If you’ve decided to hire the services of an independent caregiver for yourself or your loved one, understanding the legal aspect of the deal is no less important than it is if you opted for a home care agency.

Without a clear contract outlining the job duties and expectations and expectations of a self-employed caregiver, problems can easily arise. No contract also means there isn’t an effective plan of action in case something goes wrong, which puts both parties at great risk.

In this article, I explore self-employed caregiver contracts, why they’re so important for both families looking for private duty caregivers and the caregiver themselves, what to look for in your contract, and what to include in it.

What Is a Self-employed Caregiver Contract?

A self-employed caregiver contract is a legally binding document that outlines the caregiver’s responsibilities and expectations of the caregiver’s role so that both the person or family hiring and the caregiver are protected and fully understand the job limitations, expectations, and standards of care.

Putting all the important details in writing before starting the job keeps everyone on good terms. A contract ensures your aging loved one receives the best care and protects the caregiver from exploitation.

In this particular case, the caregiver is self-employed or independent, meaning they don’t work for a home care agency. This type of contract can also be called a personal care agreement.

The purpose of an independent caregiver contract is to eliminate confusion or ambiguity surrounding the caregiver’s actions to ensure they aren’t caught up in any conflicts that may arise among those involved in the senior’s care; family members in particular.

Why Are Self-employed Caregiver Contracts Important?

Self-employed caregiver contracts ensure alignment between the caregiver, the person hiring, and their family.

A contract also informs the person hiring a private caregiver of their own responsibilities in the matter. For example, offering the agreed-upon compensation regularly and purchasing medical supplies.

For the independent caregiver, a contract ensures they perform only the actions they can and are legally permitted to do in line with their training and certifications.

A contract is also the best way to protect the caregiver from getting mixed up in any disputes regarding senior care. It’s also beneficial for the family caregiver hiring as it forces the resolution of family disagreements to avoid future conflicts.

A common example is financial and caregiving disagreements among family members; some may feel unfairly overburdened as unpaid caregivers, while others may refuse the cost of a private duty caregiver because of a feud with other family members or the older adult themselves.

What To Look For in a Self-employed Caregiver Contract

Here’s a general outline of the elements you should look for in a self-employed caregiver contract, whether as the person hiring or the caregiver being hired:

Schedule and Hours

When will the service start and when will it end? When will there be an opportunity to reconsider the terms?

Besides the schedule, the contract should specify the number of work hours and the work days of the week.

Responsibilities

The contract should specify the type and description of the caregiver’s duties. Some examples include:

  • Personal hygiene; grooming, bathing, etc.
  • Housekeeping; cleaning, laundry, etc.
  • Meal preparation; source of food, types of meals, etc.

Caregiver Pay Rate

This includes hourly rates or salaries as well as the payment schedule and method.

Paying Caregivers Under the Table

Paying caregivers “under the table” refers to the practice of compensating them without reporting the payments to tax authorities, often to save money on taxes or avoid employment regulations.

Establish a clear payment structure in the caregiver contract and comply with all relevant tax and employment regulations to ensure a secure and legally compliant working relationship.

Benefits and Reimbursements

Benefits such as health care, sick days, paid vacation, and dental should be specified in the contract.

The same goes for the details of reimbursements for transportation, shopping, medication purchases, and so on.

What Should a Self-employed Caregiver Contract Contain?

While the health of the care recipient is probably the top priority for the person hiring a caregiver, this doesn’t mean it’s the only thing they’re concerned about. Other important aspects include privacy and permissions.

Include these additional legal clauses in a self-employed caregiver contract:

Privacy Clause

A legal clause outlining a clear privacy agreement protects the privacy of the senior receiving care.

For example, a non-disclosure agreement prevents the caregiver from revealing or discussing whatever they see or hear in the care recipient’s house with outsiders.

There should also be a clause addressing social media use to ensure no pictures or details concerning your loved one are shared on social media platforms.

Healthcare Permissions

Include a legal clause regarding healthcare permissions to clarify if the caregiver can make medical and health-related decisions on behalf of the senior care recipient, and if so, which decisions they can make.

Setting up doctor’s appointments and picking up prescriptions are examples of healthcare contractual permissions.

Liability Coverage

A liability coverage clause should be included in the contract to guarantee that both the care recipient and caregiver will be covered in case something happens.

For example, the homeowner’s insurance of the person hiring will probably only cover specific occurrences, so the independent caregiver may need to have liability insurance themselves.

Dispute Resolution

This legal clause outlines the processes and actions both parties will take if a conflict arises or they seek legal counsel.

Generally, this clause describes steps both parties will follow to discuss problems (in person, on the phone, via email, with a mediator, etc.). If the disagreements can’t be resolved, it’ll also describe how to escalate the legal process.

Emergency Contacts and Guidelines

Include a clause in the self-employed caregiver contract that identifies emergency contacts and protocols.

The latter can include:

  • Who to call if there’s an emergency
  • What to do should the care recipient suddenly fall ill
  • Advanced Directives, POLST documents, and DNR (Do Not Resuscitate) agreements

This clause is particularly important in senior care contracts or personal care agreements because medical emergencies are likely to happen when caring for aging loved ones. As such, the caregiver needs protocols to follow to ensure legal protection if the care recipient’s health suddenly declines.

Provision of Medical Supplies

This legal clause addresses the responsibility of providing medical supplies and adaptive tools necessary for delivering proper care to your senior loved one.

In most cases of self-employed caregiver contracts, this clause states that the person hiring will provide their own medical tools and supplies. These include wipes, gloves, incontinence products, and bathing supplies.

In Summary

A self-employed caregiver contract is just as important for the person hiring as it is for the independent caregiver providing the service. It offers both parties clear guidelines for the responsibilities and expectations of the job in a legally binding format.

Important features to consider in a contract include:

  • Schedule and hours
  • Responsibilities
  • Pay, benefits, and reimbursements

Incorporating legal clauses is crucial, such as:

  • Privacy
  • Healthcare permissions
  • Liability coverage
  • Dispute resolution
  • Emergency contacts and guidelines
  • Provision of medical supplies

By addressing these elements, both the caregiver and the person hiring can ensure a comprehensive understanding of their roles, expectations, and legal protections.

Self-employed Caregiver Contracts Frequently Asked Questions

Why are self-employed caregiver contracts important?

Self-employed caregiver contracts are important because they establish a clear understanding of responsibilities, expectations, and job limitations for both the caregiver and the person hiring. These legally binding agreements also protect both parties from potential disputes, ensuring a secure and compliant working relationship.

Can I pay a self-employed or private caregiver under the table?

While it is possible to pay a self-employed or private caregiver under the table, it is illegal and not recommended. Engaging in this practice can lead to financial penalties, legal repercussions, and a lack of protection for both parties in case of disputes or disagreements.

What should a self-employed caregiver contract contain?

A self-employed caregiver contract should contain essential elements such as schedule and hours, responsibilities, pay, benefits, and reimbursements. It should also include legal clauses covering privacy, healthcare permissions, liability coverage, dispute resolution, emergency contacts and guidelines, and the provision of medical supplies.

Is a private caregiver an employee or self-employed?

A private caregiver can be either an employee or self-employed, depending on their working relationship with the person hiring them. If they work independently, manage their own schedules, and provide their services to multiple clients, they are generally considered self-employed. If they work under the direct control and supervision of the person hiring them, they may be considered an employee.

An expert in senior care, Amie has professional and personal experience in senior housing, caregiving, end-of-life care, and more from her 24 years of working with older adults.