Getting to grips with employment can be both daunting and off-putting to small business owners – let’s face it, it is a minefield! However, taking a few simple steps and putting clear policies and contract in place, will help to keep you on the right side of the law.

Here are a few top tips to help you to do just this. There is a lot more to it of course, but the below should give you a little insight.

  1. Have a documented approach to recruitment – this should be a planned activity and consideration given to the best places to advertise in relation to the role being recruited to. This will save on a lot of wasted time and money. Fail to prepare and plan, plan and prepare to fail.
  2. Have set interview questions for the roles within the business that assess the candidate against the person specification and job description. This will provide consistency and fairness in the process. Interviews should steer away from questions around childcare, illnesses etc that could lead the candidate to think you are going to discriminate against them. Claims of discrimination can be brought against businesses even if the candidate has not been recruited to the role. Beware!
  3. Check eligibility to work in the UK whenever you take on a new employee – the fine for not doing so is £20,000 per employee who is not entitled to work in the UK and you could face 2 years in prison. Is it really worth not doing it? No.
  4. Provide all employees with a written statement of their Terms and Conditions of Employment within 8 weeks of their start date – this is a legal requirement. Best practice would be to provide this at the start of employment so that the terms the employee is engaged on are clear from the offset.
  5. Have a good induction process to give the new starter the best possible start to their employment with you. That includes a good induction into the business i.e. meeting key people, explaining the business goals, where they fit in, expectations of their performance, issuing job description and training plan, and explaining the procedure for offering support to the new starter during the first months of employment via 121’s and probationary reviews.
  6. Aim to have a non-contractual HR procedures such as discipline and grievance, sickness absence, performance management etc. This will allow for greater flexibility if the procedures need to be altered to suit the changing business needs. However, the ACAS code of practice when dismissing and disciplining staff should always be followed.
  7. Consider shorter notice periods in probationary periods and different notice period lengths to reflect the levels of seniority in the business. Lengthy notice periods in probation can hinder business flexibility during this key stage of employment. Also having senior employees on the same notice period as a junior member of staff means that key decision makers, who can be harder to recruit, could leave a harmful gap in the workforce if they are allowed to leave before there has been time to replace them.
  8. Be clear on which parts of your handbook and policies are contractual and non-contractual to avoid ambiguity.
  9. Train line managers in how to manage their people and apply the HR procedures properly. There will be no point in having policies in place, expecting managers to follow and implement them on a day to day basis, if they have not been shown how to do so.
  10. When drafting contracts, use words ‘discretionary’ rather than ‘entitled to’, use ‘may’ instead of ‘will’.

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