Client Affairs

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.

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. These are matters likely to interest high net worth individuals who
employ such staff and who need to be aware of their rights,
responsibilities and potential vulnerabilities. The views expressed are those of the author and not
necessarily shared by this publication.

Private household workers are often a vital part of any
family and many have a special relationship with their employer. However, it is
often overlooked that the family employer is treated the same as any other
corporate employer under employment rules. As a result, this can cause
unnecessary stress and potentially be costly and embarrassing for the family.

It is therefore essential that the family treats its staff
as a commercial employer would treat its employees notwithstanding that it may
seem unnatural to do so given the intimate working arrangement. A commercial
employer would look to protect its interests throughout the working
relationship and a family employer should do the same. Forward planning can ensure that the family
is well placed to manage the relationship effectively and is protected from
risks.

So, what are the key issues that families need to be aware
of when employing household staff?

First, it is important to clarify the role of employer and
employee.

The employer

An individual can of course engage another person to work as
his or her employee, worker or contractor. In the case of a family, a contractual relationship will be formed
verbally or in writing between a family member and the person carrying out the
work. That family member is then personally responsible for compliance with
obligations in the relationship. The consequence of this is that the family
member could be sued for payments and any failure to comply with applicable
laws that regulate the relationship.

One way to avoid personal liability, is to create a private
limited services company owned by the family with which household employees can
be engaged. The private company would
then be responsible for obligations in the working relationship and liability
would not flow back to family members. Alternatively, the family could engage employees using a work agency
which would act as employer and be responsible for fulfilling employment
obligations. If a family member engages
staff directly, however, it is important to agree the terms of the relationship
in writing to minimise risks to the family.

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