Know the risks of hiring an in home health worker

Posted on March 11, 2012


Every day thousands of people look for in-home help to care for someone they love. This care can be for seniors, children, persons with disabilities, those with chronic health conditions or anyone whose quality of life can be improved by having a care worker help in their home. There are really two options and since this can be a legal mine field it pays to take some time to understand the risks before deciding which option is best for you.

The first question to ask is whether you want to be responsible for payroll taxes, worker related injuries, potential abuse and exploitation of the person being cared for and supervision of the worker(s). If you hire someone to do this care you may legally put yourself into a position where, as an employer, these are risks you assume. Many people either hire someone they find in the paper or through a friend or work through a registry to find a care giver. Hiring a friend or relative puts you in the same position. Most people that go this route are trying to save money, and there is nothing wrong with that if you understand the risk on the back-end.

In days past the argument could have been made that this person was a contract worker and there would be no need to worry about the responsibilities of being an employer. IRS rulings over the past several years have totally put that to rest. Therefore, it is very important that the person doing the hiring ask the registry or agency they are working with about the legal relationship into which they are entering with the caregiver.

If you dictate when the caregiver is on duty and supply the equipment to provide care, you’re building an employer-employee relationship. Even a part-time caregiver can be considered an employee, especially if the caregiver doesn’t provide the same type of service to others.

There are many in home health care companies that actually employ their workers and assume all the responsibilities that go along with this. Don’t let saving a few dollars put you in a position you will regret later – ask the right questions up front and compare apples to apples.

I recommend the article “What to Know If You Are the Boss of a Caregiver” by Victoria E Knight published in the Wall Street Journal. You may also want to check out the National Private Duty Association for recommendations.

And, we at BrightStar of Downtown Houston are always ready to serve you if you are in the Houston Area.

Rick Morey