Feeling over-worked?

The private practitioner has a huge set of responsibilities. Clinical work, marketing, planning, accounts, admin, IT. You’ll also have to keep on top of your Continuing Professional Development (CPD).

Such an array of responsibilities can be stressful, but will also make every day varied and exciting.

However, when non-clinical work starts to take over your day; when you fall behind with your accounts or have no time for planning; when your office is such a mess that you lose client records....it’s probably time to hire an office assistant.

And, if you find yourself breathing a sigh of relief when a client cancels or the phone is quiet, then it’s definitely time to hire an office assistant.

But can you afford an office assistant?

You don’t need to hire a full time employee. A part-time office assistant or secretary, working just one or two afternoons a week, could take a huge amount of pressure off your shoulders.

In that time, they could take care of many office admin duties such as filing, correspondence, and bookkeeping. You’ll have more time for clinical work, plus you’ll have someone to talk to and share the load.

However, taking on an office assistant has its own responsibilities:

  • you’ll have to register as an employer with HMRC (this is a fairly simple process)
  • you’ll have to learn about payroll (or you can instruct a bookkeeper to deal with this for you)
  • National Insurance Contributions will need to be paid, and employees registered for PAYE
  • an Employer Annual Return needs to be filed with HMRC if you pay your employee at or over the lower earnings limit
  • you may have to buy office furniture, a computer, and a separate telephone
  • you’ll need to allow for paid leave and the possibility of paying statutory absence pay

On the plus side, it is likely that you will find many people keen to work in your field, who may want a job with flexible hours, and who will be able to offer a lot of support for you and your private practice. Together, you will be able to work out a mutually rewarding arrangement.

We’ve got lots of articles that will help you get started with employment. Have a look at our employment section.

Not yet ready to take on an employee?

There are some alternatives. If you’re not yet ready to become an employer, you should consider hiring either a freelance office assistant or a virtual office assistant.

A freelance office assistant or secretary will pay their own tax and National Insurance. You won’t have to register as an employer with HMRC. All you’ll have to worry about is paying their invoices.

However, freelance office assistants are not always easy to find and can be more expensive - have a look online to see if there are any in your area.

Another option is the virtual office assistant (VOA).

What is a Virtual Office Assistant?

A VOA will carry out many responsibilities of a normal office assistant, secretary or bookkeeper. The only difference is that they won’t carry out those duties at your office. They’ll work from their own home or office. They’ll be self-employed, so you won’t have to worry about tax or National Insurance.

The big benefit to you is that they only work when you need them to, meaning that a Virtual Office Assistant can cost much less than employing someone full or even part time.

You won’t need to pay for any equipment, National Insurance Contributions, holiday, sick pay, or training costs. Your Virtual Office Assistant can be completely flexible, helping you to plan and manage your costs.

Virtual Office Assistants can offer a variety of services, including:

  • telephone answering (a virtual receptionist)
  • bookkeeping
  • typing reports or letters that you have dictated
  • running your diary
  • marketing activities

Some (but not all) Virtual Office Assistants will offer domestic services as well, such as running errands.

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