How to employ someone in a small business

How to employ someone in a small business

How to employ someone in a small business is a topic that can cause confusion and anxiety. The answer is that businesses need to adhere to employment law whether they are big or small. It is important to consider not only how to be compliant, but also how to meet the needs of the organisation and to act in a way which makes the organisation as productive as possible.

Here are 5 tips on how to employ someone in a small business:


1. Do not take short cuts

Short cuts can be tempting. As a small business, it is common to have an ever expanding to do list and to feel that there are simply not enough hours in the day. Whilst a business owner may recognise the need for another pair of hands there is often a desire to ‘cut down on the paperwork’. This instinct is understandable, but such short cuts should be avoided.

Such short cuts may be to not provide employees with a written contract of employment, or to provide such a contract, but not consider what it should contain to reflect the needs of the organisation. Perhaps the organisation does not see the need to have written procedures, or thinks that performance management is not needed for small businesses.

As far as the employment contract is concerned, all employers are required to provide employees with certain information in writing and this requirement should not be ignored. Some small organisations may believe that all employment contracts are the same and therefore there is no need to spend any time or effort on them. This would be a mistake. For example, a basic contract may not have safeguards in it such as non-compete clauses to prevent former employees from setting up in competition etc. This is just one example of how cutting corners could be a costly error. For more information about why drafting employment contracts properly is important, view our blog Drafting a contract of employment . The other examples referred to above will be explored later.

2. Remember there is much more to employing someone than recruitment

There is often a focus on recruitment with other tasks being ignored altogether, and this approach is particularly common among small businesses. What does such a situation look like, what would be missing with that approach, and what are the potential consequences?

The situation being described is one where an employee has been recruited but when that has happened the employer sees it as ‘job done’. This means that employees do not receive an induction to know how things are done by the organisation, for more about the value of an induction programme, regardless of the size of the organisation, view our blog What is an induction programme?

As well as not having an induction programme, there may well not be any policies or procedures or performance management. This may well mean that employees simply do not know how matters will be dealt with or what is expected of them. Examples may be not knowing how disciplinary issues will be tackled, how grievances will be handled and what should happen regarding managing sickness absence. Having policies and procedures in place set out the expectations of both the organisation and employees. Such HR documentation means that all concerned are treated fairly and consistently, which in turn supports the organisation to function effectively.

Turning to performance management, small businesses often tackle it on an ad hoc basis, without any written records relating to performance. This can mean that interventions come late, and that steps are not taken to track what is done within what timeframe. In such circumstances an organisation is unlikely to be able to assess how an employee is performing, and the employee is unsure of what the organisation expects in terms of targets. Whereas regular and focused performance management would provide clarity on whether or not the employee is meeting the required standard.

 3. Consider gaining professional advice

Things are particularly challenging for small businesses. Resources may well be tight, and tasks are likely to fall on the shoulders of a small number of people. Against that backdrop a small business may well feel that HR support is an expense that it cannot afford. However, as has been said throughout this blog, HR is not about box ticking, or generating unnecessary paperwork. The function of HR is essentially to help the organisation to function more effectively – HR support should be seen as an investment not an expense.

There are many HR providers to choose from with a range of offerings. At Plotkin & Chandler we offer a full range of services such as HR documentation at a fixed fee, HR consultancy for when you would like tasks done on behalf of your organisation, or HR training for occasions when your organisation wishes to learn about topics in order to do more itself. We do one off project work and also offer monthly HR support packages. In addition to HR we also have expertise in defending an Employment Tribunal claim.

Whichever HR provider you choose, remember that the answer to ‘how to employ someone in a small business’ is to do so in a way which is compliant, but also supports the organisation to be as productive as possible. Such advice could be anything from discussing an employment contract to providing training on managing sickness absence or performance management.


 4. Don’t let your assumptions get the better of you

It is common for small businesses to think that HR support is not necessary until they become bigger. In fact, small businesses often need a greater level of input than larger ones because the small business may not have anything in place yet in terms of policies and procedures and instead simply go by instinct.

Similarly, some small business owners may feel that they are perfectly capable of going it alone. That is an option but, as the examples above illustrate, the positive impact of effective HR advice will be clear to see.


 5. Realise that prevention really is better than cure

There are many examples of how things can go wrong. Perhaps, an employer had a small business. The employees had each been there for a number of years. The employer did not see the need to have procedures in place because nothing had gone wrong. The employer dismissed an employee for wrongdoing but did not investigate what happened or follow any kind of process. What if the employee brings a claim of unfair dismissal? It may seem far fetched that an employer would make the decision to dismiss in such a way, but it is far from uncommon. If only the hot-headed employer had taken advice at the outset, the ending of the story could have been so different. That is just one example of how situations can escalate. Without advice an employer, whether large or small, can find themselves in hot water without realising how things have got to that point.

Plotkin & Chandler works exclusively in the areas of HR and employment law. As has been said earlier we offer a full range of services, and we have expertise in supporting small businesses to achieve their goals. For a free consultation, to discuss your needs and the ways in which we can help, call us on 020 3923 8616 or email us at info@plotkinandchandler.com










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