Self-employed versus employed

In any carer forum or chat group, this subject often comes up, sometimes with quite strong points of view. While everyone has their own opinion as to which one is the best, there are some pros and cons of working as self-employed or employed.

Pros of self-employed

Your rates

You as the live-in carer are free to set your own rates, rather than have an agency dictate them to you. You are also free to change them if the potential client is going to be harder work, more responsibility, or has added night calls. 

You can adapt your rates to couples where one needs most of the care, or where both need similar amounts of care. You can charge double for any bank holiday you choose.

The rates that you set are often going to be higher than an agency because you are taking the middleman out of the equation. Agencies always charge a placement/admin fee which you will not be dealing with.  

Your hours

You can be more flexible when you are self-employed. You can set your own hours to suit yourself. If you prefer a break of one hour per day and extra on Saturday, you can negotiate with the client directly. 

An agency may be fixed on ensuring the carer takes two hours per day, regardless of how you feel.

The area you work

If you only want to work in a certain part of the UK, you can. With an agency you risk getting less work if you restrict yourself to one area. If it is more convenient for you to fly into a northern airport or Scotland, then you can source your clients there and save on travel expenses and times.

There is no ‘bullying’ factor

Whether we like to agree on this or not, it is a fact that many agencies bully carers into places they may not want to go, particularly in the holiday season when carers may want to be with their own families. 

Many a carer has opted to work over the holidays for fear of not getting another placement afterwards. While this is unfair, it does happen, and more often than it should. 

Being self-employed you are never ‘talked into’ taking a placement that you do not want or coerced to work at a time you prefer not to.  


You do the paperwork

You will not have anyone to remind you to book your update training, renew your DBS, or do your tax returns. You will be responsible for paying your own NI, carer insurance. If you choose to have someone help you with your taxes, it is up to you to find a reputable person.

Your pension

Being self-employed means that you are the only person who contributes to your pension. You need to take care of any investments you make and do your research on the best schemes.


You need to negotiate your own holiday pay with each client. An agency will already have holiday rates in place and will inform the client of them even before you arrive.

The contract

You need to negotiate the contract between the client and yourself. This means that you need to have a copy of a legal contract which you can present to a potential client. 

You need to know what should be included in the contract as once signed it cannot easily be amended. You may need to negotiate a different contract for each client, depending on the circumstances.

More than one client

If you are to remain self-employed you need to have more than one client each year, so the responsibility is on you to find a second client and possibly another like-minded carer to work in with you.

Sick pay

You will cover this on your own if you are self-employed. Basically, if you are ill and cannot work, you will not get paid so it is essential that you have a float for things like this.

Back up

With a self-employed position, you do not have any agency backing you up. If the client refuses to pay you at the end of a placement, you will need to sort this out yourself. 

If you need advice you will have to find it by yourself. If you are placed in a position where you need legal help it will be up to you do get it yourself.

Final thoughts

There are always two sides to any discussion and what suits one person may simply not work for another.

What is important is that before you commit to either being self-employed or employed, you do your own research and choose the option which suits you best. 



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