The Remote Expert
Copy of TE insta post Template 2.jpg

Remote Expert Blog

The Remote Expert blog - online business, work from home and remote work tips and trends

How to hire a virtual assistant

How to hire a virtual assistant

By Emma Heuston, Founder and Principal Lawyer, The Remote Expert

You are up at midnight (again) sending emails. All the coffee in the world isn’t helping keep those tired and bloodshot eyes open. As your head smashes into your keyboard for the third time you think to yourself, “if only I had some help, I could get some sleep and devote more times to my family …….. but I can’t afford it”.

Sound familiar?

I get it. I too am in start up mode with my business, The Remote Expert.

But how busy do you need to become to justify hiring a team member? It is a fine line between being too busy for just you but not busy enough to sustain a whole other employee.

Remote work has again provided a solution (hallelujah) in the form of the virtual assistant, or “VA”. The beauty of a VA is you can hire for as little as a few hours a week through to more substantial time frame.

While this sounds good, what are the things you need to look out for when hiring a VA? We unpack the legal issues below for you and keep on reading to find out our special VA themed offer over on The Remote Expert.

Contractor or Employee? 

The line between an independent contractor and an employee is a fine line.

In Australia, the Australian Tax Office (ATO) takes into account 6 factors that, together combine to determine whether a virtual assistant is considered to be a contractor for tax and superannuation purposes.

Those factors are that the VA:

  1. should be able to subcontract or delegate out their work to another person to assist them;

  2. must be paid for a result based on the outcome, with the quote based on hourly rates or price per item (ie set blocks of time);

  3. must provide all or most of the tools they use to complete the work and receive no allowance or reimbursement for the cost of this equipment;

  4. remains legally responsible for their workers compensation insurance and the quality of their work. If their work is below standard, the VA bears the burden of fixing the sub standard work;

  5. controls when and where the work is done, having regard to any agreement with the principal who contracted them; and

  6. operates their own business independent of the principals who contract the work.

If these factors cannot be established as a whole, your VA might actually be an employee and operating under a sham contract.

Sham contracts are illegal under the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth). If a contract is considered to be an employment contract, the employer can be liable to pay a fine plus refund any back pay of entitlements for leave and superannuation for the sham contractor. 

If you need to look at the issue of whether you (as a VA) or your VA is a contractor or employee, get in touch here for a free discovery chat with me.


Home country or off shore VA?

I am not going to open the can of worms surrounding ethical issues or asynchronous time zones when looking at the difference between a home country VO or off shore VA.

The internet is alive with debates on this topic. You only need to visit google to see the various pros and cons of either approach.

What I am going to focus on in this blog post is the tax issues that arise when you engage across different countries.

 Consider firstly whether the VA is an employee or contractor. If the VA is an employee you will need an employer of record located in the same country as the VA. Organisations like Shield Geo offer this service and my advice is that it is well worth getting this right so you are not hit with tax and other obligations from another country. Engaging an employee in the same country is much easier and can be done via one of the Remote Expert Employment Agreement Templates

Hiring a contractor is much easier, though it is important to consider whether there are any tax obligations hiring between countries and where the jurisdiction of the contract is – that is which courts will hear and/ or enforce any dispute if the parties get into an argument.

Do I need an agreement?

Some VA’s have packages of 5 or 10 hours a week as their starting product. While this is great to see how a VA can help you but to protect yourself (and the VA) you need to enter into a contractor’s agreement to cover things like:

  • the obligations and expectations of both parties;

  • confirming that the arrangement between the parties is as independent contractor and not as an employer/ employee relationship;

  • the way the VA will issue tax invoices and how the VA should be paid;

  • access to any IT systems and the obligations of the VA using the principal’s systems;

  • who owns intellectual property around the work the VA completes for the principal; and

  • how each party can terminate the agreement.

Need to hire a VA?  Have I got a deal for you

To celebrate the growing number of startups in my remote work community over on social media, I have created a special for those wanting to hire a VA.

For the rest of July 2019, quote “VA20” at checkout when you buy the Remote Expert Contractor’s Agreement available here.

If you would rather chat about your requirements, get in touch here for on obligation free consult.