Personal assistant employment - Coronavirus update
We know people who employ their own personal assistant (PA) for their care and support are really worried about coronavirus COVID-19. In this time of uncertainty, ensuring people who need care and support is a priority. There have been assurances from national government that local authorities and clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) will do everything in their power to keep care going.
We have put together this information to help answer some of the most common questions we are receiving.
This is based on the information as of today and we may update this information several times in the coming days and weeks. For up-to-date government information, please check Gov.UK.
Clarity of self-isolation periods
Some people are confused about how long they or their staff need to self-isolate if they are in a vulnerable group (such as being over 70 years old or having an underlying health condition or disability) or if they, or someone in their household, are showing symptoms. This is the Government advice:
- If you live alone and you have symptoms of coronavirus illness (COVID-19), however mild, stay at home for 7 days from when your symptoms started.
- If you live with others and you are the first in the household to have symptoms of coronavirus, then you must stay at home for 7 days, but all other household members who remain well must stay at home and not leave the house for 14 days. The 14-day period starts from the day when the first person in the house became ill.
- For anyone else in the household who starts displaying symptoms, they need to stay at home for 7 days from when the symptoms appeared, regardless of what day they are on in the original 14-day isolation period.
The following are the most common questions we are receiving from people on a direct payment who employ staff.
How will my PA get paid if I am self isolating?
If the person receiving assistance wishes to self-isolate and the personal assistant is available for work, then personal assistants are entitled to full pay.
If a personal assistant self-isolates, then they can claim sick pay subject to them qualifying.
Will the PA qualify for the 80% that the government is willing to pay?
They do not qualify for the 80% funding from the government at this time.
If I employ a PA through a payroll provider and can’t find the contract, should I carry on paying even though I can’t have a personal assistant at home?
If the direct payment recipient wishes to self-isolate and the personal assistant is available for work, then the personal assistant is entitled to full pay.
If the personal assistant self-isolates, then they can claim sick pay subject to them qualifying.
If my PA has to self-isolate, will they get paid Statutory Sick Pay (SSP)?
Yes, if they are eligible (earn over £118/week). They will be paid from day one rather than the fourth day of their illness. This will be applied retrospectively from 13 March 2020.
My PA says they are self-isolating. Do I need them to provide me with a fit note from the doctor or NHS 111?
If your PA says they are self-isolating, they will not be able to go to their doctor and are being asked not to call NHS111 unless they really need to. You do not need evidence from your PA to be able to claim SSP for them. If they are self-isolating and then become sick, they should let you know (by telephone not in person).
My PA is self-isolating and I need to pay SSP, will I get it refunded?
Yes. SSP will be paid out through payroll and claimed back via HMRC. Your payroll provider will deal with this for you. This refund will be for up to two weeks per employee.
If my PA has to self-isolate or is off sick due to Coronavirus and is not eligible for SSP, what do they do?
Those affected by the Coronavirus will be able to apply for Universal Credit and can receive an advance without physically attending a job centre. Please visit the website for more information.
My PA cannot work as I am self-isolating. Do I need to pay them?
Before you lay them off, it is worth considering other options. It is a good idea to discuss these options with the PA to secure the future working relationship.
If your PA cannot do their usual work because you are self-isolating, consider in the first instance other tasks they can do outside the home e.g. shopping, collecting medication, walking the dog. They would be paid their normal wages.
You could ask your PA to take annual leave but they don’t have to agree as you will not have given them the sufficient amount of notice as stated in the contract (e.g. you would normally have to give them a week’s notice before asking them to take annual leave which would not be possible in this situation). They would be paid their normal wages.
If there is no other option as suggested above, you may need to lay your staff off.
On Friday 20 March, the government announced the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme. This is for employed workers who were working in February 2020 (so anyone who started work in March 2020 will not qualify). The scheme indicates that 80% of employee’s wages will be reimbursed to the employer via HMRC. We await further information as to how this scheme will work.
My PA is showing symptoms but does not want to self-isolate and says she/he is fit for work. What do I do?
They should be sent home. If they are sick or self-isolating because they are showing symptoms, you should claim SSP if they are eligible. If not, they will need to apply for Universal Credit (see earlier question). You need to put your contingency plan into action.
My PA(s) can’t work. I still need care and support. What do I do?
You need to refer to your contingency plan. If that is not possible e.g. the care agency isn’t able to provide care, you will need to ask friends and family for help. If you are unable to do this, please refer to your social worker for support. There are lots of community and volunteer groups who may be able to help.
My PA has young children. She wants to bring them to work as their school has closed. Neither the PA nor the children are displaying symptoms. Is this ok?
The short answer in normal times is no you cannot bring children in work place as your employer’s liability insurance will be invalid if there is an accident. However, this is a crisis situation and you should use your discretion and be flexible on the rules e.g. it would be better for a PA to provide you with essential care even if they have a child with them.
The government has confirmed that PAs are classed as ‘key workers’ (someone who is employed to deliver an essential service and must be supported to continue to work). This means that if they are a single parent or the other parent is also a key worker, they can send their child to school or other childcare provision.
I am in the ‘high risk’ category and have received a letter from the NHS saying I need to stay at home for 12 weeks. Can my PA still work for me?
Yes, your PA can still work for you as your care and support needs will continue. It is really important that everyone you come into contact with (your PA and anyone else who lives in your house) follows strict NHS guidelines on hygiene to reduce risk. If you have personal protective equipment (PPE) such as gloves, aprons or masks, you should use them but we know they are in short supply.
Please note: Statutory Maternity Pay, Statutory Paternity Pay, Statutory Shared Parental Pay and Statutory Adoption Pay are not affected.