Hiring an employee (or a number of them) is a milestone for any entrepreneur. Whilst it is of course natural for individuals in this situation to feel excited and challenged by the prospect of becoming someone’s boss, it is very important that they fully appreciate the legal responsibilities which fulfilling a position of this kind entails. Fortunately, most people – with some suitable planning and research – are able to make the the transition from lone wolf to responsible leader with relative ease.
Even a cursory bit of research into the legal responsibilities of an employer is likely to make a fledgling boss fret just a little bit. After all, how much does one really need to know about anti-discrimination and employment contracts? Happily, the information available from the likes of government agencies and websites specialising in employment law and business documents is comprehensive and current so even individuals who have little idea of what to expect from their time in command will be able to get a good head start on things.
So where to start?
Recruitment and discrimination
The Equality Act 2010 makes it unlawful to treat a job applicant unfavourably or discriminate directly or indirectly against someone in a recruitment process on a range of ‘protected characteristics’ which include: age, disability, gender reassignment, race, religion, sexual orientation, marriage/civil partnership status, pregnancy or maternity. Whilst there are exceptions to these criteria, bosses must be able to objectively justify why any such exception is required.
When seeking to fill a vacancy, employers cannot advertise, for instance, for someone of a certain age, or state that the role is ‘unsuitable for disabled people’. When interviewing potential candidates, employers must avoid seeking out any personal details, such as marital status or child care arrangements, as these could cause an applicant to claim they have been discriminated against. Certain types of health or disability-related questions can only be asked once a conditional job offer has been made, so employers are advised to steer clear of these types of questions as well.
The employment contract
Few legal documents are as important to an employer (and an employee, for that matter) as the employment contract. Employers are required by law to give anyone they employ for a period of at least one month an employment contract within two months of them starting work.
In general, a suitably comprehensive contract will include details about the job, pay, holidays, notice periods, pension provision and collective agreements, as well as the names of people to go to about grievances and/or disciplinary action. Needless to say, it is far better for bosses to create written employment contracts (and retain copies of them) as this will enable the terms of employment to be clearly stated.
Whilst creating an employment contract may sound convoluted and confusing to the uninitiated, it is actually very easy to do these days as the ease with which suitable legal contracts can be accessed online ensures bosses can source suitable contracts at their convenience.
About the author – Bo Heamyan blogs regularly about twenty-first century employment issues, and has written extensively about the benefits of downloadable business documents for a number of industry leading websites, including Simply-Docs.co.uk.