Employers need to be aware of their responsibilities, including complying with employment law, tax and National Insurance as well as work practices.

It is important to keep up with employment law and take notice of changes as they may affect the way you work with your employees. Centre for Independent Living NI can provide you with up-to-date information on employment law including fundamental statutory employment rights.

Fundamental statutory employment rights

There are some statutory employment rights that apply to all employees regardless of their hours of work or the length of time they have been employed. Employees have the right to equal pay and not to have unlawful deductions from pay, as well as the right to make a complaint of unfair dismissal if dismissed on such grounds.

Domestic employers are not bound by Equal Opportunities, Fair Employment or Race Relations legislation when selecting employees. However, once you have employed someone, you need to ensure that you do not discriminate against him or her. For example, it is unlawful to dismiss a female employee for being pregnant. As a group, disabled people have often faced discrimination in employment and therefore, will want to ensure that they do not discriminate against anyone on the grounds of gender, religion, disability etc.

Employees who have been employed for at least one month have the right to written particulars of employment within two months of starting work. These will incorporate method and timing of pay, holiday entitlements etc. and should include a brief description of the duties of the post and a job title.

Redundancy

Redundancy payments depend on how long a person has worked for you and are linked to the hours he or she works weekly. Please see our information sheet on redundancy.

Hours worked and breaks

Your Personal Assistant is under no legal obligation to work more than 48 hours per week. An average is taken over a 17 weeks period so don't worry if you sometimes need your employee to work extra hours.

Personal Assistants are free to offer to work more than 48 hours per week, but this must be agreed in writing. Employees are entitled to a break of 20 minutes if they work for more than 6 hours per day.

The rules that provide these basic rights and protections to employees are known as the Working Time Regulations.

Other rights and protections your employees have under the regulations include:

  • A right to 11 hours rest a day.
  • A right to a day off each week.
  • A right to an in-work rest break if the working day is longer than 6 hours.
  • A right to 5.6 weeks paid leave per year.

Working at night

There are specific regulations on working hours at night. Employees working at night can usually only be required to work an average of 8 hours work in 24. Depending on the individual circumstances, the regulations may not apply. You should check the situation with Citizen’s Advice Bureau or a similar appropriate agency.

Holiday entitlement

All employees are legally entitled to 5.6 weeks paid holiday per year. Public holidays may be included in the 5.6 weeks. Nobody is exempt from this rule and it applies to full time staff and part time staff on a pro-rata basis. Holiday entitlement applies from the first day of employment but they would usually need to be accrued before your employee takes them.

National Minimum Wage and National Living Wage (from 1 April 2017)

As an employer you must pay your workers a minimum amount for the work they do. The amount you have to pay is decided by law and is known as either the National Minimum wage or the National Living wage.

From 1 April 2017, there will be four levels of minimum wage:

  • Workers aged 25 and above are entitled to the national living wage of £7.50 per hour 
  • Workers aged between 21 and 24 years of age are entitled to the national minimum wage of £7.05 per hour
  • Workers aged 18 - 20 years of age are entitled to the national minimum wage of £5.60 gross per hour
  • A national minimum wage rate rate of £3.87 per hour should be paid to all 17 year olds and 16 year olds who are above the compulsory school leaving age. In Northern Ireland a person may leave school after the 30th June of the school year in which their 16th birthday occur
  • For apprentices under 19, or 19 or over in the first year of their apprenticeship, there is a special apprentice rate of £3.30 gross per hour.

You are advised to pay as appealing a wage as you can afford as this may make it easier to attract and keep good staff.

If a Personal Assistant does sleep-in duties, you need only pay the national minimum or living wage rate per hour, as appropriate, for the hours they are actually awake. You will normally pay a rate for sleep-in duties per night.

Stakeholder and Workplace Pensions

Stakeholder pensions are a type of flexible pension arrangement introduced in 2001 designed for individuals without access to employer sponsored pension arrangements.  Anyone who was employing five or more Personal Assistants with at least one of them earning more than the Lower Earnings Limit for National Insurance  needed to designate a stakeholder pension provider.  However with the introduction of automatic enrolment, the requirement for an employer to provide access for staff to a stakeholder pension scheme has been removed to avoid employers being subject to overlapping duties.

Since the introduction of the automatic enrolment legislation on 1 October 2012, it is now no longer a statutory requirement for employers with five or more employees to designate a stakeholder pension arrangement for their employees. Instead, employers are now required to enrol their ‘eligible jobholders’ into a pension scheme that meets specific conditions to be an automatic enrolment scheme. The date by which employers are required to do this varies according to the size of each employers’ payroll and will gradually be phased in over the next few years.

The introduction of automatic enrolment duties does not affect an employer’s obligation in relation to its employees who are already members of an existing stakeholder arrangement.

 Auto Enrolment and Workplace Pensions are discussed more fully in a recent news article on this website.

Insurance

Employers are generally required by law to take out Employer's Liability insurance against injury or illness sustained by employees in the course of their duties.

Public Liability insurance and extra vehicle insurance may also be necessary.

Insurance is discussed more fully in another information sheet available from CILNI.

Health and Safety

Your employees have the right not be put at risk of injury or infection at work. Employers have a responsibility to ensure a safe working environment. You should promote good practice by insisting on hygiene. It may be necessary to make sure that Personal Assistants know how to lift safely.

Statutory Sick Pay and Statutory Maternity Pay

Employers have a legal responsibility to pay Statutory Sick Pay and Statutory Maternity Pay to any employees who qualify. Any employee dismissed on the grounds of pregnancy will automatically be entitled to regard this as unfair dismissal.

Taxation and National Insurance Contributions

There is a requirement by law that employers inform their local tax office when they take on new employees. Employers are expected to make the necessary National Insurance Contributions and tax deductions.