Choose the employer
Most employers in the UK are private companies registered in England and Wales. However, individuals and sole traders can also be employers. For more information, read Business structures.
It is also possible to hire employees directly from a foreign-registered company or personally or through other corporate structures like partnerships. Hiring staff directly from a foreign entity may mean that the company has established a UK presence for tax and corporate reporting purposes, so seek appropriate advice if you decide to take this route.
All employers of staff based in England, Wales and Scotland must, by law, purchase employer’s liability insurance coverage of at least £5 million. This type of insurance pays out if an employee suffers a personal injury at work.
You must display your insurance certificate to employees.
For more information on employer’s liability insurance and other types of insurance you may need as an employer, read Business insurances.
Make tax arrangements
You must register with HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) when you employ someone, with very few exceptions.
This applies even if a company that you own employs you.
You will need to make arrangements to withhold income tax from employees’ wages and pay this to HMRC through Pay As You Earn (PAYE), along with the employer’s national insurance contributions. For more information, read Personal tax and Personal tax in Scotland.
In practice, many small businesses outsource their arrangements for tax and payroll.
Do your homework
Employment in the UK is highly regulated, with most aspects of the employer-employee relationship subject to legal rules. You don’t need to become an expert straight away, but research now will save you time and trouble later on.
As a minimum, you need to understand the necessary right-to-work checks and will need to be ready to ensure that any offer of employment you make complies with certain minimum standards. Consider using Rocket Lawyer's Offer of employment to ensure you meet these.
When you hire someone, you form a relationship under which you each have duties. The employer has to pay wages to the staff and the staff have to work in accordance with their contract. The type of contract will depend on their employment status:
employees will work under Employment contracts
workers (ie those who do not work under a contract of employment, but work under another type of contract or fixed working arrangement) will work under a different type of contract, like Zero hours contracts
consultants (ie self-employed individuals) will generally work under a Consultancy agreement
Employees, workers and consultants all have different rights with which you should familiarise yourself.
Note that all employees and workers must be provided with a written statement of employment particulars on their first day. This document sets out the main term of employment and is usually provided as part of the employee’s or worker’s contract.
As HMRC regulates employers and employees, it needs to be kept fully informed of the status and actions of all parties.
If you’re planning on hiring a number of staff members, consider creating a Recruitment policy to record and formalise your recruitment and selection process and help prevent discrimination during the recruitment process.
You also need to be aware of your HR obligations, which, depending on your size, will involve adopting and implementing a variety of different HR policies and procedures. For example, all employers need to make workplace health and safety arrangements. However, employers with at least 5 employees must have a written Health and safety policy in place. For more information, read HR policies and procedures.
When hiring staff, follow our Checklist for new employers. For more information, read Hire employees, Hiring for a startup, Hiring an intern and Hiring an apprentice. If you have any questions, Ask a lawyer.