because of age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage or civil partnership, pregnancy or maternity, race, religion or belief and sex or sexual orientation.


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. To find out more about employers’ liability insurance, go to this page of the Government’s Health and Safety Executive website.

Other things to do

It is also good practice to do the following:

  • Make sure that you request, and take up, preferably written references from previous employers. This process should not be seen as a box ticking exercise. It should be done rigorously. We have found over the years that when we have made a mistake in hiring, there was always a few clues as to this persons potential behaviour through the references or the referees where not qualified to be referees. We work on the basis that referees should always have a reputation to loose should they vouch for someones good character when indeed they are not of good character.
  • Write a simple job description for the person, detailing their specific duties, so they will 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. This information can be contained in a contract and it is good practice for you or your relative to draw up a contract before the employee starts that is signed by the relative and the personal assistant/helper and which includes all the required information. Sample contracts are available online here. It is best to take legal advice on this, or your relative’s local council might also offer advice on what to do.
  • Consider pensions. New pension rules require employers to give workers the chance of joining a workplace pension. If a personal assistant is aged between 22 and up to state pension age and earns less than £120 per week on your ‘staging date’, you need to provide a pension scheme. For more on your staging date and compulsory employer contributions, see the Pensions Regulator’s guide and website.

Employing staff for the first time.

There are 7 things you need to do when employing staff for the first time.

  1. Decide how much to pay someone – you must pay your employee at least the National Minimum Wage.
  2. Check if someone has the legal right to work in the UK. You may have to do other employment checks as well.
  3. It is advisable to apply for a disclosure check.
  4. Get employment insurance – you need employers’ liability insurance as soon as you become an employer.
  5. Send details of the job (including terms and conditions) in writing to your employee. You need to give your employee a written statement of employment if you’re employing someone for more than 1 month.
  6. Tell HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) by registering as an employer, you can do this up to 4 weeks before you pay your new staff.
  7. Check if you need to automatically enrol your staff into a workplace pension scheme.

At Bright Care we offer fully managed care and will deal with recruiting, training and managing of Care Assistants, leaving you free to spend time together as a family. Get in touch to learn more from our recruitment team or to discover how Bright Care could support those you love.