WiRE member Liz Walton is a Human Resources Management Consultant. In this article she offers her advice on the issues involved in staff recruitment and employment.
Whether you have one person working for you or one hundred, employing staff can be a tricky business, particularly with so many other priorities demanding your time. Employment legislation is complicated and getting more so all the time and the bigger your company, the more issues you will face.
Here is my starter kit of essentials for those of you who only have small numbers of staff or are considering taking someone on for the first time.
Your business is precious to you and employing people costs, so make sure you take on the best person that you can. Think carefully about what exactly you want them to do and what skills and attributes they will need (e.g. people skills, dexterity, a methodical approach, a positive outlook). Then work out how you will assess whether or not candidates for the job have them. Most companies test out job applicants’ skills in application forms and at interviews. If you don’t have a form, ask for a letter or CV detailing experience, skills and qualifications so that you can weed out those you don’t want to interview.
When you’ve decided who you will interview, think about what questions you will ask them to find out if they have the qualities you need. Bear in mind that if you ask someone if they are well organised, for example, they will undoubtedly say “yes” if they want the job. Instead, you might want to ask them how they would deal with a particular situation. Often it is tempting to tell them all about the work and the job and leave little time for the candidate to tell you about themselves. Try to avoid this and make sure that the candidate speaks for at least 70% of the time by asking open questions and inviting them to expand on their responses.
Much is made now about equality in the workplace and you need to make sure you don’t fall foul of the law. Keep an open mind and don’t make judgements. The key pieces of legislation relate to discrimination on the grounds of sex, race, age, disability, sexual orientation and religious or cultural beliefs.
Finally, make it absolutely clear at the interview what the conditions of employment will be so that there are no misunderstandings later.
Qualifications and credentials
You must make absolutely sure that the individual you are employing has a legal right to work in this country. People from EU states are entitled to work in the UK without any work permit or visa but for all others, permission must be granted by the Home Office. If you are employing someone from overseas, check their passport and legal documentation.
Also, check other qualifications that might be necessary. If someone tells you they have qualifications, don’t take their word for it, check by asking to see their certificates. An obvious one is a driver’s licence if you are expecting the employee to drive for you.
Contract of employment
Legally every employee is entitled to have a written statement of the main elements of their employment contract within two months of their start date, even if they have a probationary period. This statement must including the following details:
name of the employer and the employee
job title (also include either a summary of the role or a job description)
date continuous employment began
location of work
details of any collective agreements (unlikely to be relevant in small companies)
details of how disciplinary and grievance matters will be handled (small companies are likely to simply refer to the statutory procedures)
The statement should be signed by yourself or a representative of the company and the employee and kept on file. It is good practice to give the individual a copy for their own records.
All employees are entitled to a minimum rate of pay which is set by Government and changes from time to time.
Hours of Work
Make clear what hours of work are required, including any break times etc. People are entitled to a 20 minute break in a 6 hour working shift, but this does not have to be paid. Also, you cannot force an employee to work more than 48 hours a week on a regular basis. If you need someone to work those hours and they are happy to do it, you will need to get their consent in writing to safeguard against being challenged later.
Employees are also entitled to at least 1 day off a week and 11 hours rest per day (in other words, no sweatshop culture allowed!)
At the moment, employees are allowed 4 weeks paid leave per year (this is pro-rata for part time staff, so that if someone works only 3 days a week, they are entitled to 4 weeks of 3 days) and this can include Bank Holidays. However, the Government is currently consulting on whether Bank Holidays should be excluded so that people will get 4 weeks holiday plus the Bank Holidays.
To get the best out of your staff, find out what training they need to do the job most effectively and then exploit any Government funding you can such as Train to Gain (details from Business Link).
It’s a good idea to give new employees a structured induction. This doesn’t have to be lengthy or formal but remember that bombarding someone with lots of information too soon rarely pays dividends. Instead, write down what is essential for them to know, prioritise it and work out a timetable for training.
Health and Safety
It is critical that you and your employees are safe in the workplace. You will need to make sure your employee is provided with the correct equipment to do the job (including any personal protective equipment) and shown how to use it effectively, that they are aware of any hazards such as special chemicals you might use and that they know what to do in an emergency. Remember that young people are particularly vulnerable at work as they have less experience so you will have to make especially sure that they are properly provided for.
AND FINALLY …….
Obviously, you absolutely must ensure that you have appropriate insurance cover for your employees. Don’t forget motor insurance if you are requiring your employee to drive. In particular, if you are asking them to run errands for you in their own vehicles, they must have business insurance cover on their private policy.
Remember, the people who work for you can really help you to move your company forward but it’s important to get it right and you stand a much better chance of getting it right if you get your employment processes right.