18/12/2014

By Gareth Matthews, Employment Law Solicitor, MLP Law

Taking on staff for the first time can be a very daunting prospect for many businesses as there is so much to consider. That’s why it’s important to be fully prepared before taking the initial steps. Here is my advice on what you need to consider before recruiting new staff.

Be fair
Your recruitment process must not discriminate against anyone especially on the grounds of a “protected characteristic”, which includes sex, race, age and disability. Therefore your job advertisements and descriptions must not single out any particular group of people as being unsuitable to apply.

Discrimination law applies to potential job seekers and applicants, as well as to individuals already employed by the company, so your process of selecting one candidate out of multiple applicants must not be discriminatory. This can be difficult as sometimes discrimination can take place unintentionally (known as indirect discrimination). Indirect discrimination can happen when one requirement or aspect of a job role applies to each individual equally, but has a disproportionate effect on certain individuals over others.

Be up to speed on workers’ rights
From the very first day of working at the business, employees acquire a number of important employment rights that you need to familiarise yourself with and implement. These rights include written terms of employment, payslips, maternity rights and non-discrimination rights. Employees are also entitled to earn at least minimum wage, receive a minimum number of holidays and have a minimum notice period if their employment is terminated.

Your employees accumulate further rights the longer they work at your business, including maternity pay privileges and unfair dismissal rights, so again make sure you’re up to speed with these rights so they can be put in place. It’s important to make sure that you have all the right policies and procedures ready for your employees as breaching these rights can lead to detrimental consequences for your business, such as employment tribunal claims.

Get contracts and handbooks in place
Contracts and handbooks are a good way to protect your business and set out clear workplace procedures. For example, clauses can be used in employment contracts in order to protect your confidential information, intellectual and company property, as well as to prevent your employees working for a competitor after they leave your business.

Company rules and set standards of behaviour (such as social media use, equality, diversity and anti-bullying) can be put in place by using a company manual. They can also be used in order to clarify workplace procedures, such as disciplinarians and grievances.

What about insurance?
Before employing new workers, a vast majority of employers will be required to put in place “Employer’s Liability Insurance”, with a cover of at least £5 million. Keep in mind that you could be fined up to £2,500 per day if this is not in place, so make sure you don’t forget.

An insurance policy is also important as it will protect the business against any personal injury claims made by employees.

Conduct immigration and security checks
Without being discriminatory, you must ensure that your new employee has the right to work in the UK. An employer that unknowingly employs an illegal worker can be fined up to £20,000 per illegal employee. An employer that knowingly employs an illegal worker could face a criminal prosecution and even a prison sentence.

DBS checks, previously known as CRB checks, are often required in industries where the integrity of the employee is key, such as financial services, or where the role involves working with children or vulnerable adults, so make sure these checks are carried out correctly if necessary.

Contact HM Revenue and Customs
HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) payroll numbers need to be obtained for each new employer in order to calculate PAYE deductions for individual employees, as well as to calculate the start date of automatic pension obligations. New employers can obtain these payroll numbers by registering with HMRC.

You must register with HMRC before the employee’s first payday, and can do so from approximately four weeks in advance of them joining the company.