If you are starting up a business that requires more than one set of hands, you will need to take on staff to help you on the journey. Alternatively, you may have been running your business for a while, keeping things ticking along, but now the time has come to take on staff to help you grow.

Whatever the circumstances, taking on staff for the first time can be a daunting prospect. With headlines about employers being sued on an almost daily basis, entering the minefield of becoming an employer is a big step for anyone.

Here are 5 things to think about when taking on your first members of staff.

Get a contract in place

An employment contract not only sets out things like rates of pay and expectations for work, but also provides information on company policies and how things like misconduct and grievances will be handled. In today’s litigious world, having an employment contract and a supplementary staff handbook are essential in protecting the business against any manner of employment claims. In order to fully ensure you are protected and up to date with current legislation, consult an employment law solicitor.

Register as an employer

By law you have to inform HMRC that you have become an employer. This can’t be done more than 4 weeks before you pay your new member of staff.

Another formality you will need to arrange is insurance – organise employers’ liability insurance as soon as you become an employer.

Decide on roles and rates of pay

Deciding you need staff is one thing, but actually determining what they should do is another. One of the main reasons to employ staff is to take on some of your own workload or that of another employee, so make sure you take on someone capable of doing this. Where possible, set out a specific job description so everyone is clear from the outset where their duties start and finish.

Don’t forget that in the UK, you have to pay at least the National Minimum Wage which is the minimum amount per hour that workers are entitled to by law. The National Minimum Wage is subject to fairly regular increases, so be mindful to watch out for these and implement any increases in time.

Conduct interviews

Interviews are a vital stage of taking on staff and you will obviously want to try and get as much information about a potential candidate, their abilities, and how they might fit into your business, as possible. However, there are certain questions that need to be avoided at all costs; particularly in relation to protected characteristics such as race, colour, sex, religion, nationality, citizenship, disability, and age.

Be mindful that potential employees are protected under employment law – even at the application stage. Employers that are found to have discriminated against candidates can be taken to an employment tribunal and fined.

Carry out employment checks

Once you have agreed on the person you wish to employ, you will need to check their eligibility to work in the UK. If you are in an industry that requires, you will also need to carry out a DBS (formerly CRB) check. It is important to note that the onus for ensuring eligibility to work is on the employer. In addition to manually checking any documents, you should also take copies, and keep these, along with a copy of a passport or registered ID card, on each employee’s personnel file.

For more help and advice on taking on staff, whatever stage your business is at, please get in touch with us here. Our employment solicitors will be happy to assist.