Taking on your own PA

Updated on 13 July 2021

Disabled people and carers

Taking on your own PA directly, whether funded through government money, or privately, can mean that you become an employer. This brings with it many responsibilities such as registering as an employer with HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC), operating a Pay As You Earn (PAYE) scheme, arranging a workplace pension and paying at least the minimum wage. 

This page briefly explains the main considerations when taking on a PA and where to find more help.

Illustration of people helping people with disabilities

Is my PA employed or self-employed?

Whether your PA is employed or self-employed is very important. If you employ your PA, you will have to deduct tax and national insurance contributions (NIC) on any payments made to them under the PAYE system, whereas if they are self-employed they are responsible for paying tax and NIC to HMRC themselves.

It is your responsibility to correctly decide whether your PA is employed or self-employed. We have some website guidance for prospective employers in our ‘Taking on an employee’ section, that will help you understand the rules around employment status for tax purposes (whether your PA is employed or self-employed).

We have written a more detailed factsheet for those taking on a PA, to explain the technical and difficult rules around employment status for tax purposes, as we know this is something that causes real difficulty. It contains information and guidance on a number of areas, including:

  • Why is it important to know if I’m an employer?
  • Who decides if my worker is employed or self-employed?
  • How do I decide if my worker is employed or self-employed?
  • How do I apply the rules?
  • What help is available with working out status?
  • Using HMRC’s Check Employment Status for Tax tool
  • What if I get my worker’s status wrong?
  • What if my worker insists on being self-employed?
  • Okay, I’m an employer, what do I do now?

Can I just say my PA is self-employed?

No – whilst most people no doubt prefer to take PAs on, on a self-employed basis (as this means less cost/responsibilities/paperwork etc.), self-employment is a question of fact, not choice.

You may find it useful to read the employment law case of Chatfeild-Roberts v Phillips & Universal Aunts Limited in which a live-in carer was found to be an employee of the client, even though they viewed her as self-employed. It is useful for two reasons: 1) it shows the application of the employment status tests to a PA situation and 2) it confirms that a court will always consider how a contractual relationship actually works in practice rather than what is written down or agreed between the parties.

It is worth noting that the live-in carer’s tax position will not automatically be impacted by this employment law decision. This is because a person’s employment status for tax law and employment law can be different (whilst the status of a person for employment law will be indicative, it is not determinative).

However, on the facts, it is possible that HMRC/a tax tribunal could decide that someone in a position like this live-in carer would be an employee for tax purposes.

What are my options if I employ my PA?

If you are an employer, then you will need to make sure you meet your tax and national insurance obligations. You will also need to make sure you meet various employment law requirements.

You can do this yourself or you can use a payroll provider to help with your tax and national insurance obligations. Using a payroll provider helps you maintain control but means you do not need to worry about running a payroll or calculating tax and NIC etc., as a third party will do it for you.

Your Independent Living adviser/centre or the direct payments team in your Local Authority (or other part of government) may be able to advise you where else you can get help to deal with your payroll. There is a variety of support available ranging from advice and information to practical help.

Some will even be able to point you in the direction of in-house payroll support services, or a local provider that they have outsourced their support to.

‘Payroll’ services will almost always have a charge attached to them and it is of note that Value Added Tax (VAT) is chargeable on payroll services, even payroll services provided by charities to disabled employers.

Find out more about using a payroll provider in our ‘Taking on an employee’ section.

What do I need to do for tax if I employ my PA?

We have a section on this website for prospective employers ‘Taking on an employee’, in which you will find information about:

  • Setting things up – if you are an employer, you will have probably have to register as an employer with HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC)
  • How the PAYE system works – if you are an employer, you will probably need to operate Pay As You Earn (PAYE) on your employee's wages
  • Employees starting and employees leaving
  • Reporting PAYE in real time – information on the 'Real Time Information' PAYE reporting system
  • Pay and deductions – including making sure you are paying your employee the minimum wage, paying the correct amounts of holiday pay and sick pay, and understanding your workplace pension obligations
  • Ongoing payroll tasks – help with regular payroll tasks like paying your employee, giving them a payslip and paying HMRC
  • End of year processes – how to finalise your payroll each year and report any benefits and expenses you provide
  • Employment law – if you are taking someone on you need to be aware of your employment law responsibilities around things like notice and dismissal and you may need to carry out employee checks
  • Keeping records
  • Getting things wrong – including getting tax status wrong
  • Getting more help – including from HMRC's Extra Support Team

On the rest of this page, we offer some specific pointers for those considering taking on a PA, to supplement the more general information in the Taking on an employee section.

Will I need to pay into a pension for my PA?

Auto-enrolment affects all employers with staff in the UK. There are no exceptions. It means that employers must put qualifying employees into a workplace pension scheme automatically – it is then up to the employee to opt out if they want to do so.

As a care and support employer, you will have to comply with the rules on auto-enrolment.

This may be daunting but The Pensions Regulator (which is in charge of auto-enrolment) has lots of help to guide and support you through the process.

When you become an employer, it is important that you confirm with The Pensions Regulator who they should contact at the earliest available opportunity (this will probably be yourself, unless you are asking someone else to help you, for example a tax adviser). You should also advise them that you are a care and support employer so that they can deal you in the most appropriate way.

You also do not need to worry about auto-enrolment if your PA is provided by someone else, for example the Local Authority or through an agency, as you will not be their employer.

Can I claim the Employment Allowance as a care and support employer?

Yes, you can claim the £4,000 Employment Allowance if you are a care and support employer.

In April 2014, the government introduced an 'Employment Allowance' (originally £2,000 per year) for employers to offset against their employer NIC liability. This was not initially open to care and support employers. From April 2015, the scheme was extended to cover individuals employing certain care and support workers.

Employers of other domestic staff (such as chauffeurs, gardeners, nannies) are still excluded from having the allowance.

What other things do I need to think about if I employ my PA?

As an employer, you may need to follow certain rules when you recruit your PA and during their employment with you – such as health and safety requirements in the workplace (your home).

Skills for Care have a toolkit that helps individuals with the practicalities of employing their own PAs, for example how to recruit someone, how to train and develop them and how to assess the risks of employing someone in your home.

Other things you may need to think about include:

  • Potential damage to your property and possessions
  • Your safety
  • Safety issues for your PA. This might include things like moving and handling training and health and safety risk assessments.
  • Ensuring you have adequate employer's liability insurance (and public liability if necessary). Some insurance companies also offer redundancy cover, health and safety advice and access to employment law specialists as part of the policy.

Can I pay a family member to be my PA?

It is important to understand that the existence of a family relationship does not bypass any tax laws – so, for tax purposes, taking on a family member as your PA is just like taking on anyone else.

When trying to work out if a family member is an employee, you need to apply the general principles of whether someone is engaged under a ‘contract of service’ to the facts of the situation. If they are, then you probably need to register as an ‘employer’ and operate PAYE like any other employer.

You should also ensure you consider the minimum wage position and any other employment law considerations.

For National Insurance contribution (NIC) purposes only, if someone is employed by a family member in a private home in which both family members (that is, the employee and the employer) live, then the employment is disregarded for NIC purposes only. This exception will not apply if the employment is being carried out for the purpose of any trade or business by the employer.

The family members that count for this purpose are:

  • father or mother
  • grandfather or grandmother
  • son or daughter
  • grandson or granddaughter
  • stepfather, stepmother, stepson or stepdaughter
  • brother or sister
  • half-brother or half-sister

See HMRC's guidance for information about this exception.

Can I take someone on who has their own limited company?

Usually a PA who is self-employed will be a 'sole trader' – this means an individual in business on their own account. They may trade under their own name, e.g. Paula Gripes or they may trade under a ‘business’ name e.g. Gripes’ Care Services.

If you want to take on a self-employed 'sole trader', you must be sure that the self-employed ‘label’ is correct before going any further. This is because you will have the responsibility for deciding whether PAYE needs to be operated on the PA’s wages. The rules relating to employment status and the associated status indicators would all apply as usual.

However, a trend has developed over recent years for PAs to supply their services through their own limited company as this can sometimes save them some tax. A limited company is a legal entity in its own right and must be registered at Companies House. Often they are run as one-man-bands and in this situation, the PA is both the owner of the company (the director/shareholder) and the person that the company hires out to provide services (the PA will usually set themselves up as an employee of the company to do this).

From your point of view (i.e. the person taking on a PA who works through a limited company), you must engage the PA's company itself to provide the required care services. In this situation, you must pay the company for its services, usually on production of an invoice (you do not pay the PA directly). The PA should be paid for the work they carry out by their own company. In some ways this makes things easier for you, as it is the limited company’s responsibility to decide the correct employment status of the worker they provide to carry out the care – not yours.

The limited company will need to consider HMRC’s employment status indicators. If the worker would be an employee of yours but for the limited company being in the middle of it all, then the limited company is supposed to tell HMRC and potentially pay them some extra tax, as special tax rules relating to ‘employment intermediaries’ would almost certainly apply (known as the 'IR35' rules).

These rules are particularly complicated and professional advice would be needed if this applies, however they are not your concern as the person engaging the company.

Please note that from April 2021 ‘end clients’ have to take more responsibility for determining whether the IR35 rules apply to a particular engagement. But the changes should only affect medium and large size businesses who use workers in limited companies, not individual employers like care and support employers.

I already run a business. Can I add my PA to my existing payroll?

HMRC’s Employer Helpline advise that in such a situation, it would probably be best to manage your PA's payroll separate from that of your business. This is because businesses are allowed to deduct their employees' wages costs as a business expense for tax purposes and unless your PA directly contributes to your business, his or her wages are not allowed to be claimed as a business expense. Keeping the two sets of payroll records separate, therefore, prevents accidental calculation errors and keeps everything clean and tidy.

As such, they advise that you should register as a new employer with HMRC for your PA. This will mean that a new PAYE reference is generated under which you can then manage your PA’s payroll. You can find information about registering as an employer on our Registering as an employer page.

Do I need to run my payroll online?

Most employers have to run their payroll and file their PAYE information to HMRC online. HMRC say doing things online is quick, easy and secure and you are much less likely to make mistakes.

However, a handful of employers are exempt from online filing so that they can send information to HMRC on paper. You cannot choose to use paper filing because you prefer it, however you can use paper filing if you are recognised as a care and support employer by HMRC, and you meet the conditions explained below.

Exemption for care and support employers

You can file on paper as long as your PA provides the care or support services at or from your home, and all three of the following conditions are met:

1. The care or support services must be provided to the employer or a member of their family.

2. The recipient of the services must have a physical or mental disability, or be elderly or infirm.

3. The employer must be filing their return themselves, not having someone else such as a friend or accountant file it on their behalf.

If you do not qualify for paper filing by meeting the care and support employer conditions above, you may still be able to file on paper if HMRC consider you are unable to file online.

In exceptional circumstances, if you can show that:

  • you will have significant difficulty in using an online channel, or
  • you are unable to use an online channel,

then HMRC will consider you to be unable to file online and allow you to use paper filing instead.

You can find out more about what HMRC consider to be exceptional circumstances on GOV.UK. You can also find guidance on exemptions from online filing on GOV.UK.

You can read more about the differences between paper filing and online filing on our Filing options page.

What if I get things wrong with my payroll?

We talk about what to expect if you get your PAs tax status or PAYE wrong on our Getting things wrong page.

One of the things we know causes difficulty is filing RTI submissions on time, especially if you are a paper filer.

It may be useful for you to know that strictly, there is no difference in treatment for late filing whether you are operating online RTI or paper process RTI. However, HMRC have indicated that they will take a sympathetic view and try and help educate paper filing care and support employers who look like they may be struggling, as opposed to turning to penalties.

If you are a paper filer and have any difficulties with completing the forms we recommend calling HMRC to ask for help before you submit them. It is always better to contact them first rather than waiting for them to contact you.

HMRC can also offer you support if you are having money problems and are unable to pay your PAYE bill either on time or at all. Contacting them as early as possible may mean that you avoid penalties.

HMRC's Extra Support Team can help certain vulnerable employers like care and support employers with issues about operating PAYE. It is therefore likely that if you phone HMRC and explain your circumstances, you will be passed to this specialist team to be dealt with.

You may find it useful to know that care and support employers are not necessarily distinguishable from other employers on HMRC’s systems. If you contact HMRC and explain that you are a care and support employer, they may ask if they can set a signal on your records (or you could try and ask them to do this). Such a signal on your records may be helpful to you, if you need the Extra Support Team, for example, as this will allow HMRC to identify you quickly and deal with you appropriately.

What if my PA lives with me – tax implications

If you have a PA who you need to have close by, round the clock, that you provide ‘living accommodation’ to, you should be aware that you may be providing a taxable ‘benefit in kind’.

Living accommodation is an independent living space, perhaps a separate house in the vicinity or a self-contained annex in the garden. Board and lodging – that is, where the PA is provided with meals and somewhere to sleep in the employer's house, is different (since 6 April 2016 there has been a tax and NIC exemption on the benefit that arises when a care and support employer provides their employee with board and lodging as confirmed in HMRC guidance).

Normally the provision of living accommodation is a taxable benefit – as are any related costs, for example council tax, upkeep or the provision of furniture.

You may have heard that if the accommodation is provided because it is ‘job-related’ there is no taxable benefit. This is true, however, you should be aware that the rules around what is ‘job-related’ are quite tightly drawn – as we will go on to explain.

Job-related?

Living accommodation, is ‘job-related’ if:

  • it is necessary for the proper performance of your employees duties that they reside in the accommodation; or
  • the accommodation is provided so that they can perform their duties in a materially better way and they are in the kind of employment in which it is customary for employers in that business to provide accommodation; or
  • there is a threat to their security and special security arrangements are in force, and they reside in the accommodation as part of those arrangements.

Although it can be the case that accommodation is not taxable when ‘it is necessary for the proper performance of the employee's duties that the employee should reside in it’, in reality HMRC apply some quite strict rules to the types of employments that are covered by such an exemption. HMRC say in their guidance, that in order for the test to be applicable, it has to be shown that the person has to live in that house AND NO OTHER in order to be able to do their job. The difficulty is that most people would be able to live in say, a different house but one within a certain perimeter, and still do their job.

They also provide a list of the types of jobs they see as covered by these rules. As you can see, a care and support employer is not listed by HMRC, therefore there is every likelihood that the accommodation will be taxable as a benefit in kind. However, it is worth pointing out that this is only HMRC’s interpretation of the law and depending on how strongly you feel that your situation falls within the remit of the exemption, you may wish to take this up with them.

Please note that even if HMRC agree that the living accommodation is exempt because it is job-related, other expenses relating to the accommodation, such as the cost of heating and lighting, are taxable (but the taxable benefit is limited to 10% of your employee’s taxable earnings). In addition, if you provide the use of furniture and appliances, there is typically a tax charge at 20% of the cost of the items. Any council tax or water rates you pay on behalf of your employee, or reimburse to them, are exempt.

Not job-related?

If the accommodation is a taxable benefit in kind, there will be an income tax charge on the value of the benefit on the employee, and a Class 1A NIC charge on you, the employer.

You can find some basic information on the benefit of living accommodation on GOV.UK. It is also covered in Chapter 21 of HMRC's benefits and expenses booklet.

HMRC’s more detailed guidance includes a step by step calculation guide should the provision of accommodation actually be taxable.

What if my PA lives with me – minimum wage implications

If your PA provides you with 24-hour support, then things can get a little complicated when thinking about how to treat ‘sleep-in’ shifts.

The law around pay for sleep in shifts has been in a state of flux. For years, many employers only paid a flat rate (for example £20 or £30) for a sleep in shift on the basis that the worker was not ‘available’ for work and was therefore not protected by the minimum wage rules.

They were essentially relying on the National Minimum Wage (NMW) Regulations, which say “hours when a worker is ‘available’ only include hours when the worker is awake for the purposes of working, even if a worker by arrangement sleeps at or near a place of work and the employer provides suitable facilities for sleeping (Regulation 32).

However, then a spate of cases came before the Courts, which suggested there was more to it than this. Judges in these cases seemed to be saying that before getting to the question of whether the worker was ‘available’ for work (which is where the ‘exception’ for sleeping is embedded); one had to ask whether they were already actually working. If they were actually working, then you did not need to consider whether they were available for work and as such, the sleep in exception could not apply.

For a while the position was therefore that sleep in shifts were working hours and were subject to the minimum wage.

A 2018 Court of Appeal decision changed the position again. Broadly, the Court of Appeal ruled that workers doing sleep in shifts (whilst they are sleeping) are ‘available for work’ rather than actually ‘working’. This means they can be covered by the sleep in exception and are only entitled to the minimum wage when they are required, because they need to undertake a specific activity, to actually be awake.

However if suitable sleeping facilities are not provided then the minimum wage must be provided for the entire shift. In addition, the position is different where workers are working and not expected to sleep for all or most of a shift, even if there are occasions when they are permitted to sleep (such as when not busy). In this case it is likely minimum wage must be paid for the whole of the shift on the basis that the worker is in effect working all of that time, including for the time spent asleep.

The recent Supreme Court decision confirms the position that sleep-in workers (that is, those who are contractually obliged to spend a shift at or near their workplace, usually at night but it could be during the day, are expected to sleep for all or most of that shift and are woken if required to undertake a specific work activity) are only working and eligible for minimum wage when they are ‘awake for the purposes of working’. They are not entitled to minimum wage when they are permitted to sleep. The government’s official guidance on sleep in shifts takes account of the Supreme Court case.

Note that if you provide your PA with accommodation (which for NMW purposes seems to include anywhere with a bed and washing/toilet facilities), then you should consider if the accommodation offset applies.

If accommodation is provided by you as part of the job (including things like electricity, laundry costs, etc.), some of its value can be counted towards NMW or NLW pay. You cannot count more than the accommodation offset rate which is in force at any given time.

The maximum offset rate for accommodation (from April 2021) is £8.36 a day or £58.52 a week.

If the accommodation is free, the offset rate is added to the worker’s pay.


Example

John, 27, is your carer, and you pay him £7.50 per hour for 30 hours work a week, which totals £225. You also give him free accommodation 7 days a week, which the law says is worth a notional amount of £58.52. This means John has earned the equivalent of £283.52 (£225 plus £58.52). If we divide this by the number of hours John has worked (30) this brings John’s pay up to £9.45 an hour, which is above the minimum wage rate of £8.91.


So, if you want to employ someone aged 23 or over for 35 hours work a week and accommodation comes with the job, you could pay them £7.24 per hour and still comply with the minimum wage rules. This is because, the value of the accommodation per week is deemed to be £58.52, which counts towards the NLW. This essentially adds £1.67 (£58.52 divided by 35 hours) per hour to the worker’s wages, which brings the hourly rate up to £8.91.

No similar adjustments can be made for any meals/refreshments or other benefits that are provided by you.

If you charge more than the accommodation offset, the difference is taken off your worker's pay which counts towards the NMW or NLW.


Example

Winn, who is 23 years old, is paid £9.25 an hour for 40 hours work (£370 per week). But he stays in the employer’s accommodation and the employer charges him £85 per week for his bed and board. Under the accommodation offset rules, the employer is allowed to consider £58.52 per week as pay for minimum wage purposes. So whilst Winn actually only receives £285 (£370-£85), he is deemed to receive £343.52 (£285+£58.52), however this is still below the relevant minimum wage rate (£8.91).


If the accommodation charge is at or below the offset rate, it doesn’t have an effect on the worker’s pay.

The accommodation offset rate is amended on 1 April each year.

You can find more information on the accommodation offset rules on GOV.UK.

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