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Checklist: 10 things you need to do when employing staff for the first time

It is crucial to understand the many legal considerations involved with hiring new staff. Whether you’re a first-time employer or have never hired an employee before, there are essential steps to follow. Sharon Latham, partner in our employment team, looks at these in more detail and how to get in touch with her team for further advice.

1. Decide what type of employee you need:

  • Full time or part-time?
  • Worker or employee – all employees are workers, but employees have far more rights.

2. Decide if you can afford to take on someone and how much you have to pay if you do

The minimum wage a worker must be paid depends on their age (and if they’re an apprentice).

The National Minimum Wage is the minimum pay per hour to which almost all workers are entitled. The National Living Wage is higher than the National Minimum Wage – workers are entitled to it if they’re 21 and over.

It does not matter how small an employer you are you still have to pay the correct minimum wage. Even the largest and most well-known employers fail to pay some of their staff the correct minimum wage, as we know from HMRC’s annual “name and shame list”. It is important to review staff wages to avoid any breaches. If you become aware of any potential breaches, it is important to seek legal advice immediately.

Additionally, you must consider other possible entitlements such as statutory holiday pay, sick pay, maternity and paternity pay.

3. Check if someone has the legal right to work in the UK. You must do this before you employ them.

You can:

  • check the applicant’s right to work online, if they’ve given you their share code
  • check the applicant’s original documents

You may have to do other employment checks, as well, such as checking if an employee has something necessary to do the job e.g. a driving licence.

4. Check if you need to apply for a Disclosure and Barring Service (‘DBS’) check (formerly known as a CRB check) if you work in a field that requires one, e.g. with vulnerable people (such as healthcare and working with children) or security.

If so, as an employer you can then check the criminal record of someone applying for a role.

You can request:

  • a basic check, which shows unspent convictions and conditional cautions
  • a standard check, which shows spent and unspent convictions and cautions
  • an enhanced check, which shows the same as a standard check plus any information held by local police that’s considered relevant to the role
  • an enhanced check with barred lists, which shows the same as an enhanced check, plus whether the person is on the list of people barred from doing the role

If you carry out criminal records checks, ‘Registered bodies’ (employers who carry out checks themselves) must have a policy on employing ex-offenders and show it to any applicant who asks for it.

5. Get employment insurance

You usually need employers’ liability insurance as soon as you become an employer. Your policy must cover you for at least £5 million and come from an authorised insurer. This insurance will help you pay compensation, if your employee is injured or becomes ill because of their job. You can be fined £2,500 every day you are not properly insured, or £1,000 for not displaying your Employer’s Liability Certificate.

6. Send details of the job (including terms and conditions) in writing to your employee

You need to give your employee a written statement of employment if you’re employing someone for more than 1 month. Take advice as to what you need to include in such a document in order to comply with the law and protect yourself as an employer.

7. Register as an employer to HMRC

You must tell HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) that you are now an employer by registering as one and setting up PAYE. This can be done up to 4 weeks before you pay your new staff.

8. Check your responsibilities around workplace pensions

Under the Pensions Act 2008, every employer in the UK must put certain staff into a workplace pension and pay into it. This is called ‘automatic enrolment’.

9. Be sure to have your key policies and procedures ready to share with your new employee

Employees must be given information about sick pay and absence procedures, other paid leave and notice periods on the first day of their employment.

Within two months of the start of their employment they must also be given information about your pension scheme, rights to any non-compulsory training and disciplinary and grievance procedures.

It’s good practice to provide this information, and the details of other useful policies and procedures, in a staff handbook. Our employment team can help you update your handbooks to ensure they’re compliant for new staff. We can also provide:

  • A short form handbook containing all the essential policies for a fixed fee of £…
  • A longer form, comprehensive and bespoke handbook with a range of useful policies for all employment situations for a fixed fee of £…

10. Contact our specialist employment team

Finally …. contact us if you need any advice or assistance with the above!

To speak with a member of our employment team, please contact one of our lawyers directly, call us on 0800 652 8205 or request a consultation.


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