By the time you have selected and appointed your Personal Assistant, issues like rates of pay, conditions and expenses will have been agreed. An essential part of being a good employer is paying your staff fairly. The employee will need to know when you intend to review the rate of pay. As an employer, it is necessary for you to be aware of some legal responsibilities on you.

Good Employers

Be a good employer and you are more likely to keep staff.

Below are examples of good employment practices:

  • Clearly state what employees are entitled to in their contract of employment
  • Make sure you pay on schedule and regularly
  • Pay your employees a fair wage
  • Pay employees the same for equal or similar work
  • Keep employees' personal details confidential
  • Record clearly hours worked and wages paid
  • Pay travel (other than to and from their place of work, i.e. your home, normally); reimburse employees for money they spend on your behalf
  • Be clear about when pay rates will be reviewed; this should include mileage allowance
  • Always retain signed receipts/payslips and provide Personal Assistants with a copy
  • Discuss openly and honestly your own and your Personal Assistant's concerns about wages or expenses in relation to his or her employment with you

Legal Responsibilities

Employers must comply with regulations set down in law.. These are about how much you have to pay and for what, including any necessary deductions from wages, what allowances you need to make with pay and your method of payment.

You are legally required to;

  • Collect Income Tax and National Insurance Contributions due from your employees
  • Check if you need to set up a Workplace Pension for your employee
  • Cover Statutory Sick Pay and Statutory Maternity Pay if necessary
  • Cover holiday pay
  • Usually make no deductions from your employees pay unless they ask you to in writing or it is part of the contract of employment
  • Give equal pay to employees carrying out the same or similar duties

How much you should pay

The rate and timing of paying staff will usually be agreed between you and your Personal Assistant. This will be included in the contract of employment and should be reviewed at least annually. Payment rates for unsociable hours and overtime may also be incorporated in the contract.

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, pay rates are determined by the National Minimum Wage for workers aged 25 and over together with 4 rates of National Minimum Wage for younger workers. From April, 2017 the rates will be as follows:

  • the National Living Wage, which was introduced on 1 April 2016 for all working people aged 25 and over for workers, will go up by 30p to £7.50 an hour 
  •   the National Minimum Wage Rate for workers aged between 21 and 24 will increase by 35p to £7.05 an hour 
  •  the National Minimum Wage Rate rate for 18-20 year olds will increase by 5p to £5.60 an hour 
  • the National Minimum Wage Rate rate for 16-17 year olds will increase by 5p to £3.87 an hour 
  • the National Minimum Wage Rate rate for apprentices will rise by 10p to £3.50 an hour*. 

*the apprentice rate only applies to workers under 19, or 19 or over in the first year of their apprenticeship.

As an employer, you should avoid treating anyone unfairly or unequally, in relation to pay on the grounds of religion, gender or disability etc.

Payslips

Employers must give their employees an itemised payslip that will include the following:

  • Method of payment - If you pay your employee with a mixture of, for example, BACS, cash or cheque it must be stated on the payslip.
  • Gross pay - The amount paid before any Tax or National Insurance deductions have been made.
  • Net pay - The amount paid after deductions.
  • The amount of each deduction and the reason for it - i.e. Tax and National Insurance. Deductions can be itemised separately.

Described below are the items that you must pay for as an employer;

Hours worked

You need to pay your Personal Assistant(s) for the hours they work.

Holiday pay

All employees (including part-time workers) are entitled to 5.6 weeks* paid holiday per year after having worked for you for three months.

*This includes 10 bank and public holidays in Northern Ireland in  2017.  For  2017, these are New Year's Day (1January), St Patrick's Day (17 March), Good Friday ( 14 April), Easter Monday ( 17 April), Early May Bank Holiday ( 1 May), Spring Bank Holiday ( 29 May), 12 July, Summer Bank Holiday ( 28 August), Christmas Day (25 December) and Boxing Day (26 December).

Statutory Sick Pay

Employers are required by law to pay Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) to their employees during sickness if they qualify. The weekly rate of SSP for 2015 - 2016 is £88.45.

The qualifying conditions for SSP are that;

  • The employee's average weekly earnings before he or she became ill was more than the lower earnings limit for National Insurance Contributions (£112).
  • The period of sickness is at least four days. This is known as the Period of Incapacity for Work.

Please note that in relation to meeting the qualifying conditions, all days count towards a Period of Incapacity for Work, including weekends and public holidays.

You should only pay Statutory Sick Pay for qualifying days. These are the days or hours that your Personal Assistant would, under normal circumstances, be expected to be working for you.

No Statutory Sick Pay is paid for the first four days (known as waiting days) of sickness in a Period of Incapacity for Work.

If an employee is absent for four to seven days you would usually ask for a self-certificate form. You can design your own form or SC1 or SC2 forms are available free of charge from Social Security offices. For sickness leave lasting seven days or more you may ask for a fitness for work certificate. You have no right to insist on a medical certificate for illnesses of less than seven days.

Since April 2014 employers are no longer able to claim back SSP from HMRC.

Statutory Maternity Pay

Pregnant employees are legally entitled, provided that qualifying conditions are met, to receive Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP). If your employee has average gross weekly earnings (before deductions) of £112 per week she can get SMP for up to 39 weeks. For the first 6 weeks your employee will be entitled to 90% of her weekly earnings. In the remaining 33 weeks she should receive £139.58 per week or 90% of her average weekly earnings if this is less than £139.58

To meet the qualifying conditions, the employee must:

  • Have average weekly earnings that are higher than the lower earnings limit for National Insurance Contributions
  • Have been constantly employed by you for at least 26 weeks when the baby is due
  • Still be pregnant at the eleventh week before her baby is expected
  • Have stopped working for you,

Statutory Maternity Pay covers 39 weeks. Your pregnant employee is entitled to receive SMP for that period, regardless of whether or not she intends to return to work for you.

You will probably be able to claim the Statutory Maternity Pay back in full under a scheme called the Small Employer Relief scheme because your National Insurance Contributions are unlikely to exceed £20,000.

You get the money back by deducting Statutory Maternity Pay paid from your monthly/quarterly payment of National Insurance Contributions.

You can get more information on pay and time off for parents in the Employer's Help Book E12 (2008) which is available from the HM Revenue and Customs.

If your employee does not qualify for Statutory Maternity Pay, she may still be able to get Maternity Allowance.

For further information on Statutory Sick Pay and Statutory Maternity Pay, you should contact Centre for Independent Living NI or HMRC New Employers Helpline 0300 200 3211.

Severance or Redundancy Pay

Employers must, by law, make redundancies fair. A person who has been employed by you for two years or more is entitled to redundancy pay.

The amount of redundancy to pay depends upon the employee's age and will be between half and one and a half weeks' pay for each year worked.