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Taylor Wessing On How To Avoid Legal Pitfalls When Hiring Household Employees

Chris Cooper, Taylor Wessing, Senior Associate, London, December 2, 2013

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Chris Cooper, who is a senior associate in the employment team at international law firm Taylor Wessing, writes about some of the legal issues that involve private household workers.

What are the key issues during employment?

During employment, the family will be responsible for ensuring that the employee is provided with a safe working environment, arranging payment of wages with deducting tax and monitoring holiday and sick pay entitlements. The family should carry out a health and safety risk assessment of the family home to check for risks that could affect the employee.  The family should also obtain employer's liability insurance to insure against its liability for accidents or illnesses suffered by employees during the course of their work.

If the employee lives in a family property to perform his or her duties, this may result in the employee having a licence to occupy the property for as long as he or she is employed. In such cases, the family should enter into a service occupy agreement to agree the terms of occupation, including an obligation to keep the property in good condition and the family's right to terminate the occupation.

What are the key issues on termination of employment?

On termination of employment, the family will be required to provide the employee with the greater of statutory minimum notice or agreed notice, unless there has been gross misconduct. The minimum notice to be given is one week from the first month to first complete year of employment and then one additional week for each complete year of service up to a maximum of 12 weeks. 

If an employee has two years’ service or greater, the family employer will also have to have a “fair” reason to dismiss the employee and follow a reasonable dismissal procedure. A fair reason would include redundancy, capability or conduct. A failure to have a fair reason for dismissal and follow a procedure could result in a claim for a compensatory award of up to the greater of £74,200 or 12 months' pay.

Heading off trouble

Hiring a household employee can result in legal risks if not handled carefully. Families should think through all the potential issues that might arise in employing a household employee, put in place a well drafted employment agreement to minimise future risks and be mindful of employment laws when terminating the working arrangement.

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