Hiring a Home Care Worker - Don't Be An Accidental Employer

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posted by Ryan Whittington on August 23, 2012

written by Ted Ryan

As more and more baby boomers find themselves caring for aging parents, it is as crucial as ever to understand the process and legal accountabilities of hiring a caregiver. There are many home care services to meet the growing demand. Accordingly, contractual arrangements and employment policies also vary greatly.

Many factors should be considered when deciding to use a home care agency versus a private service, such as a friend, family member, registry, placement agency or classified ad.

It is important to educate yourself before reaching a conclusion. Uninformed consumers risk becoming accidental employers, and subject to tax and legal obligations. The burden of liabilities for a caregiver falls upon their official employer. The definition of employer can sometimes lead to surprises.

Legally, a worker becomes your employee if you control what work is done and how it is done. This is true regardless of whether the work is part-time or full-time, or whether you hired the worker through an agency or list provided by an agency or association. Similarly, it does not matter if you pay the worker on an hourly, daily, weekly basis, or by the job.

Some people opt to hire a private caregiver, feeling it gives them a closer role in choosing the person to provide the best care. Others use an outside party, although this does not necessarily remove the burden of employment responsibility. Similarly, hiring a friend or relative can result in a complicated situation.

Most surprises occur in instances involving an agency that does not necessarily employ the workers associated with them. Many registries and placement agencies help workers find a position but do not actually employ or supervise them. Thus, in the eyes of the IRS, the family using the caregiver is most likely to be considered the employer, responsible for pay, taxes and other obligations. This also applies to trusts and trustees.

If you do decide to hire a caregiver privately, or find learn that you are an accidental employer, it may be beneficial to speak with a legal advisor. As an employer, you may be responsible for paying state and federal employment taxes, Social Security taxes, and Medicare taxes. Additionally, you may potentially be required to register with the Employment Department, file annual or quarterly tax reports, and pay unemployment taxes.

Alternately, the process simplifies when using a home care agency that employs all of its caregivers, such as Seniors Home Care. In addition to paying requisite taxes, the agency pays workers’ compensation and liability insurance. We conduct criminal background checks, supervise, hire and fire the caregiver, and provide replacement caregivers when one is unable to fulfill their duty. At Seniors Home care, we also make an extra effort to match caregivers to clients’ needs and personalities. Another perk is that after placing a caregiver, we’ll provide initial and ongoing training, assessments and care planning.

In the end, you may find that using a home care agency is not only a simpler way to go, but also the cost effective route.

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Advocacy and Education and Caregiving

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