It’s a daunting thought, taking on your first employee. It’s not helped by all the myths surrounding the employment process: about red tape, discrimination and – worst case scenario – employment tribunals. But while it is true that these issues can and do arise, don’t let them put you off.
Take things one step at a time, and remember that help is available if you need it. As a starting point, here are some of the things you should be aware of:
An accurate job description is essential, as it sets out the details of the role. It is a legal document, so make sure that,
- It reflects your exact requirements as to skills and abilities. Be specific. This will help when assessing candidates and, later, your new employee.
- You also refer to general responsibilities, so the description will still apply if the role evolves slightly over time.
- You do not use discriminatory wording – it is illegal to discriminate against potential candidates on a number of grounds, including gender, sexual orientation, age, nationality, race, disability or religion. You can, however, specify what type of skills,knowledge or experience candidates must have, as these are justifiable. The key is to make sure that all your requirements are absolutely necessary for job in question.
You should offer a salary that is affordable and is in line with the current market rate. Legally it must also comply with minimum wage requirements. There are further considerations relating to equal pay and discrimination but these are less likely to be relevant where ‘first employees’ are concerned.
All the requirements mentioned in the advert must be necessary and justifiable to avoid any possible discrimination issues.
Application forms are a good idea for certain jobs as they standardise the information received from all candidates. However, they must only ask for information necessary to assess a candidate’s suitability for the job and must avoid any discriminatory questions. For other positions, a CV may be sufficient.
With interviews, preparation is vital. Write out your questions in advance to ensure you cover all important points and that you ask each candidate the same things. Questions should be based on the job description to assess candidate suitability. Avoid personal or non-job-related topics as these could potentially be discriminatory.
Making the decision
Ensure your interview notes are job focused, and document the reasons for your decision. Some sort of objective system that scores the candidate against the job requirements is recommended in case you ever have to defend your decision.
Does your chosen candidate have the right to work in the UK?
Once you have identified your preferred candidate you must check whether or not he is entitled to work in the UK. You could face prosecution if you employ an illegal worker. The UK Border Agency has a useful guide on how to do this.
Making the job offer
The job offer is a legal document, so it is important to get it right. It should set out the terms and conditions of the offer, including items such as the hours involved, salary, entitlements, start date, reference requirements and any probationary period.
Sometimes the job offer forms part of the contract of employment. Sometimes it does not, and is a separate document entirely. In either event, you are legally obliged to send your employee a written statement of employment, within two months of their starting work.
Rocket Lawyer UK asked Olivia Sinfield, Solicitor at employment specialists PJH Law to explain what legal stuff a new employer has to do before taking on a member of staff.
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