Practical Guide to Taking on Staff

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by Victoria Brown

Before you take the plunge and recruit your first employee, you need to consider many things;
  • Salary (including Employer N.I contributions)
  • Cost of Insurance (Employer’s Liability Insurance)
  • You may be required to administer; statutory sick pay/maternity pay/paternity pay/student loan repayments/working families’ tax credits
  • Are you going to have any fringe benefits?  Pension, private healthcare, commission etc.
  • Stakeholder pension (requirement once you reach 5 or more employees)
  • Holiday entitlement (statutory minimum is 28 days, inclusive of bank holidays for a full time employee)
  • Health and Safety issues  (Is you working environment suitable for taking on staff or do you need to make adjustments)
 It is very important to make sure that you issue your new member of staff with a contract of employment within the first two months of working for you.  It is against the law not too.  It will provide you with assurance that you have reduced your own risk i.e. by incorporating an intellectual property clause or a restrictive covenant etc. to suit your needs.  Before a contract of employment can be written for you, you need to consider all of the above and make decisions about your basic HR. Make sure you get your foundations right from the beginning, have a disciplinary, grievance and absence policy as a minimum.  That way you and your employee know where they stand.  In my profession the biggest plea of mitigation is ‘ignorance.’  Ensure that your employee understands the correct procedure to make a grievance, follows the correct absence procedure and fully understands the disciplinary procedure.

Employee Life Cycle

As a HR professional, I support managers through the whole life cycle of an employee;

Recruitment and Selection

From advertising a post that is legally compliant, to creating job descriptions, specifications and the selection criteria.  Make sure that this process is fair, consistent and legal.  You do not need to have employed a person for them to try and make a claim against you and your business.

You need to consider Age Legislation, DDA, Race discrimination and Sex discrimination when recruiting.  I would therefore advise you to document the entire recruitment process.

Training and Development / Retention

When you have found the ideal candidate, make sure that your contract of employment includes a probationary period.  An average probation period would be 6 months (with the option to extend up to 9 months).During this probationary period, you can match the job description to your employee’s suitability for the role.Once that member of the team has successfully completed their probation period, then ensure that you have a performance review and development system in place (Appraisals).  One of the biggest ways to reward your staff is to let them know they are doing a good job, provide them with positive customer feedback, invest in training for them (that will in turn improve their performance or increase their abilities).  Money is not the only way or indeed the most effective way to reward your employees. 

Employee Relations

During the employee life cycle there are likely to be some problems or queries that will be raised.  Do not panic, employment law may seem to be extremely complicated and trying to catch you out, but it is really is quite simple as long as you adhere to your policies and procedures (already produced at the recruitment stage).  I would always advise you to seek professional advice during a process to ensure that you are following the correct procedure.  Advice may be sought from your Accountant (pay related issues), ACAS (free advice service) and from HR support companies like High Performance Consultancy.

Termination of Employment

One way or the other your employee will leave your company eventually.  They may resign and move on to pastures new, they may retire or you may have to terminate their employment. 

Termination of employment needs to be conducted in a fair, impartial consistent manner.  I would always recommend that you seek professional advice at this stage, just to be on the safe side.  It will not cost you very much to attain advice or even hands on support at this stage.  Unfair dismissal claims are ever increasing, particularly in the current climate.  The average payout for unfair dismissal awards was £8,679 in 07/08 with over 60 appellants being awarded over £50,000.  Make sure you get support at this stage to ensure that you don’t fall foul of the law

Exit Interviews

I always advise clients to conduct an exit interview with a staff member that resigns.  It is a brilliant way to find out the employee’s opinion of the role, and what they think works and what they think doesn’t.  You can then take their views on board and perhaps revise the post and job description accordingly.

New Recruit

When you have found that perfect new member of staff, make sure you follow the complete process, including references!!  Always try and attain two satisfactory references from your new recruit’s two most recent employers.  This always needs to be a more senior member of staff to them (preferably their line manager). 

Verification of service

I advise clients to only supply a verification of service for references; therefore it is highly likely this is all you will be supplied with too.  This is still useful, so make sure you look for the following;
  • Absence Levels
  • Employment History matches their application form
  • Any disciplinary sanctions on file
  • Salary

Induction Process

I cannot emphasise to you the importance of providing a contract of employment and employee handbook on the first day your new team member starts.  This will be incorporated into their ‘induction’ process.  It will not only ensure that your new employee is aware of all health and safety guidelines, fire exits, lunch breaks etc, it will also present the company to be very professional.

Written by Victoria Brown  (BSc MSc MCIPD)HR Consultant/Occupational PsychologistTelephone: 0844 800 5932Mobile : 07749 684 649e-mail: 


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