Starting a business in the UK is incredibly simple. That’s why so many companies are run from sitting rooms and garages. But as your company becomes more successful, and you begin to develop a bigger workload, chances are you’ll need to move out of that garage and hire staff to help you run your business.
Hiring staff can be incredibly exciting, and it can make the life of a business owner a whole lot easier. That being said, there are a few things you should know before you start handing out employee contracts – including legal requirements you must fulfil.
To help you wrap your head around all of the basics of staffing, we’ve developed a handy guide designed to get you ready for hiring a brilliant new team.
Why should I hire staff?
Not every company needs a huge team. In fact, a lot of businesses don’t even need multiple individuals in order to operate. In the UK, you can form a company with just one person – and if you’re operating as a consultant or contractor, you might be able to carry on happily and successfully as your company’s sole employee.
But if you’re operating in a number of other industries, or are expecting a workload that you simply cannot hope to cope with on your own, it’s definitely worth looking into hiring some additional help.
So, what is an employee?
The UK Government defines an employee as someone who works for you under an employment contract. According to UK law, a contract or some form of written particulars must be awarded to any person you’ve contracted to work for your company for more than one month. That means if you’ve contracted someone to carry out work for your company, they are an employee in the eyes of the law, and have several protections and rights that you must uphold – but we’ll get to that in a minute.
How do I find employees for my business?
If you’ve decided your business would benefit from the hiring of additional team members, the first step you must take is to map out your vision for each new role and what the person fulfilling that role will be expected to do. In order to attract staff, you’ll need to come up with credible job titles with detailed job descriptions so that prospective employees will know the type of worker you’re looking for and be drawn to apply.
Your job description should include the role title, a clear description of job responsibilities and a list of the primary (and secondary) duties the successful applicant will be expected to perform. You should also include any personal attributes you’d like the employee to demonstrate, education requirements or certifications you want to see and any other important points you could think of.
Finally, don’t forget to sell your company. In your job description, tell prospective applicants a little bit about your business, what it does, what it stands for and – most importantly – where it’s headed in the future.
After completing your job descriptions, it’s time to advertise them to attract some applicants. The first place you should advertise is your own company website. And if you’re operating locally, one of the best places to promote your vacancy is your local newspaper. Most newspapers still have classified sections either in print or on their websites that are regularly searched by job hunters.
You should also explore targeted online job sites. Most sites are free to advertise on, and some are incredibly popular. If your company is performing niche industry activities, you could also advertise your jobs with trade publication websites.
Finally, never neglect the power of social media. If you’re not already on mainstream social media sites like Facebook or Twitter, set up a business page or account now – and if you’re already on social media, you should definitely be posting to followers about your new job vacancies.
Between all these platforms, you’re bound to get loads of applications to choose from.
How do I conduct a job interview?
The first time you meet your prospective employees is ordinarily at their job interview. If you’ve ever experienced an interview, you’ll know there’s a fairly resolute formula that most businesses adhere to – and it’s fairly simple.
The first step you must take prior to the interview is to prepare your questions. As the employer, you need to have a think about exactly what it is you’re looking for in terms of a new hire, and then come up with a set of questions that relate directly back to those requirements. Flip back through the job description you advertised, and try to create at least one broad question that you think relates directly back to each skill or duty.
When you do ask your interviewee questions, you should try and ask them to come up with real solutions. Everybody’s used to getting asked about their biggest weakness or their proudest achievement to date, but that doesn’t normally relate directly to that person’s ability to do the job you want them to do.
Instead, you could try coming up with on-the-job scenarios that person is likely to face if you offer them the job, and see how they’ll react.
Something else to think about when conducting your first job interviews is whether you’d like to involve others in the decision-making process. If you have a business partner, mentor or a trusted friend, it could be worth inviting them along to the interview so that you’ll be able to receive an additional opinion about the interviewee.
You don’t want to get too many people involved, because a wide range of opinions might only make the process more difficult. But sometimes getting an outsider’s view will open your eyes to reasons why you should (or shouldn’t) have a second look at a candidate.
Once you’ve conducted each interview and are happy to select one of the candidates, give them a call with the good news and send through an employment contract. If you’re new to employee contracts, they don’t have to be super long and complicated documents.
To help get you started, the UK Government offers advice on what to include in the employee contracts, as well as a template for a written statement of employment particulars that meets the legal requirements of the Employment Rights Act 1996.
Do I need an employee handbook?
Before you make offers of employment to new staff members, you might want to have a think about developing a short employee handbook.
So, what are employee handbooks?
They’re essentially just a guide designed to answer all of the frequently asked questions that your new employees might come up with while on the job. This normally includes a list of all of the company rules your employees will need to adhere to while under your employment or on-site – but it should also outline their statutory rights and entitlements.
These are the sort of things employers generally include in their employee handbooks:
Be sure to explain payroll policies in writing. Explain what deductions you are required to make for tax purposes, as well as the voluntary deductions staff members can choose to make – such as childcare vouchers. Spell out any overtime pay rules, scheduling, potential opportunities for salary increases and any time-keeping expectations.
If you plan to offer your employees any benefits, you should list them out in the employee handbook. Essentials include optional benefits like private health insurance, as well as statutory benefits like government sick pay and pension information.
Your employees will want to know about their holiday entitlement. Your employee handbook is the ideal place to spell out annual leave rules, maternity or paternity leave and bereavement leave. You should explain what you’re legally obligated to provide, as well as any additional leave you’re willing to add on in order to attract great talent.
No one should have to feel discriminated against in the workplace, and there are laws in place that protect workers from mistreatment. In your employee handbook, outline government policy on discrimination, as well as your company’s own policies on discrimination and the repercussions employees may face by discriminating against others.
Tell your employees what time they’re expected to be at work, when they’re expected to leave and any overtime expectations.
Code of conduct
Use your employee handbook to outline any workplace dress code, general behavioural expectations and an explanation of how you’d expect your employees to behave in any industry-specific situations.
Outline any health and safety obligations you must adhere to in order to provide your team with a safe and secure place to work – but also mention any obligations your employees will need to adhere to, including incident report procedures and the reporting of safety hazards.
You must spell out any policies on the use of personal devices and social media in the workplace, and how your employees access and share company data.
It’s not always applicable, but some employers now include agreements or a conflict of statement interest in their employee handbooks in order to let staff members know what company information is and isn’t appropriate to share with non-staff members.
That’s just the tip of the iceberg. No two businesses are alike, and so you might need to include other items in your employee handbook. If you need help getting started, you can find templates online.
What are my regulatory requirements as an employer?
When you hire an employee, you inherit a short list of statutory responsibilities that you must adhere to. If you fail to meet government requirements as an employer, you could land your business in hot water.
Bearing that in mind, there are seven things you absolutely must do when you’re hiring staff for the first time:
- You must pay your employee at least the National Minimum Wage.
- You must check your employees have the legal right to work in the UK.
- You must apply for a DBS check if your company works in a field that requires one (for example, if you’re working with vulnerable people of providing security). For reference, DBS checks used to be referred to as CRB checks.
- You must acquire employers’ liability insurance, and that insurance needs to be in place as soon as your employees start work.
- You must give your employee a written statement of employment– or a contract. This applies to anyone you’re employing to work for you for more than one calendar month.
- You need to register as an employer with HMRC. You can do this up to four weeks before you’re ready to pay your new staff.
- You must check to see if you need to automatically enrol your staff into a workplace pension scheme.
If you need further assistance getting started on any of these requirements, the UK Government provides step-by-step guidance on its website.
The bottom line
At first glance, this might all seem like a lot to take in. Making the decision to hire staff can be difficult enough – let alone trying to write and promote a job description, conduct interviews and ensure you’re adhering to a suite of regulatory requirements. But the truth is, a lot of these processes come naturally, and they’re incredibly simple to complete.
Just remember: if you get stuck, the government offers plenty of guidance online. An accountant or solicitor will also be able to provide you with credible advice in relation to the employment of staff. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, and don’t be afraid to ask lots of questions. Hiring staff is a hugely exciting step forward for your business – make the most of it.