Updated 18th May 2020
Employers who are employing Personal Assistants (PAs) – on payroll
The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) confirm that Personal Assistants (PAs) are included in the definition of key workers.
To keep up-to-date on being an employer COVID-19 and information for PAs, Skills For Skills for Care website has very useful and updated information.
What if I ask my PAs to suspend support because they have symptoms of COVID-19 and is self-isolating (for 12 weeks) or been in hospital?
It may be safer for you if your PA do not come to work because you may be at risk of the symptoms due to an underlying health condition.
The Government has introduced a Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme which will pay 80% of wages, up to a maximum of £2,500 per month. All workers who remain on the payroll are eligible and there is no limit on the funding available. Employers should contact HMRC for a grant. HMRC can backdate the grant to 1 March 2020 and will pay this for 3 months initially but now extend until the end of October. HMRC expects the first grant payments before the end of April 2020.
Employers will qualify for this grant if they employ a PA and they are on a payroll on 28 February 2020. They can retain staff, pay 80% of their salary and claim that back from the new government scheme via HMRC.
What if my employed PA is ill due to COVID-19, in hospital or choosing to self-isolate?
Employed PA self-isolating for 12 weeks due to diagnosed COVID-19 / symptoms of COVID-19 / underlying health condition / following government advice to self-distance. If they earn above the Lower Earnings Limit then statutory sick pay would apply from day one
The statutory sick pay (general) (coronavirus amendment) regulations 2020 came into force on Friday 13th March. Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) will now be payable to those self-isolating under Government guidelines. The definition of ‘Persons deemed incapable of work’ now includes:
(i) isolating themselves from other people in such a manner as to prevent infection or contamination with coronavirus disease, in accordance with guidance published by Public Health England, NHS National Services Scotland(d) or Public Health Wales(e) and effective on 12th March 2020; and
(ii) by reason of that isolation is unable to work.
NOTE this amendment is set to automatically expire in 8 months unless otherwise removed by statute.
A doctor’s fit note (or Statement of Fitness for Work) is not required for the first 14 days of absence for the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic (no end date identified as yet).
Employers should regularly check the public health guidance on self-isolation as it has changed as the pandemic has developed, and it directly affects who is entitled to SSP during self-isolation. It is possible that different advice could be given in England, Wales and Scotland. The explanatory notes to the Coronavirus Amendment Regulations provide links to sources of public health information for self-isolation in England, Wales and Scotland.
Links for Scotland
What if my PA is self-employed and they are unwell or showing symptoms of coronavirus. Can they claim statutory sick pay?
You do not have to pay sick pay for self-employed personal assistants. Self-employed personal assistants should be following government advice in relation to claiming benefits.
If they do not quality for SSP please sign post them to this link for possible financial support i.e. Universal Support or Employment Support Allowance. Visit Coronavirus support for employee benefit claimants and businesses
What if my PA cannot work, can I employ a family member with my direct payment?
As an emergency support some Local Authorities may agree for a friend or family member to temporarily be a paid carer to provide the replacement care. Please check his with your Local Authority and it is important that your family member or friend understand that if they do this they need to go on the payroll to comply with HMRC.
What if my PA isn’t ill but they don’t want to work?
If your PA is self-isolating through choice when the current guideline does not require it and they are not high risk to you and themselves, you don’t have to pay them as there is no grounds as to why they have not turned up for work. Bear in mind your PA might be experiencing difficulty during this trying time, so you could decide that they could apply for annual leave or unpaid leave for a short time.
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for employing PAs
If you are directly employing PAs or using self-employed PAs who have access to PPE, then direct payment can fund this. Normally the employer must ensure their employees are adequately protected, but with PPE in short supply, you will need to check with your Local Authority about supplies.
Personal protection equipment (PPE) can be:
- sanitiser gel
If you are an employer or PA and want to know more about PPE have a look at this Public Health guidance
Health Education England e-Learning for Healthcare open has created a free open access to COVID-19 eLearning programme available to all staff across health and social care (you don’t have to register of log in). The programme includes key materials to help the health and care workforce respond to Coronavirus including essential guidance from the NHS, Government and WHO, infection prevention and control, personal protection equipment and more.
What if my Personal Assistant’s children need to stay at home and the PA cannot support me?
The Department of Health and Social Care has confirmed that Personal Assistants (PAs) are included in the definition of key workers. If your PA is being challenged as to whether or not they are a key worker, they should follow the steps below:
- contact their direct payment provider (for example their local authority or care commissioning group) to ask if they have a letter or something that validates the PA is a key worker and can share with their child(ren)’s school
- provide the school with a copy of their contract of employment.
A letter that validates the PA as a key worker can also demonstrates that they are a critical worker and can access priority shopping and pharmacies on behalf of their employer.
For up-to-date information about COVID-19, training, support and guidance for employers and PAs, visit Skills for Care
Webinar: Gathering for people on direct payments, personal budgets personal health budget
Below is a link to a webinar recording of people who gathered online to discuss tactics and practical tips for people and families who have a direct payment through a personal budget or health budget. They share information on how they are managing their direct payments and the protocols they have put in place for themselves and their PA’s.
The second webinar is about employment issues for people with direct payments via a personal budget or personal health budget during the coronavirus pandemic.