Dan runs a successful architecture business; he is the owner and for a long time the only employee. In the early months of 2020 he began to gain more clients and wanted to ensure he was able to take on the jobs, as this would mean growth for his business. The next step for Dan was to consider hiring an employee. Dan had never employed anyone before but had heard lots of horror stories from colleagues of his. He knew that every circumstance was different and that his employee may not be a problem at all, but wanted to make sure he learned lessons from the people around him. With this in mind he sought advice in the very early stages of his journey.

Understand what is involved before making the decision

Dan started the process on the right foot, by getting advice early on to make sure he was prepared. He made contact with a few HR professionals but was hopeful that in the early stages he wouldn’t need legal help. He accepted that he didn’t know anything about being an employer so the support he was looking for was practical advice. He needed to know what should be in place from the start and some hands on support to implement it.

During our initial consultation I sent him my Employment Essential guide. This helped him understand what is required of him as an employer and where some costs may creep in. Doing a complete cost analysis was important to him and he didn’t want to miss anything. The guide was useful as he had not initially factored in the cost of Employer Liability insurance, but was able to catch this before his understanding of the amounts were fully cemented. 

Being clear about what you need from an employee

Once he determined the full cost of employment (salary, NI and pension contributions, cost of contracts and handbook and his insurance) we began to discuss the job description. He started by listed all the functions that were a minimum for him to feel like a person is properly completing the job. We then looked at the skills and competencies required to do those tasks and listed them as either essential or desirable for the role.

Once we had a good job description and person specification, Dan was able to advertise the role locally. His initial approach was the local free job boards and his existing network, although recruitment agency was always an option. Dan felt confident that he may find what he needed within his existing network. This turned out to be the right strategy as someone he already knew expressed interest in changing their job.

While Dan arranged interviewing and initial job offer details, I went to work on his contracts and policies. Employment contracts and handbooks are a collection of terms, conditions and policies; some are required by law, some are recommended and others are very useful to have as protection. Dan had discussed what he wanted to protect from the policies, I then found policies that gave him those outcomes. Dan’s primary concerns were things such as his reputation, social media, the security of his office and ensuring that his clients remained his.

We put together a contract that reflected the legal requirements but also one that offered Dan’s small business some protection. We produced a set of policies that were clear enough to be enforceable but not so wide that they fell down if challenged as unfair.

Be fully prepared for the new duty as employer

Prior to the new employees’ first day on the job I conducted one full day of training that helped Dan understand what processes he needed to have in place and how to document them. I provided templates for the induction and probation process. We discussed absence recording and management and how to enforce policies using performance management. As part of the initial costs Dan included a one year HR support agreement so that if any problems did come up he would have advice and support on how to deal with them.

Despite never being an employer before Dan understood and accepted his duty and made sure he was prepared for it, both financially and setting out clear expectations for his employee. This was the beginning of a mutually beneficial employment relationship that would facilitate Dan’s business moving to the next level.