Hiring your first employee


Hiring your first employee

Hiring my first employee was scary for me, because I really did know all the horror stories about staff behaving badly from my work advising clients.

But I realised that I could not move the business forward without hiring my first employee. I had tried freelancers and it worked, to a point.

But there was no loyalty, they wouldn’t guarantee that they would be available when I needed them. And when another company came along offering them a higher rate or many more hours, they dropped me without any notice.

What do you need to do to make this work?

Find a person

You do not have to hire a full-time employee straight away. There are a lot of highly qualified people out there who would be happy to work part time.

Advertise on the standard job boards, but also on Facebook groups for people local to you who might have the skills. Ask your contacts if they know of anyone who could help.

Put it on your website. Send it out to your list “We are growing!” (which means you are successful, which will attract more business).

You can also use a recruitment agency, but the fees involved will probably be too much at this stage of your business growth.

Make sure you use the correct language in the advert.

Discrimination protection applies from advert stage, so if you advertise for “young, tall, white, large-breasted females who are happy to wear low cut tops to serve behind the bar”, expect to be sued for discrimination (one of our clients did this!).

Are they the right one?

Have a list of the tasks that they will be doing. Test those in interview. Don’t just ask if they can use Word or Excel, make them do a task.

Ask every candidate the same questions. Do not ask about childcare, whether they have any disabilities.

See our download for open questions that you could ask for admin positions. Be clear on what the tasks, hours, pay are.

Before they start

Issue them with a contract

Legally you have to give them one by the end of their first day of working. Even if there is no written contract, you have a verbal contract. Employment law applies from the first minute of working for you. Discrimination protection applies from the moment

Minimum wage

Check that you are paying at least minimum wage per hour – this amount changes every April, so check on the government websites for the current figures.

Do they need a DBS check?

Start this process as soon as they have accepted your offer.

Register with HMRC as an employer

This does not cost you anything but has to be done.

Get employers liability insurance

This is a legal requirement. You can be fined £2,500 every day you are not properly insured.


Check if you are paying your staff enough to need an auto enrolment pension. You must enrol and make an employer’s contribution for all staff who are aged between 22 and the State Pension age (currently 67); and earn at least £10,000 a year.

If you do, you will need to set this up as soon as possible.

Tip – you can defer them joining the pension for the first 3 months of working for you. After that you will have a big fine if you do not enrol them when they are eligible.

On day one

Take a photo/photocopy of their passport or driving licence

This is a legal requirement for tax purposes. It will also confirm whether they have the right to work in this country.

If they do not have either of those photo IDs, then they will need to provide you with a full birth certificate. All non-British applicants will have a photo ID.


Show them the fire exits, kettle, toilet, computer. After these essentials, take time to go through the tasks with them and be clear on what you expect and by when.

Be flexible

There is more than one way to skin a cat and the same with tasks.

You need to focus on the results you want rather than the method used. If your employee is using a different method but getting the correct result in an acceptable amount of time, then it is probably not worth insisting that they use your method of working.

If there are problems with results, then do have a chat with them.


Arrange to have a debrief session (15 mins) about how things are going at the end of their first day, first week, every week in their first month, and then monthly for the trial period.

Schedule these in advance. If everything is going well, you can say that. If not, it gives you a less threatening (to the employee) chance to talk about it with them before it gets worse.

Do not wait until there are issues because then saying “can we have a chat” is the same as being called into the headteacher’s office.


Keep an eye on what tasks they are doing that might need to be changed and whether they could be doing other tasks.

Often it is not until someone has started working for you that you can see their full potential.

They should be freeing you up to concentrate on generating revenue and delivery.

End of the first month

Pay them!

You can use the payroll software on the HMRC website to process their payment. Even if they are earning less than the tax threshold, it needs to go through the payroll software.

Issue them with a payslip

Which is why you need payroll software. It is a CRIMINAL offence to not issue a payslip. This can be sent electronically, or printed out on paper. Both are correct.

Communication style

Be self-aware about how you communicate to your staff. Don’t expect them to read your mind. Give clear instructions.

But you are the boss, so they have to adapt to you. If you are constantly talking at cross purposes, details of tasks being misunderstood and deadlines being missed, then you may want to move on.

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Have a Question? Get in touch below...

    If you are an employee and feel that you have been treated badly, then we strongly advise you to contact ACAS:

    Call the ACAS Helpline on 0300 123 1100 for free support and advice.

    Simply get in touch and they'll provide you with clear and confidential guidance about any kind of dispute or query that you have about relationship issues within the workplace.

    You may want to know about employment rights and rules, best practice or you may need advice about a dispute.

    Whatever it is, just give ACAS a call, their team are on hand to respond within the hours: Monday-Friday, 8am-8pm and Saturday, 9am-1pm.

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