Employment law

Employment law for small businesses

It’s important to understand employment laws and policies if you’re running a small business as you’ve a legal responsibility for your staff. There are key aspect and steps you must follow to ensure you’ve a legally sound business which supports its workforce. Speak to an expert lawyer in employment law for small businesses for advice.

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How do I employ someone into my business?

Recruiting your first employee is an exciting time for a business but it’s crucial you follow the correct steps and are well prepared. Set out below are the main stages involved in hiring a new member of staff:

  • Determine the rate of pay and calculate how much you can afford to pay staff
  • Ensure that you meet minimum wage rates
  • Write a clear job description
  • Advertise for the role on key job search sites and professional platforms such as LinkedIn
  • Prepare well for the interview, knowing beforehand the questions you want to ask and always take notes. Make sure you’re familiar with discrimination law and ‘unconscious bias’
  • Check that the person is eligible to work in the UK
  • Complete pre-employment checks
  • Check if they need to be put into a workplace pension
  • Provide a written statement of employment
  • Ensure you are registered with HMRC as an employer

What do I need to include in an employment contract?

Employment contracts must comply with legal requirements so it’s worth asking an employment solicitor to draft or review the contract before you give it to your staff to sign.

Certain terms and conditions need to be given to employees at the outset of their employment. These include information on:

  • the name of the employer and employee
  • the date employment commenced
  • the date when continuous employment began
  • the scale, rate and method of calculating pay
  • intervals at which remuneration is paid
  • terms and conditions relating to hours of work
  • entitlement to holidays, including public holidays and holiday pay
  • the job title or a brief description of duties
  • the expected place of work

Some further information must be provided to employees, however this can be referred to without being included in the main statement of terms of employment.

Currently, you must supply this information within the first two months of employment.

From 6 April 2020 there were changes introduced in the law concerning who you need to provide this information to, the information you need to supply and when it needs to be supplied.

The changes in the law require further information to be provided, such as:

  • the specific hours and days of the week the employee or worker is required to work whether these can be amended and the procedure for amending them
  • details of any other paid leave, such as parental or family leave
  • details of further benefits
  • details of any probationary period
  • details of any training provided by the employer

How do I ensure the workplace is safe?

As an employer, you’ve a duty of care to ensure that your workplace is safe for staff. It’s crucial that you have employers’ liability insurance to protect your business.

The Six Pack is the term generally used for the six most commonly quoted health and safety regulations that you must follow. These came into effect following six EU directives in 1993, and were updated in 1999. They include the:

  • Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999: the main set of regulations
  • Manual Handling Operations Regulations: covering handling of heavy or awkward loads
  • Display Screen Equipment (DSE) Regulations: covering the safe use of computer screens and keyboards
  • Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations: covering the environments people are asked to work in
  • Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations: covering the suitability of equipment in the workplace
  • Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) Regulations: covering the use of protective equipment

These regulations essentially set out every employer's legal obligations when it comes to keeping people safe.

Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999

This is the overarching set of Six Pack regulations, which you may also hear being referred to as 'Management Regs.' While these regulations cover many areas of health and safety, the central part of them lays out the legal duty of every employer to carry out a full risk assessment to ensure that the workplace is safe.

Manual Handling Operations Regulations

Heavy lifting is a major cause of injury in the workplace. So these regulations are intended to help avoid the need for any manual handling or lifting that involves a risk of injury. It helps employers to reduce risk to the lowest possible level, but also requires employees to follow the safe working practices that are put in place as a result.

Display Screen Equipment (DSE) Regulations

These regulations help to ensure that health and safety training is provided for DSE users and that every worker's daily routine is planned to include regular rest breaks away from monitors and keyboards, including breaks to do other types of work. They also require employers to pay for affected workers to have sight tests and any special spectacles or contact lenses that are needed as a result.

Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations

These regulations cover a broad area of factors affecting the environment you have to work in. This includes things like lighting, heating, ventilation, seating, windows, rest areas, escape routes, washing facilities, changing rooms and access to clean drinking water.

Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations

Put simply, these regulations are designed to ensure that any equipment provided for you to use in the workplace is fit for purpose. That includes the need to maintain equipment as well as logging all routine maintenance, and making sure that users and supervisors are fully trained in how to use the equipment, as well as how to handle any foreseeable problems that might arise while they are doing so.

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) Regulations

These regulations cover Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), which must be provided wherever there are risks that can't be controlled by any other means. It ensures that where it is necessary, PPE is suitable, compatible with other PPE if more than one piece is required, properly maintained and used appropriately. In turn, employees have a duty to use PPE in the way they’ve been trained, and to report any loss or defect to the employer immediately.

How do I need to pay my employees/ workers?

Employers are required to give all of their employees and workers payslips by law. Workers can include people on zero-hours contracts and agency workers. Agency workers will get their payslips from their agency.

Self-employed workers don’t get payslips, because they organise paying tax and other deductions themselves. This is unless they get employed by an agency for a job, in which case for the duration of the job they become a worker and the agency must give them payslips.

A payslip must include the following:

  • total pay before deductions (gross amount)
  • total pay after deductions (net amount)
  • amounts of any variable deductions, where the amounts depend on the amount of pay, for example tax, National Insurance, Student Loan repayments and pension schemes
  • breakdown of how the wages will be paid if more than one payment method is used, for example bank transfer and cash
  • amounts of any fixed deductions, for example union subscriptions

As an employer you must adhere to the Equality Act 2010. This is designed to ensure that people get equal pay for equal work, regardless of their gender. It does so by providing for a sex equality clause to be inserted into every employee's contract of employment.

Discrimination at work is illegal in England and Wales and if you don’t comply then you’re at risk of an employee taking you to an employment tribunal.

To learn more about discrimination at work please take a look at our guide on protected characteristics.

What procedures do I need to have in place to deal with grievances?

If an employee wants to raise a formal complaint or issue with the employer they’ve a right to a grievance procedure. Often staff may raise the issue informally with you first, however if it isn’t dealt with accordingly or they don’t wish to raise it informally if it’s very serious, then you will have to follow your grievance procedure.

Your business should have its own grievance procedure and should follow the ACAS Code of Practice. You must ensure that it’s written and easily available for all staff to find.

For advice on grievance procedures it’s recommended that you speak to an employment law solicitor.

These are just a few key aspects that we’ve touched upon for small businesses to be aware of.

Employment law is very complex so it’s important to speak to an employment solicitor who’ll be able to give in-depth guidance and ensure your business is legally sound.

Speak to our team today on 0161 830 9632 or contact us online here to arrange a call back.

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