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Domestic employers often agree a net (i.e. take-home) wage with their staff, but in reality any employee is always paid a gross salary, with tax and National Insurance Contributions deducted and paid to HMRC on a quarterly basis by the employer on behalf of the employee. Although many employers tend to look on this as an additional cost, it is actually part of the gross wage. On top of the gross wage, employers also have to pay an Employer's National Insurance Contribution for each employee.

Domestic employment is probably the only profession left in the UK where wages are still commonly agreed on the basis of net (i.e. take-home) pay. It is surprising that this outdated arrangement has not yet been dispensed with, as there are considerable financial implications at stake for both employee and employer.

  • By agreeing a net pay you are essentially writing a blank cheque - committing to pay all your employee’s tax and National Insurance contributions, irrespective of any changes in the legislation and without taking into account their individual tax code or tax position
  • There are several reasons why an employee’s tax code can vary from a standard tax code; for instance, if they have two or more part-time jobs and their other employer is already using up their personal tax-free allowance in their wage calculations, then you, the second employer, must pay tax from the first penny the employee earns, since the personal tax-free allowance can only be claimed once. Another reason for an unusual tax code would be if HMRC were collecting unpaid or underpaid tax from previous employment
  • An increasing number of state benefits and tax reliefs are paid through the payroll mechanism as an offset to employee tax and NI liability. Any taxable benefit provided by the employer, such as the personal use of a car, will increase costs if they are based on a fixed net wage
  • If your employee has a student loan you will be responsible for paying this if you agree a net salary with them
  • The difference between a net pay and the actual cost of employing a domestic employee can be staggering (up to 50% more) and may come as an unpleasant surprise, especially to an inexperienced first-time employer

A net pay arrangement is equally unfavourable to your employee.

 

employment guide

Can domestic staff be self-employed?

"Can't I just ask my employee to sort out their own tax?" this is a question we're frequently asked by potential employers. Whether someone is employed or self-employed depends on the terms and conditions of their work. It is important for all employees to know their employment status as it affects employment and benefit rights, and how to pay tax and National Insurance Contributions.

It is equally important that you, as the employer, are absolutely certain whether it is your responsibility or theirs to declare tax and NI.

How to determine employment status
A worker is probably considered employed if they:

  • have to do the work themselves
  • can be told at any time what to do, where to carry out the work or when and how to do it
  • work a set number of hours
  • can be moved from task to task
  • are paid by the hour, week or month
  • can be paid overtime or receive bonus payments

A worker is probably considered self-employed if they:

  • can hire someone else to do their work or engage helpers at their own expense
  • risk their own money
  • provide the main items of equipment needed to do their job, not just the small tools that many employees provide for themselves
  • agree to do a job for a fixed price regardless of how long the job may take
  • can decide what work to do, how and when to do the work and where to provide the services
  • regularly work for a number of people
  • have to correct unsatisfactory work in their own time and at their own expense

*Please note that these lists are not exhaustive.

The exception to the rule
It is clear to see that in most cases domestic employees do not meet HMRC's criteria for self-employment.

However in some cases HMRC do grant self-employment status to domestic workers. It is very important to remember that if you take on domestic staff who was previously self-employed they should contact the Revenue and request confirmation in writing that their status still applies in the new position.

Transfer of self-employment status between jobs is not automatic, and each situation should be considered individually. This is the employer's responsibility, and if they do not receive written confirmation from the Revenue and it later comes to light that the worker is not self-employed, then it is the employer, not the worker, who will pursued for unpaid taxes. And in the eyes of the law it is a criminal offence not to declare an employee and pay tax and NI contributions on their behalf.

employment law

Introducing our legal service

Your annual subscription to Stafftax entitles you to unlimited use of our Legal Advice help-line. We encourage you to make as much use of this service as you need to manage your domestic employment relations effectively. If you require clarification or advice about any employment issue, other than payroll, then please call or email the Legal Advice helpline.

The Legal Advice helpline is available to you as an employer and is not available to your employee as this may cause a conflict of interest. However, if you wish to make an enquiry to assist your employee, you may call on their behalf.

What we do
Rather than simply explain what you can and cannot do, our legal team work closely with you and focus on finding solutions to your particular situation and problem. We accept and reply to email enquires and will also offer help with drafting letters (should you require it) at no additional charge to you.

Additionally, should you find yourself in a particularly difficult situation and need more help or support over and above that provided by your subscription, we can arrange for you to meet with a member of the legal team in person and for a special member’s rate they can help resolve the matter directly.