A part-time employee will usually work fixed hours – either a few hours each day or certain days of the week. Most part-time admin staff wouldn’t expect to work less than 15 hours per week (equivalent to two full days) so you have to be sure that you have enough work to fill that time if you’re taking on an employee.
A VA will work to the hours you need, either on a retainer package of an agreed number of hours per month or on an ad hoc basis. This gives you the flexibility of increasing hours if you need to (depending on your VA’s capacity). However the VA won’t always work at set times so if you need fixed days this might not be the right choice for you.
On the positive side a VA is more easily able to be flexible when the need arises, for example if an urgent or unexpected piece of work has to be completed. A VA can move their schedule around to hit the deadline. An employee working fixed hours may need to be paid overtime or simply might not be able to get the job done.
Wages and other costs
An employed administrator typically earns £10-£12 per hour and a PA anything from £15-£20 per hour. Contrasting this with a VA rate, which starts at around £30 per hour and an employee seems like a no-brainer. However with a VA you have no overheads to pay, such as NI, tax, pension, sick pay, holiday pay etc. The VA has their own office space, equipment and software.
And you’re only paying them for the hours they work for you. An employee needs to be paid for their contracted time whether there’s enough work for them to do or not.
This isn’t always something that springs to mind immediately on this topic but it is worth noting.
An employee requires a minimum paid holiday allocation and you are responsible for finding cover while they are away. Likewise, if your employee takes sick leave they must be paid and you have to find cover.
A VA is not paid for any leave they take. Depending on your agreement, the VA may take responsibility for providing holiday and sickness cover for those periods when they can’t work.
Skills and expertise
There are many highly skilled administrators out there who are excellent at their jobs and hugely proficient at Word, Excel etc. They may also have experience in other software if they have had a specialised role in the past, for example in a finance department.
VAs are also usually experts in MS Office but because of the nature of their business tend to have skills and knowledge of software that fall outside the usual admin remit. VAs often work on several different systems for different clients, giving them a depth and breadth of knowledge that is greater than your average office administrator.
VAs invest in regular training to keep their skills up to date and ensure they’re aware of the latest tools. So unless you need them to learn something specific to your business there should be no need for any training costs. If an employee needs to learn a new skill you will have to cover their training costs.
Traditionally an office administrator has worked in the office of their employer for a set number of hours per week. A VA can work anywhere – at home, on-site, abroad – it really doesn’t matter.
Post-pandemic this is perhaps less of a difference than it used to be. Covid has demonstrated that with a decent laptop and good wi-fi connection anyone can work from home.
You still have to consider which model fits your needs best. do you need to have someone in an office or can you work with your PA/admin support remotely?
What fits your working style best? Are you comfortable with remote working or do you prefer the atmosphere and vibe of office working?
What do you need your admin support to do for you?
An employee is employed by you to come in and do what’s on their job description. If what you need is simply someone to show up each day, keep your office running smoothly and efficiently, provide a good level of customer service and ensure all the paperwork is up to date then an employee is absolutely the way to go. There are VAs who will do that as well.
VAs are also business owners. A good VA will do everything an employee will do but will typically also cast an eye over your business and suggest areas where you can improve efficiency or streamline processes. They may also highlight opportunities for growth you may not have spotted.
Which you prefer depends on whether you want someone to work for you or someone to work with you.
- works set hours/days
- earns a lower hourly rate but costs additional overheads
- is paid for their contracted hours
- absence cover is the responsibility of the employer
- usually works on site
- is typically proficient in MS Office
- works for you
- works flexibly
- is paid a higher hourly rate but with no overheads
- is paid for hours worked
- arranges their own absence cover
- works remotely
- has a wide-ranging skill set
- works with you
That’s the key differences and benefits of each type of support highlighted. As you can see neither option is better than the other – it’s just what is best for you.
If you’re still struggling to make up your mind why not book in a no-obligation discovery call to talk through what type of support you need?