Danielle Ayres, Employment Lawyer, Gorvins Solicitors.
Finding and employing your first member of staff can be tricky business (pardon the pun).
Being at the helm of a new company, you will be eager to make the right decision and hire the right person the first time around, but sometimes it isn’t that straightforward. Even for well-established businesses, the process is a tricky one to navigate and when you are running the business yourself it is important to ensure that the time, money and commitment spent on the hiring process is worthwhile – you do not want to be hiring the ‘wrong’ person for the job and having to do it all over again.
I came up with the top tips below to try and provide at least some guidance to the process, to try and make it as smooth and trouble-free as possible. Also, with the hope of keeping disruption to a minimum, reducing the risk and mitigating problems before they occur – especially before a contract is signed and stamped! Whether it is your first or umpteenth, the following should be considered:
1. Deciding on job and person specifications seems obvious but it’s just as important, if not more so, to get the cultural fit right. Take time to choose the right people, meet them in different settings and get them to meet any other (prospective) employees. You’ll be spending long days with them, therefore you need to get on with them and be able to rely on them – remember a bad apple can turn everything sour very quickly.
2. Make any appointment expressly subject to receipt of satisfactory references and evidence of right to work in the UK (and criminal record checks if appropriate). Whatever you do, follow up those references and try to speak to referees in person. If you need to recruit urgently and employees have started employment before receipt of references, make it clear that if unsatisfactory references are received, their employment will be terminated straight away. After all as a mother, would you leave your children with a childminder whose references you hadn’t checked?
3. You need to keep good people away from the competition or from going off on their own. Think hard about how you incentivise your employees. You want them to buy into the business so offer them benefits that make them feel rewarded on top of their basic salary. That could be bonuses or private medical cove or ‘free’ benefits such as flexible working, including the ability to work from home a couple of days or to vary starting and finishing hours on other days – there are plenty of surveys out there which suggest that offering flexible working can be critical in attracting the best candidates.
4. Think about the end of the relationship before you even begin it. Money and time are at a premium, especially for new start-ups, but whatever you do, don’t be tempted to go for ‘off the peg’ employment contracts for senior and/or customer-facing employees. They will have access to all kinds of confidential information about your business and you therefore need to get tightly drafted post-termination restrictions into the employment contract, tailored to your business and your key employees’ roles within it. This will help to stop them disappearing off to competitors and poaching your customer base (or setting off into the sunset in the belief that they can do things better on their own).
5. Once you have decided on the ‘right’ person, and you are happy with the proposed terms in respect of their employment, you must send details of the job, including terms and conditions in writing to the person within 4 weeks of them starting work for you.
There is a useful link on the gov.uk website concerning 7 things you need to do when employing staff for the first time – https://www.gov.uk/employing-staff
Danielle Ayres is an employment solicitor at Gorvins Solicitors who specialises in pregnancy, maternity and sex discrimination. Danielle provides her expert legal advice to both employers and employees in this area. Danielle is a mum herself to two young boys and has set up her own specialist advice clinics called ‘Keeping Mum’ for expectant and new mothers, offering legal advice and support to those encountering problems at work.
Danielle’s hard work hasn’t gone unnoticed and she is now regularly called upon by various news and radio shows, including the BBC and national newspapers, and is an active contributor to issues in this complex area of law.