“Can I employ someone in my family to be my Personal Assistant” is a question I am often asked.
Finding a Personal Assistant (PA) that you trust can be really difficult and it can be tempting to employ a family member as a Personal Assistant, usually because ‘they are doing it, anyway.’
This is often the rationale I hear when I am out on my visits and my clients are talking to me about why they have, or would like to hire their family member as a Personal Assistant. Particularly if they are considering this route as an alternative to a Carer.
Technicalities and restrictions
You can employ anyone you want to support you with your care, if you are using your own money.
Many local authorities are against paying family members or anyone who lives in the same house as you as Personal Assistants. Particularly if you are using local authority funding to pay for it.
So what constitutes as a family member?
A family member includes:
a) the spouse or civil partner of the adult;
b) a person who lives with the adult as if their spouse or civil partner;
c) a person living in the same household as the adult who is the adult’s—
(i) parent or parent-in-law,
(ii) son or daughter,
(iii) son-in-law or daughter-in-law,
(iv) stepson or stepdaughter,
(v) brother or sister,
(vi) aunt or uncle, or
Other Local Authorities will provide funding in exceptional circumstances when they think it is the best way for you to get the care that you need.
For example, some will pay a relative as a Personal Assistant as long as they don’t live in the same house as you.
However, if the relative lives in your house there are additional exceptions that can be made. You would have to show that employing a relative would improve your independence or that is the only option available after you have tried all other alternatives. This could be applicable for those who live in isolated rural areas or ethnic minorities.
Why you may consider employing a family member
Some people prefer to employ their family member simply because they trusted them. They felt like their family members understood their needs and as a result, they felt comfortable with them. Much more so than hiring a ‘stranger’ to help them with their care.
You may also find yourself considering employing a family member if there is a distinct lack of quality applicants when you place job ads, or if you have found it challenging to retain a Personal Assistant because you cannot afford to pay above average wages.
The unintended consequence of employing a family member as your Personal Assistant
There are circumstances when employing a family member as your Personal Assistant can result in a loss of choice and control. It can be very difficult to have an employer/employee type relationship with a family member. This is the case even if they don’t live in the same house as you.
I have come across instances where my clients have felt pressured to employ their family as a Personal Assistant as a way of ‘paying them back’ for the unpaid support they provide. The argument often given is that there is an expectation that someone should pay them as a way of topping up the household budget as they are ‘doing the job’ anyway.
Always make an informed decision
Irrespective of whether you employ a family member or not, employing someone comes with legal responsibilities you shouldn’t underestimate and even when employing a family member, you still have to comply with employment law.
I would urge anyone who is thinking about employing their family member as a Personal Assistant to think carefully and seek additional help and guidance so you can make sure it’s the right decision for you.
I’ve seen examples where this has worked really well and other heartbreaking situations where it has caused sometimes irrevocable damage to family relations and I think that is a real shame.
It might be worth checking out your Local Authority policy on employing family members as Personal Assistants.