If you feel that an elderly relative needs more professional care and support to remain living at home, you may be considering hiring a carer privately. There are care agencies and providers who can help you to recruit and manage a carer, however, you might prefer to do it yourself. If you choose this option, there are a lot of things to consider. In this guide we will take you through the process step by step: from how to go about recruiting and then interviewing a private carer to the legal requirements and responsibilities as an employer.
There are lots of different titles and names to describe a day time carer: personal care assistant, self-employed carer, home carer, day carer, domiciliary carer, elderly care minder, private caregiver or personal assistant. Knowing this might help when searching for suitable candidates. The supportive role they provide will vary according to individual need and client discretion. At Age Space we refer to them as home carers or private carers.
The pros and cons to employing your own private carer
Care needs are very personal and will vary between individuals. This might influence how you decide to approach hiring a home carer. For example, you might already know someone suitable for the role. However, to help you make an informed decision, we have listed some of the advantages and disadvantages to hiring a home carer privately.
- You have more flexibility and choice
- You can choose a carer that is more compatible with you
- More control over arrangements and times
- Save money on agency fees
- Your family can have a closer relationship with one carer
- It is easier to have them as a named driver on car insurance if you want them to drive
- You can pay for them from your social service personal budget, if you get one
- Becoming an employer - you will need to manage the recruitment process (references and training) plus day to day management
- You might have to deal with disciplinary issues and possible dismissal
- If you do dismiss a carer, you will have to start the process again from scratch
- You will need to cover or find a replacement for sick days, absence or holiday
- Employing a private carer isn't regulated
- If your parent is in hospital or away you may still have to pay them
How to find a private carer for the elderly
Unless you have someone in mind for the job, you will need to advertise the role and find suitable outlets to place the advertisement. The first thing to do is to write a job description. Include a list of the jobs and tasks you want the person to do and the skills that they will need to complete them. You should also consider what personal attributes might help them do the job and get on with your elderly relative – e.g. good sense of humour, interest in classical music and attention to detail. Other important aspects could also be cooking and food preparation and attitude to pets.
What to include on a private carer job advert
Once you’ve completed the job description it is time to write the job advert. This should let anyone applying know what they’re applying for, what you are looking for in an employee, and what they can expect in return. Below are a list of things that should be included on a job advert for a home carer role.
- Who is eligible to apply (experience/qualifications/values)
- Main job duties
- Hours and days they will be expected to work (make sure you state over night care if needed)
- Rate of Pay - at least National Living Wage (or minimum wage if they are below 24)
- General Area they will be working in
- How you want them to apply (CV or application form)
- Closing date for applications
- DBS Check (if you want this as a requirement, we highly recommend doing so)
- Other information (e.g. non-smoker, driving licence etc)
- References (it is usual to ask for two)
- How you want them to contact you
Where to find and advertise for a private carer
Use an introductory home care agency
Introductory home care agencies differ from home care providers as they don't take on any of the employer responsibilities. They will simply offer you a list of potential carers in your area for a fee. You will then have to do the rest.
Ask friends and relatives
Word of mouth - friends and relatives may know someone that might be suitable for the role or that they can recommend.
Elderly support groups
If you are part of a carers or elderly care group in your area, online or in person, then it makes sense to post your job advert through them and to ask members if there is anyone they would recommend. Community Facebook for your town or area might also be a good place to ask.
Local community hubs and centres
Back to basics - print out your job advert and post it in your local town hall, community centre or on the church bulletin board. They might also have online forums and newsletters you can utilise. You can also post a job advert in your local newspaper's job section. Your local Jobcentre Plus will also post your advert for free.
How to interview a potential private carer
Once you have selected candidates to interview, take time to read through their CV or application form and come up with a list of questions. Our guide on questions to ask when hiring a carer will help you.
It’s a good idea to perform the interview in a neutral space, away from your home, for example in a local library. Decide on a time that works for both of you and consider whether you want to have someone else there with you to provide a second opinion. After you have finished the interview it is important to take your time over the decision, and interview more people if you can.
Are they self-employed or are you their employer?
This is an important distinction – are they a self-employed carer or are you their employer? This is known as establishing their employment status.
You are their employer if...
- You employ them directly
- They work solely for you
- They carry out your instructions
They are self-employed if...
- They work for other people as a carer
- They have confirmed with HMRC that they are self-employed
Employment status is not a choice, and there will be legal consequences if you don’t work out the distinction early on. You can use the government’s employment status checker tool to help you decide.
Your responsibilities as an employer
If you choose to be an employer then you will have certain responsibilities that you will need to address. You should read through these before employing anyone and you can find more advice on employing someone on the ACAS website.
Register as an employer
The first thing you will need to do is register as an employer with HMRC. You must do this before the first pay day and not earlier than 2 months before you start paying someone. You can register as an employer on the gov.uk website.
You won't be able to use PAYE without having registered as an employer. PAYE is the service through which you will pay your private carer, providing this is over £120/week. You will also need to use PAYE to deduct Income Tax from their pay. You may also need to deduct National Insurance (and make employer contributions) if they earn over a certain threshold.
Carry out employee checks
Before you employ someone, you must first make sure that they are legally able to work in the UK. We recommend that you do this by using the government's online tool and their original documents (e.g. passport). It is also a good idea to make photocopies and note the date you made these checks.
You can also check their right to work in the UK online but you will need their date of birth and their right to work share code.
You should also check what other qualifications they have such as a QCF qualification or training for heavy lifting and manual handling. You should also make sure you have two references to check to they are suitable and have the right experience.
You might also want to do a DBS check.
Make and agree to a contract
It is your responsibility to make sure that what you expect of them and what they can expect in return is written out clearly and that both parties agree to it before you employ them.
Pay their wages
As we said before, you should do this through the PAYE system. Legally you must pay them over the national living wage (search for the latest figure) if they are over 25, and at least minimum wage if they are below 25. You must also remember to change their pay when they turn 25.
The wage you decide upon for them should reflect the job role you want them to carry out and the experience they come with. The average cost of a private carer is around £15, however this differs with the extent of responsibilities they have, their experience, and even the geographical location.
Set out working hours and holiday
You will need to organise how many hours you expect an employee to work and set out their paid holiday allocation. Unless agreed upon you can't make someone work for more than 48 hours a week and they should get at least 5.6 weeks paid holiday or equivalent pro rata.
Pay their sick pay
There is no lower limit on the amount of days an employee can take off with a verified sickness or injury. If they are sick they will be eligible for Statutory Sick Pay for up to 28-days in any 3 year period at around £95/week.
Fair and legal dismissal
After working for you for 1 month, employees will have earnt the right to one week's notice of dismissal. This rises by one week for every 1 year that they work for you (up to 12 weeks).
You should also clearly outline the potential grounds for dismissal in the contract you have with them - as every employee has the right not to be unfairly dismissed.
As an employer it is your obligation and responsibility to not discriminate against any employee or potential employee on any grounds including gender, age, race, religion, cultural background, sexual orientation, disability, marital status, pregnancy or maternity.
You can find discrimination guidance on the ACAS website.
It is your responsibility to take out employer's insurance and the optional public liability insurance.
If they earn over £192/week and are between 22 and the state pension age you must provide a workplace pension scheme and give them the option to join.
Read the Pensions Regulator's guide for more information.
Your next steps when hiring a private carer
Now that you understand the responsibilities that you need to take on as an employer, and how you can go about finding a home carer privately for you elderly relative, you can use our simple checklist to get ready.
- I have written a job description for the role
- I have worked out the wages and hours that I need them to work
- I have done everything I need to legally be an employer
- I have written a job advert
- I have found potential applicants and checked their eligibility to work
- I have prepared some interview questions and organised an interview
- I have clarified that I am their employer (that they are not self-employed)
- I have written an employee/employer contract
- I am managing a private carer for my elderly relative
You can also find more useful information on being an individual care employer on the Care Skills Website.