Best practice for employing a personal assistant
The Acas Policy Discussion Papers series is designed to stimulate discussion and debate about key employment relations issues.
Disabled and elderly people and their personal assistants: the challenges of a unique employment relationship.
Two or three years ago the Acas national helpline started to notice a steady stream of calls from people caught up in a unique employment relationship.
Disabled and elderly people, and their families, have been calling Acas because, by employing personal assistants to manage their care needs (often through the use of ‘direct payments’ from their local authority), they are suddenly taking on the role of an employer and are often unsure of their responsibilities. A typical question they might ask is “I am
going into hospital for an operation and will be convalescing at a rest home afterwards. What happens to my personal care worker? Can I insist that she takes this time as her paid holiday period?”
Personal assistants call the helpline because, working so closely with their employers in a domestic setting, they are not always clear about their employment rights. They might ask questions like “I am often required to do some shopping for my employer. However, he gets confused about the items I bought and the money I spent. Is there anything I can do about this?”
This paper aims to explore some of the challenges that this area of employment relations presents, and to highlight what key stakeholders are saying about the relationship between service users and personal assistants. It is written in the context of existing research on the subject and ongoing political initiatives. The views expressed in this paper have
been informed by the experiences of Acas advisors, trade unions, charities such as the National Centre for Independent Living and Skills for Care, local authorities, including the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS) and, of course, callers to our helpline.