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A guide for new employers

Employing people might seem like a straightforward matter, but it is not quite as easy as hiring people and just setting them to work.

Employers can find the list of legal rights and responsibilities fairly daunting, but by complying with the law and looking after your staff, your business will be more efficient and more profitable.

Recruiting unsuitable employees could cost you time, money or lost profitability through inadequate training, low morale and motivation, high absence levels and turnover of employees, too many dismissals and even employment tribunal claims.

If you are employing people for the first time, the following provides a useful overview of the key facts that you should know.


All employees must have an employment contract with their employer. A contract is an agreement that sets out an employees employment conditions, rights, responsibilities and duties.

These are called the ‘terms’ of the contract.

Employees and employers must stick to a contract until it ends, such as by an employer or employee giving notice or an employee being dismissed, or until the terms are changed (usually by agreement between the employee and employer).

If a person has an agreement to do some work for someone (such as to decorate your house), this isn’t an employment contract but a ‘contract to provide services’.

Accepting a contract

As soon as someone accepts a job offer they have a contract with their employer. An employment contract doesn’t have to be written down.

Contract types and Employers responsibilities

As an employer, the tax and employment responsibilities you have for your staff will depend on the type of contract you give them and their employment status.

Contract types include:

· Full-time and part-time contracts

· Fixed-term contracts

· Agency staff

· Freelancers, consultants, contractors

· Zero hour contracts

There are also special rules for employing family members, young people and volunteers.

Full-time and part-time contracts

As an employer you must give employees:

· ‘A written statement of employment’ or contract

· The statutory minimum level of paid holiday

· A payslip showing all deductions, eg National Insurance contributions (NICs)

· The statutory minimum length of rest breaks

· Statutory Sick Pay (SSP)

· Maternity, paternity and adoption pay and leave

You must also:

· Make sure employees don’t work longer than the maximum allowed

· Pay employees at least the minimum wage

· Have employer’s liability insurance

· Provide a safe and secure working environment

· Register with HM Revenue and Customs to deal with payroll, tax and NICs

· Consider flexible working requests

· Avoid discrimination in the workplace

· Make reasonable adjustments to your business premises if your employee is disabled

Register as an employer

You normally need to register as an employer with HMRC when you start employing staff, or using subcontractors for construction work.

You must register even if you’re only employing yourself, for example as the only director of a limited company. You must register before the first payday. It usually takes up to 5 days to get your employer PAYE reference number. You cannot register more than 2 months before you start paying people.

Written statement of employment particulars

An employer must give employees a ‘written statement of employment particulars’ if their employment contract lasts at least a month or more. This isn’t an employment contract but will include the main conditions of employment.

The employer must provide the written statement within 8 weeks of the start of employment.

What a written statement must include

A written statement can be made up of more than one document, if the employer gives employees different sections of their statement at different times. If this does happen, one of the documents called the ‘principal statement’ must include at least:

· The business name

· The employee’s name, job title or a description of work and start date

· If a previous job counts towards a period of continuous employment, the date the period started

· How much and how often an employee will get paid

· Hours of work (and if employees will have to work Sundays, nights or overtime

· Holiday entitlement (and if that includes public holidays)

· Where an employee will be working and whether they might have to relocate

· If an employee works in different places, where these will be and what the employer’s address is

As well as the ‘principal statement’, a written statement must also contain information about:

· How long a temporary job is expected to last

· The end date of a fixed-term contract

· Notice periods

· Collective agreements

· Pensions

· Who to go to with a grievance

· How to complain about how a grievance is handled

· How to complain about a disciplinary or dismissal decision

We hope that you have found this article useful and if you are employing people for the first time, Borders Employment Law can provide all the help and advice that you will need to ensure that things go smoothly and that you are fully compliant with the law.

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