As a small business what must you do for your employees?

A home based business can quickly grow to one with one or more employees and a mum who took on a business venture to work for herself at home can suddenly find herself as an employer with responsibilities towards a workforce.

A home based business can quickly grow to one with one or more employees and a mum who took on a business venture to work for herself at home can suddenly find herself as an employer with responsibilities towards a workforce. This sounds quite scary but is largely a matter of commonsense, although before employing anyone who is not an immediate family member there are a few basics to attend to, such as taking out employers’ liability insurance and issuing a contract of employment. Taking legal advice is a good idea at this point as there are many small areas of employment law which only apply to certain areas and these must be adhered to – as in all legal matters, ignorance is no defence.

As anyone giving business law advice will tell you, employees and employers have responsibilities towards each other – it is very definitely a two way street. The employee must give a good day’s work and also have regard for the safety of their colleagues and the good name and safety of their employer. There may also be a confidentiality clause, or certain other conditions individual to the kind of employment which have to be addressed separately according to the need. Employers have responsibilities which are perhaps more numerous. They have to ensure that their employees are safe when they are working according to the training they have received. The employee undertakes to do their job in the manner which keeps them and their colleagues safe and if they don’t, the employer is not held responsible. It is obviously sensible as an employer, therefore, to make sure that training is given to every new employee. Cascading training is effective, but you must make sure that everyone knows what they are doing.

From a financial point of view, an employer must pay tax and national insurance contributions on behalf of their employees. There are severe penalties if this is not done – tax taken from pay is not money that the business can ‘borrow’ until it pays the HMRC, so if it is not available to be paid on time, the company director or the sole trader owner has committed a serious offence. Holidays and lunch and coffee/tea breaks are a statutory right and employers are not allowed to permit employees to go without them – pay in lieu of annual leave in particular is not allowed. Annual leave is for the health and wellbeing of the member of staff and cannot be dispensed with.

If your employees work, like yourself, from home, health and safety requirements are difficult to keep a check on, but nevertheless the employee must be made aware of them. If you have a fairly comprehensive contract of employment drawn up by an expert, there will be clauses covering breaks in the day, especially if the person is using a computer screen, and advice on how to prevent problems such as repetitive strain injury and deep vein thrombosis. Essentially, a good employer cares about the health and wellbeing of their employees and if this is always borne in mind, everything should work fine.





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