What should I consider when hiring my first employee?

A round-up of your legal obligations when recruiting and taking on staff

I started a consultancy business last year and things are going really well so I think I’ll soon need to take on a member of staff. I’ve never employed anyone before so I’m at a bit of a loss. What are the main legal areas I need to get myself clued up on before I start?

Jeremy Green writes:

There are a number of issues you need to think about when taking on staff. Firstly, when recruiting it is unlawful to discriminate against anybody on the basis of age, disability, gender, marital status, race, religion or belief, sexual orientation or gender reassignment. Consequently, you must make every effort to ensure that the job description, vacancy advertisements, application process and interview procedure do not unduly favour or exclude anyone on these grounds.

Once you have selected the candidate you’d like to hire, you have a legal responsibility to ensure that they have the right to work in the UK, and you should check this before you confirm their appointment.

If the candidate accepts the job, there is a minimum requirement for you to provide a written statement of employment within two months of them starting work. This should feature key information including job title, place of work, start date, probationary period, duration of employment, salary and holiday entitlements just to name a few.

You will also need to comply with requirements relating to the minimum wage, working hours, maternity and paternity leave, sick pay and so on, as well as the need to give due consideration to requests for flexible working arrangements.

Before your new employee starts work it is sensible to be well prepared to meet your legal obligations, including arranging employers’ liability insurance (£5m cover) and complying with health and safety and data protection legislation.

You will also need to inform HMRC and manage the employees’ pay, national insurance contributions and income tax payments. Whilst HMRC provide assistance to help you with this, you may prefer to engage an accountant, bookkeeper or payroll agency to manage it on your behalf.

Recruiting new staff can seem fairly daunting with lots of information to absorb and regulation to comply with, but there is plenty of support and advice available to enable you to manage the process successfully.

Jeremy Green is an advisor at Business Link in London

For more information on recruiting, check out Startups’ Taking on staff channel as well as www.businesslink.gov.uk/employment


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