Office Assistant 
An overview

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Feeling over-worked? It’s time to hire an office assistant...

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’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
  • youll 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 Human Resources 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.

With a freelance office assistant or secretary, they will pay their own tax and National Insurance. You won’t have to register as an employee 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 a virtual receptionist, or a virtual office assistant (VOA).

What is a Virtual receptionist or office assistant?

A virtual receptionist can answer your phone when you are seeing clients or in a meeting. They can also book appointments and manage your diary. A virtual office assistant offers those services and more - they can carry out secretarial duties and may help with your bookkeeping. The only difference is that they are not based in your office. 

A virtual receptionist or 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. 

Sheena Russell runs a successful Virtual Office business from her office near Bath. You can visit her website at or email