May 10, 2021
by Andrew Beaumont
When you set your business up, what do you immediately think you need?
I’m sure a number of things jump to mind; premises, Wi-Fi, heat, lighting, running water, HR.
…OK, maybe not the last one.
Yet, it should be. HR shouldn’t be an after thought or continuously pushed to the bottom of your priorities list. It’s not just there for the nasty things in life. Done correctly, it can and will add value to a business.
You’ve been in business a while now, things are going well, so you decide to hire your first employee.
Great. This is a huge achievement for any business owner, but what do you need to do now? How do you find out what you need for them?
This is where HR comes in.
You could do a quick search on the internet or ask a friend who has just recently employed their own member of staff and source a contract from them. I mean, what could possibly go wrong?
The simple answer? A lot can go wrong.
If you think a contract of employment is just another bit of box ticking and no one ever looks at them, think again. Similarly, if you believe that one size fits all, then you’re going to face some big problems in the future.
You need to understand your obligations as an employer when it comes to contracts and your legal responsibilities. If you don’t comply with UK employment law you can easily find yourself in front of an employment tribunal.
Your contract is the start of a (hopefully) long lasting relationship with your new employee, and it should outline your expectations and set the tone for the future. This means it needs to accurately represent your business, values and culture - making it clear from the start what’s required with your new team member.
What is in one company’s contract may not necessarily be relevant or appropriate to your business. By having the correct wording, you will be able to bring about a resolution very quickly if future issues do arise, however having particular wording in contracts that you do not intend or are unaware of can be costly.
Where should you start?
As an employer, you are legally bound to provide a written contract for new employees from day one of their employment – for both full and part time workers. This used to be within two months of their start date, but the Good Work Plan amended this in April 2020. Several other revisions were also introduced such as the need to set out training provisions and company benefits. Have you fallen into the trap of re-using an old contract template? Now is the time to review your current contracts and check what you are issuing to new staff is up to date.
The contract should contain very specific information to ensure that there are no misunderstandings between the employer and employee, and that both of you are properly protected and clear on the agreement.
Although it may be tempting to borrow from someone else, to have the best foundation for relationships with your staff you should have your own contract drawn up. Think of the employee engagement. On their start date, they are presented with a personalised contract of employment relating specifically to your business including your branding. It’s a sign that your people matter.
You may wish to write your own contract but to fully ensure that all clauses are valid, legal and up to date, particularly as the law changes so frequently, you should have them taken care of by your HR department or outsourced to a HR consultant.
By doing this you will be provided with significant protection if things start to go wrong with the employment relationship.
The right foundation
The good news is that a good employment contract doesn’t have to be lengthy and confusing. In fact, the clearer, more concise and easier it is to understand, the better. There are however several points that need to be included.
As well as setting out their employment rights, you need to include details relating to their role, responsibilities and duties.
But by getting this right, you’re establishing a strong foundation for your employee relationships as well as providing a clear direction for how you will work together to keep your business moving forward.
Ready to take the next step?
If you’re at the point of hiring your first employee or aren’t sure your current employment contracts are up to scratch, I’m here to help. Just drop me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or pick up the phone (01788 228608), I'll be happy to do this for you. I can even arrange to send contracts directly to your employees and have them returned to me and stored electronically. Complete legal compliance for you and you don’t even need to hold the paperwork.
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