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Taking on Your First Employee

Guest Blog from Joanna Hayes of Assured HRJoanna Hayes

Fantastic, so your business has been successful and grown beyond your expectations and you are now in the exciting position to take the next step and recruit your first employee.  So what does this mean and how do you get it right and avoid the pitfalls?.....

There is no doubt that employing someone can seem daunting with lots to consider, such as....

  • How do you go about hiring the right person?
  • How do you get the best out of them?
  • What are your employer responsibilities?
  • What happens if things don’t work out?
  • How do I keep up with employment law?

There is always the challenge of finding sufficient time and resources to devote to employment issues but as an experienced HR practionner I always advise clients that putting some basics in place before you take someone on can make you more effective and ultimately help you avoid costly and time consuming tribunals.   “But how?” I hear you ask, and the answer is by focusing on eight key areas which I will take you through one by one –

  1. Having an Awareness of the Law
  2.  Having an Employment Contract in place
  3.  Paying the Right Rates
  4.  Recruiting the Right People
  5.  Starting off properly - Training and Induction
  6.  Setting the boundaries – Discipline and Grievance
  7.  Controlling Costs – Managing Attendance
  8.  Communicating

1. Having an Awareness of the Law

Now this doesn’t mean you need to be an employment lawyer or an HR specialist (that’s what people like I am here to help you with.) Instead you just need to have a basic understanding of some key aspects of employment law so that you start off and remain legally compliant.  Specifically issues to be aware of are –

Unfair Dismissal – In most cases this only applies to those employees with over two years service; however there are some exceptions such as health and safety, pregnancy, discrimination, trade union membership, unauthorised deduction of wages etc..  To show that you have acted fairly is not onerous however you just need to have a fair reason to dismiss and show that you have been fair in the way you have acted.

Notice - Statutory notice within the first two years is one week’s notice.  This notice rises to two weeks after two full years and continues to increase by one week per year up to a maximum of 12 weeks.  However contractual notice periods can be greater than this. 

Wages – It is unlawful to deduct money from an employee’s wages unless you are legally required to, have a contractual right to do so or have a separate written agreement to do so.
Holiday Entitlement – Holiday entitlement accrues from day 1 of employment and the statutory entitlement equates to 5.6 working weeks (28 days including Bank Holidays for a full time worker).

Family Friendly Rights – Things such as paid maternity, adoption and paternity leave are a statutory right but Companies may choose to enhance those rights.  All employees also now have the right to request Flexible Working.

The Written Statement - There is a legal requirement to provide a 'written statement of employment particulars” within 2 months of an employee’s start date if the employment contract lasts at least a month or more.

Discrimination – Everyone has the right not to be discriminated against because of such things as age, sex, race, religion or belief, disability, sexual orientation etc.

National Minimum Wage – All employees are entitled to be paid the National Minimum Wage for their particular age bracket and for those over 25 they are now entitled to the National Living Wage (currently £7.20 per hour.)

The Right to be Accompanied – Employees have the right to be accompanied at any formal grievance or disciplinary/dismissal meeting

2. Having an Employment Contract

In addition to the legal requirement to provide a 'written statement of employment particulars” within 2 months of an employee’s start date if the employment contract lasts at least a month or more, documenting the contractual terms in the form of an employment contract is a key requirement as it forms a written binding agreement giving clarity over such key terms such as when and how much someone will be paid, what holiday entitlement they have, what sick pay they are entitled to, and if they leave, what notice are they required to give/be given.  It also helps to save any potential later misunderstandings.  Even if it is prepared, signed and put away in a personal file not to be looked again it is key because should things not work out it provides clarity on the basis of the agreed relationship...

3. Paying the Right Rates

So you have decided to take someone on but what are you going to pay them?  How do you ensure you are not over or underpaying someone?  Well, research and identify the going rate for the particular role in your geographical location - after all nobody wants to pay more than they need to!  Consider also opportunities for future salary progression, if you bring them in on a higher starting salary have you lost the opportunity to financially recognise and reward their performance at the end of a probationary period or at the end of their first year?  And always remember it costs more than just paying a salary to employ someone with National Insurance contributions, auto enrolment pension costs let alone any additional benefit costs such as healthcare, cars etc.  Think about Total Pay and what it will actually cost you to employ someone and make sure it is affordable to you.  Also remember and ensure you are complaint with the Minimum Wage and new National Living Wage Requirements.

4. Recruiting the Right People

So you have done your preparation and are now ready to recruit, so what next?  Ensure you have the best possible chance of recruiting the right person by sitting down and identifying a description of the job that you want performed and a list of all the personal qualities and skills required of the person in order to perform that job effectively.   Once you know what you want the person to do then you need to get that message across so think about how and where you advertise.  Is it word of mouth, is it Jobcentre Plus, employment agencies, local press, the internet or a mixture of these?  Remember the more sources you tap into the more choice you are likely to have and therefore the greater opportunity to recruit the person right for you and your role.  After all it’s your business so being the right fit with you and your organisation is key irrespective of what skills someone may have!  

Having advertised now comes the short listing and selection process.  Ensure that whatever criteria you apply you are consistent and apply to each CV received and ask the same questions of each candidate.  Importantly,  ensure you make a written record of why you have made the decisions you have be it to either reject or select.   And always remember to just double check that there is no unintentional discrimination in any advertising or selection decision.

5. Starting off properly - Training and Induction

Congratulations, your new employee has signed and returned the contract accepting the job offer now to ensure their employment starts on the right note.  Help them to settle them in as quickly as possible by identifying an induction plan to familiarise them with their role, any key clients or suppliers and the work environment.  Think about any training which will be needed i.e. if you use a particular piece of software you need them to be conversant with but ensure when doing so you protect your business interests and consider asking them to sign a Training Bonds agreement. 

And remember although training and development should be ongoing it doesn't have to be expensive external training.  Consider instead undertaking some internal training, on the job training, E-Learning, Mentoring and Coaching – after all you want your new employee to fit with you and how you do things so who better to train them than you?.........

6. Setting the boundaries – Discipline and Grievance

No one wants to think about things going wrong and having to discipline an employee or have them raise a grievance against you but there is a need for fairness and consistency in how people are treated, which having written procedures ensures.  Not only does it avoid bad feeling, there is also the matter of being a “good employer” and it helps to avoid employee relations issues developing which could then turn into costly and time consuming employment tribunals.

Therefore set the Boundaries early on with Company rules covering things like Absence, Health and Safety, Standards of Performance, Timekeeping, Use of Company Facilities etc.   Draft clear written Disciplinary Procedures explaining that if rules are broken action will be taken following the clear written disciplinary procedure.  Similarly draft a Company Grievance Procedure because employees need to be able to raise concerns and problems through a formalised Company procedure.  Both of these procedures whilst being good practice are also a legal requirement when employing someone and again they don’t need to be onerous and complicated.  They just need to follow the core ACAS principles of –

  • Informing the employee of the problem you have with their conduct or performance/ giving the employee the opportunity to raise their problems/concerns with you
  • Holding a meeting to discuss the problem/issues
  • Allowing the employee to be accompanied at such a meeting
  • Deciding on appropriate action after an adjournment and having considered all the facts
  • Providing a right of appeal against the outcome. 

 7. Controlling Costs – Managing Attendance

Unfortunately everyone will get sick and need time off from work from time to time so seek to control such costs in advance through having a plan to manage attendance – both short and long term.  This should including keeping in touch with employees when they are off and talking to them when they return from absence to check they are ok and able to resume their normal duties.  Not only is this good practice but it will also discourage those who are not completely genuine.  Consider also what plans you can put in place to help your employee to return to work including undertaking Occupational Health assessments or implementing flexible working or an altered routine or duties.

8. Communicating

Finally, it sounds easy but is probably the one thing we could all be better at, especially when you have a million and one other things going on in your business.  Ensure however that your new employee is communicated to and given a good knowledge about their job, your business and your products/services as ultimately they are your business ambassador.  Ensure they know about and understand their terms and conditions of employment; the Discipline and Grievance procedures and where to get access to them; and finally how they are performing as good communication will help with giving them a sense of control over their work and increasing their commitment to both you and the organisation, which will hopefully lead to a long term mutual fulfilling employment relationship.

Whilst this may all sound daunting, remember you have made your business what it is and taking on your first employee is a reflection of how far you have come and how well you have done and should be a reason to celebrate.  And don’t forget you are not alone in this; help is always available for you.....

If you would like help with planning to or recruiting your first employee, please do not hesitate to contact me today for a free no obligation, initial 30 minute consultation as to how Assured HR can help you – Jo.

Email: joanna.hayes@assuredhr.co.uk

Website: www.assuredhr.co.uk

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