Contracting with a self-employed PA?

What difficulties could there be with contracting with a self-employed PA?

It’s not a problem as such, and can suit people who want a flexible way of working, although issues could arise. Some councils may have specific rules about self employed PAs.

The main thing to look at from a service user perspective is whether HMRC could consider them an employee, even though they are self employed, registered, pay tax correctly and so on. There is a standard guide here : Check employment status for tax - GOV.UK

Taking someone on self employed but HMRC subsequently considers them an employee could have an impact on you further down the line, such as late registering as an employer, late filing of pay information, failure to assess for pensions, failure to consider other employer costs.

A self employed PA may want to charge a higher hourly rate to you. In our experience, councils will only usually fund a PA rate for employees, or an agency rate to registered agencies. A self employed PA could charge you £14 per hour but a council may only give you £9.50ph plus costs, meaning you would have to pay the difference personally.

The benefits of being an employee are sometimes overlooked. Self employed PAs have to pay their own costs and insurances. They don’t qualify for sick pay, maternity/paternity pay etc, pensions, holiday pay or annual leave. They wouldn’t be entitled to any redundancy payment if care ceased.

On the face of it, paying a single invoice instead of running a payroll seems easier, but the benefits and employee can get and the reduced risk to the employer should outweigh this.

There are other reasons why self employment may or may not be appropriate, but these are the main points. Hope this helps.

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@Andrew-QuillAccounts - is there not a fairly big hurdle with the nature of PA work in defining as self employed? You might be reliant on the individual, e.g. it might not be appropriate to send another person in their place, and any equipment involved it may be specific to you - two red flags for HMRC. Do you know any scenarios where it is reasonably clear? Comprehensive response BTW, I’m just concerned contracting a self employed PA may not be without risk no matter what your council or HMRC say…

In past experience with HMRC there will always be situations where it’s unclear. Their own Employment Check is designed to be indicative rather than definitive.

I think it’s more applicable to social support rather than for personal care. Someone who can assist people socially such as on walks or shopping, could reasonably tell someone when they are available or book someone in, advertise their services publicly, and have multiple clients. Whether they could send another person instead is debatable, but they could still be self employed. In this case it’s closer to a personal shopper I suppose.
It’s very similar terms on which, for example, a DJ works at weddings or discos, or a personal trainer or masseur who visits someone on a regular basis.

Personally I don’t think there’s a particular need for anyone to be a self employed PA because of the potential risk to the employer as much as the PA themselves, and also the benefits they miss out on as an employee, but I think there can be certain support scenarios where it may be applicable and possibly justifiable.

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Interesting discussion I would be interested in thoughts around the item noted below from the HMRC website titled:

Carers and Personal Assistants

You’re classed as an employer if you pay a carer or personal assistant directly, even if you get money from your local council (‘direct payments’) or the NHS to pay for them.

Ask your local council about organisations that can help with your employers responsibilities, such as recruiting and paying your carer

I think it is quite clear and gives a definitive answer to this question and I am interested in what others think about this.


Thanks Andrew, I think we are on the same page there - I’m still hoping to learn about those support scenarios and the motivation to be SE in this capacity. So far I understand it to a degree from the position of having/wanting multiple clients (and of course more dubious practices!) Potentially there is an argument that it makes life easier for the supported person, for example easier to manage poor performance, but I imagine only if there is choice of SE PAs.

Yes this seems quite clear to me, particularly as it is specifically addressing PAs and Carers under their own heading. I can see why there might be confusion though because of the overview:

You’re usually considered the employer of a nanny, housekeeper, gardener or anyone else who works in your home if both:

  • you hire them
  • they’re not self-employed or paid through an agency

With the only specific exclusion being Au Pairs and vagaries of the wording “usually” there is scope for people to see what they want to see.