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Employing Support Workers

Sourcing your own support workers and/or direct employing them

This gives you more control over who provides your support, how and when they provide that support.  For a lot of people, it also means more consistency.  You can pay your support workers at a hourly rate higher than they would be paid through a service provider.  You can organise the training you want them to have.  If you are able to look after your support workers, you are more likely to keep them for longer.  If a support worker isn’t right for you, you can end their employment.  Another benefit is that direct employing your support workers is cheaper than using a service provider, which means that you make your NDIS funding spread further.

Support workers must not be related to you.  You could employ a neighbour or friend if you would like, but it’s a good idea to make sure that doesn’t risk your relationship with them.  Ideally you would seek a support worker with interests that match the person’s, that way it will be easier for them to build rapport, and that person can then mentor them in an area of interest.

You could also advertise at the TAFE for a student who has been studying Cert IV in Youth Work, Cert IV in Mental Health, Cert III or IV in Community Services, or Cert III in Individualised Support – Disability or Cert III or IV in Education Assistance.  You could also advertise for a student studying at ECU or online.  Another option would be to look in the Support Worker, Mentor and Families Connection in Bunbury and Southwest Facebook group.

It’s a good idea to make sure that any support worker you choose has a police clearance, Working With Children Check and preferably current First Aid Certificate, drivers licence (and current insurances on their car if they will be transporting the person in their car).  You may also want them to have a NDIS Worker Screening Check, but bear in mind that this is expensive and hard to apply for unless the employer is NDIS registered.  If you are a Self-Manager who is direct employing support workers, your support workers will not be able to get a NDIS Worker Screening Check in WA.

Some people choose to employ independent support workers who have their own Australian Business Number (ABN).  There are some problems with doing this.  If someone is working regular hours for the same person, they are typically considered to be an employee and not a contractor (excluding small businesses like cleaners and gardeners) by the Australian Tax Office (ATO).  The ATO has the power to decide that someone was an employee and not a contractor, years after the work was performed.  The ATO also has the power to freeze the private bank accounts of the person they deem to have been an employer and withdraw unpaid superannuation, years after the work was done.  This has previously happened in the construction industry, so there is risk that it could also happen in the disability sector, so again, superannuation should be paid.

We suggest that you:

  • Read the ATO’s information about paying workers as an employee or contractor.
  • Seek advice from a registered tax agent to make sure that your legal obligations are being met (this cost is claimable from NDIS funding).
  • Make sure that you have workers compensation insurance, whether the support worker is a contractor or not.  In WA, this is a legal requirement (this cost is claimable from NDIS funding).  See also Workcover websiteCGU and BizCover are commonly used for disability support worker compensation insurance.
  • If you’re not going to be direct employing the support worker(s) yourself, consider using a bookkeeper or plan manager who will manage payroll, super etc for you (this cost is claimable from NDIS funding).  WA South West Plan Management will manage support worker payroll for people self-managing NDIS funding.  You would still need to make sure you have workers compensation insurance.
  • If you’d prefer not to use one of the above options, it’s still a good idea to make sure that support workers have superannuation paid and insurances covered.  The participant / nominee can still source their own support worker(s), then both the support worker(s) and the participant / nominee can sign up to use either Humdrum or Hireup to manage the payroll, insurance and super for the support worker(s).  We don’t recommend Mable because they do not manage superannuation or tax for the support workers.  With Humdrum you can choose the hourly rate the support worker is paid, and what the hourly cost from the plan is.  Hireup have set rates.  Both are NDIS registered providers, so the support worker would also need to apply for a NDIS Worker Screening Check and complete the NDIS Code of Conduct training.

Direct Employment of Support Workers:

This is where you self-manage the support worker funding and directly employ them, so are responsible for managing:

  • Payroll
  • Tax
  • Superannuation
  • Insurance
  • Training

To direct employ support workers, you will need to have either a Withholding Payer Number (WPN) or an Australian Business Number (ABN).  If you already have an ABN you will need to use that for direct employing support workers, otherwise you will need to apply for a WPN.

It’s a good idea to seek advice from a registered tax agent to make sure that everything is set up correctly and you meet all your legal obligations (claimable from NDIS funding).

Seeking advice from FairWork Australia to make sure you understand your responsibilities as an employer is also a good idea.

You should use book-keeping software like Xero to manage payroll (claimable from NDIS funding).  If you have an ABN you will be able to use Single Touch Payroll.  If you have a WPN, the ATO still hasn’t set up Single Touch Payroll for WPN holders, so you will need to do it manually.  It’s a good idea to make sure that you pay the Pay As You Go (PAYG) and superannuation regularly to meet your obligations.

You can use your support worker funding flexibly to employ a book-keeper to manage payroll for you if you would prefer.

The cost of payroll, superannuation, workers compensation and public liability insurance, book-keeping software, training, and consumables used by the support workers (eg. masks, gloves, extra toilet paper etc) are all claimable from NDIS funding.

Other helpful resources: