How to Employ Someone in a Small Business

Two Women During An Interview

Deciding to bring on your first employee marks a major milestone along the journey of building your small business. While hiring injects talent, increases capacity, and enables progress, the process requires careful planning across finances, operations and legal obligations. Follow this comprehensive guide when preparing to employ someone.

Key takeaways

  • Assess your business needs and determine if hiring aligns with growth and revenue goals.
  • Utilise niche job boards, social media, and employee referrals to attract qualified candidates.
  • Verify employment history, check references, and ensure compliance with right-to-work regulations.
  • Prioritise employee growth and development to strengthen your team and drive long-term success.

Understanding the basics of employing staff

Before rushing to find another set of hands, objectively determine if taking on staff aligns with business growth and revenues. 

  • Make a list of all the key projects and tasks in your plans this year. Highlight any that seem too difficult for your current staffing levels. These are signs you may lack the capacity to get everything done.
  • For each highlighted task, estimate the hours per week or month it requires. Tally the total hours to quantify any labour shortfalls your team faces. 
  • Project the revenue growth you could unlock by addressing staff capacity issues. Compare the cost of extra salaries versus the potential revenue upside. This analyses the return on investment from hiring.
  • Determine if overflow work needs temporary contractors for defined, short-term projects. Or evaluate if a specialised consultant could fill expertise gaps missing internally.
  • Account for how added staff impacts intangibles like management time for recruitment, training, monitoring and leadership. Budget for lower efficiency as new hires transition and adjust.

Additionally anticipate how adding an employee will impact office space, equipment, software and management bandwidth. Realistically budget both upfront hiring costs and long term increased expenses across salary, benefits, payroll taxes, insurance, and other employee connected spending.

Recruitment process and employment checks

Create your job description

Once committing to hire, write a detailed job description that clearly defines the open role. Here are some tips on what to include:

  • Outline must-have qualifications like education level and years of experience
  • List important competencies like communication skills or teamwork
  • Define specialised expertise needed to excel in the role
  • Describe day-to-day responsibilities and duties
  • Highlight technology/tools used to set requirements

Utilise niche job boards

Take advantage of specialised job boards like Indeed and Monster that cater to your industry. These platforms attract candidates with specific skill sets and experience relevant to your role, increasing the likelihood of finding qualified applicants.

Harness the power of social media

In today's digital age, social media platforms like LinkedIn offer invaluable resources for recruitment. Use these outlets to showcase your job opportunities and engage with potential candidates. By targeting passive job seekers and active professionals alike, you can broaden your talent pool and attract candidates who may not be actively searching for new opportunities.

Incentivise employee referrals

Encourage your current employees to refer qualified candidates by offering referral bonuses or incentives. Employee referrals not only streamline the hiring process but also foster a sense of camaraderie and loyalty within your team. By rewarding referrals, you motivate your employees to actively participate in the recruitment process and help identify top talent.

Conducting thorough employment checks

When hiring new employees, it's essential to conduct thorough employment checks to ensure you're making informed decisions and mitigating potential risks. Here are some simple steps to help you conduct effective employment checks:

  • Verify employment history: Reach out to the candidate's previous employers to confirm their job titles, dates of employment, and responsibilities. This step helps validate the information provided on the resume and assess the candidate's suitability for the role.
  • Check references: Request references from the candidate and contact them to gain insights into the candidate's work ethic, skills, and character. Be sure to ask specific questions related to the job requirements to gather relevant feedback.
  • Perform background checks: Conduct background checks to screen for any criminal history, driving records (if applicable), or other relevant background information. There are various online services and agencies that offer background check services tailored to your needs.
  • Verify education and credentials: Confirm the candidate's educational qualifications and any professional certifications or licences claimed. Contact educational institutions or relevant certification bodies to verify the credentials provided.
  • Comply with legal requirements: Ensure that your employment checks comply with relevant laws and regulations, including data protection and privacy laws. Be transparent with candidates about the information you're collecting and how it will be used.

Ensuring the right to work in the UK

As an employer in the UK, it's your responsibility to ensure that all employees have the legal right to work in the country. Here are some clear and actionable tips to help you verify and maintain compliance with right-to-work regulations:

  • Request relevant documentation: Ask all job applicants to provide acceptable documents to prove their right to work in the UK. This typically includes a passport or birth certificate along with any necessary visas or work permits.
  • Verify documentation: Thoroughly check the authenticity of the documents provided by the candidate. Look for security features, expiration dates, and any restrictions that may apply. Be vigilant for counterfeit or fraudulent documents.
  • Keep records: Maintain accurate records of the right-to-work checks conducted for each employee, including copies of the documents reviewed. This documentation serves as evidence of compliance in case of audits or inspections by immigration authorities.
  • Regularly review status: Periodically review the immigration status of your employees to ensure ongoing compliance. Keep track of expiration dates for visas or work permits and take appropriate action to renew or update documentation as needed.
  • Stay informed: Stay up-to-date with changes to immigration laws and regulations that may impact right-to-work requirements. Seek guidance from legal experts or immigration advisors if you have any questions or concerns.

Contract, salary, and benefits

When putting together a compensation package for your employees, it's important to strike a balance between attracting top talent and managing your budget effectively. Here's how to structure a fair and competitive compensation package while ensuring compliance with legal requirements:

  • Research market rates: Start by researching current market rates for similar roles in your industry and location. This will give you a baseline for determining competitive salary ranges.
  • Consider total compensation: Look beyond just salary and include other benefits like health insurance, retirement plans, stock options, bonuses, and additional perks. Total compensation packages can help attract and retain employees.
  • Understand legal requirements: Familiarise yourself with legal requirements regarding minimum wage, overtime pay, and leave policies. Ensure that your compensation package complies with these regulations to avoid any legal issues.
  • Enhance with extra perks: Consider adding extra perks or benefits that cater to the preferences of applicants. This could include things like flexible work arrangements, wellness programmes, or continuing education opportunities.
  • Formalise in the contract: Once you've finalised the compensation package, formalise the agreement within an employment contract. Clearly outline the salary, benefits, stock options, bonuses, expected work hours, leave policies, and any other terms or conditions.

Legal obligations and insurances 

For small businesses, hiring employees comes with legal obligations and potential risks. To build a fair and compliant hiring process, it's crucial to understand key regulations regarding anti-discrimination, diversity, accessibility, and inclusion. Here's how to create an equitable workplace while minimising legal risks:

  • Learn regulations: Familiarise yourself with anti-discrimination laws, diversity initiatives, and accessibility guidelines. Ensure your hiring process promotes fairness and inclusivity for all candidates.
  • Implement structured processes: Establish structured onboarding procedures, performance reviews, disciplinary protocols, and termination procedures. This helps maintain consistency and fairness in how you manage employees.
  • Obtain employer's liability insurance: Protect your business by acquiring employer's liability insurance. This coverage can help in cases of workplace injuries, harassment claims, or wrongful termination lawsuits, providing financial support and legal assistance if needed.
  • Pay national insurance contributions: Ensure compliance by paying the required national insurance contributions for every employee. These contributions fund government services and benefits for both employees and employers.
  • Enrol in pension scheme: Automatically enrol employees earning over £10,000 annually into an employer-sponsored pension scheme. Contribute a minimum of 3% of their salary to help them save for retirement and comply with pension regulations.

By following these steps and staying informed about legal requirements, you can create a fair and compliant workplace while protecting your business from potential liabilities.

Informing HMRC and record keeping

To ensure compliance with HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) regulations as an employer, it's essential to follow specific steps and maintain accurate records. 

  1. Firstly, register as an employer with HMRC once you've hired your first employee. This can be done online through the HMRC website, where you'll receive important information regarding your tax obligations and reporting requirements. 
  2. Secondly, diligently maintain records of your employees, including personal details, employment contracts, payroll information, and any relevant correspondence. 
  3. Keep these records secure and up-to-date to facilitate smooth payroll processing and compliance with legal requirements. 
  4. Finally, issue a statement of employment to each employee upon starting their job, outlining key terms and conditions of their employment. This document helps clarify expectations and responsibilities for both parties. 

Impact of hiring on your business

Hiring new employees can significantly impact your business operations in various ways. Firstly, it's essential to understand how adding new team members will affect your day-to-day operations. Consider how their roles will fit into existing workflows and processes, and anticipate any adjustments that may be necessary to accommodate their contributions effectively.

Secondly, be prepared for changes in business dynamics that may arise from hiring. This could include shifts in team dynamics, communication patterns, and overall company culture. By anticipating these changes, you can proactively manage them and ensure a smooth transition for both new and existing team members.

Lastly, investing in employee development is crucial for the long-term success of your business. Providing opportunities for training, coaching, and skill development not only benefits individual employees but also strengthens your team as a whole. By investing in your employees' growth and development, you're investing in the future success and sustainability of your business.

The bottom line

Employing someone in your small business is a big step that affects various aspects of your operations. From understanding the basics of hiring to complying with legal requirements and investing in employee development, each step is crucial for success.

By following the comprehensive guide provided, you can navigate the process effectively. Prioritise careful planning, clear communication, and proactive management to build a strong and sustainable team.

Remember, hiring isn't just about adding manpower—it's about creating opportunities for growth and collaboration. With strategic steps, you can unlock your business's full potential and achieve your goals.

This post does not constitute employment law or financial advice.

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