What you need to know about hiring staff

Legal experts at Contact Law give some advice on what you need to do when hiring new staff.

Hiring staff is an exciting development that can help your business take off. But employment law is a highly regulated area and so it is important to thoroughly consider all the legal issues thrown up by the recruitment process. Here are a few key things to think about.

Avoiding discrimination

Your hiring process must comply with the Equality Act 2010, whereby it is unlawful to discriminate based on “protected characteristics” (age, race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, disability, marital status, pregnancy and maternity and gender reassignment).

You should not ask candidates about any of the protected characteristics (for example, asking them to state their age in the application form). You should also ensure there is nothing discriminatory in the criteria for the job, for example a minimum height which would disadvantage women and some ethnic groups.

Discrimination may be permissible where it is necessary due to the requirements of the job. Common examples are graduate positions or jobs requiring many years experience, which by definition favour younger and older applicants respectively.

Right to work

If you employ someone who does not have the right to work in the UK you could be subject to a hefty penalty. You can protect your business against this by making the checks on new recruits set out in the UK Border Agency Prevention of Illegal Working Requirements. This must be done before they start work.

These checks involve taking annotated copies of someone’s documents showing their right to work in the UK, typically their passport and UK visa where applicable. You must carry out these checks even on staff who are clearly British as otherwise you could be in breach of anti-discrimination laws.

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You are required to provide employees with a “written statement of employment particulars” containing key details about the job and terms and conditions within two months of their starting work.

Ideally, you should have new staff sign an employment contract containing all this information before they start work. You should give thought to the other details you might want to include in the contract, like clauses to prevent the employee revealing trade secrets or setting up a competitor business if they leave your employment.

Employers’ obligations

You will need to make sure that your employees’ pay and working conditions are consistent with their rights under employment law including the minimum wage, holiday leave, maternity and paternity leave, and working time and breaks. In some cases, it may be possible for you to agree with your employee that they will surrender certain employment rights. For example, they can “opt out” of the Working Time Regulations 2010 provided this is in writing.

You should also make yourself aware of the various legal obligations you take on as an employer such as health and safety law, data protection, payroll and HMRC requirements and employers’ liability insurance.

Consulting an employment solicitor for advice on recruitment and hiring really pays off. This should help ensure that this hiring process is sound from a legal perspective and lay the foundations for productive working relationships with your staff.

*This article was written by experts at Contact Law.

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