Have you got the basics right? Setting the foundations for employing staff

It’s such a significant milestone to take on your first employee. It is brilliant that you are getting busy and need some help, but it is so scary when suddenly you are responsible for earning enough to pay someone else’s mortgage and bills as well as your own! The “what if’s” start to keep you awake; what if it doesn’t work out, what if they don’t work how I do, what if my clients don’t like them, what if I can’t afford it…

The first thing to do is to get prepared. Invest some time in establishing a robust HR framework. You must issue a contract of employment to a new employee within their first 8 weeks of employment – this is a legal requirement (even if it is your best mate, or family member!) Remember that you only rely on written contracts and policies when things go wrong, and believe me, you’ll be so relieved that you put the work in at the start.

Written HR policies and procedures, usually in a handbook, set out what you expect across a variety of circumstances, provide consistent treatment to ensure employees feel confident that they are treated fairly and they protect you from possible breaches of employment law.

The absolute essential “must have” policies are:

  • Disciplinary and grievance procedure – these shouldn’t be made part of the employment contract, but have them in place so that everyone knows where they stand if there is a dispute of any sort.
  • Equal opportunities – both employers and employees can be held responsible for their actions if they discriminate so this is a vital one.
  • Social media – this is such a hot topic. You should be clear how your employees should be engaging with you (or not as the case may be!) on social media
  • Absence from work – this should incorporate a holiday process, what happens if someone needs to take time off sick and what levels of absence are acceptable among other things.
  • When you reach 5 employees (including yourself) then you must have a written health and safety policy too.

Don’t just write them and hide them in a cupboard – make sure that you issue them to new employees, and regularly update them so that they are relevant to your business. As you grow, the business changes and so do the rules so keep on top of your policies.