One of the most appealing things about leaving the world of traditional employment and becoming a contractor is the prospect of gaining full independence as a self-employed professional, without any higher-ups calling the shots.
Being your own boss has all sorts of benefits, including the ability to direct your own workflow, focus on your passions and gain more control over your work/life balance. However, there is one potential downside to this – there’s only so much you’ll ever be able to do on your own.
For those who are comfortable retaining a modest scope for their business, this won’t be a problem, but for ambitious entrepreneurs who want to keep on growing, it’s inevitable that the time will come for them to think about hiring additional members of staff.
This can be an exciting development that can really broaden the horizons of your fledgling company, but being someone else’s boss as well as your own carries all sorts of extra legal and professional responsibilities that it’s important to learn about before you start advertising for recruits.
Knowing the legalities
The last thing you want is for the momentum of your growing business to be held back in a tangle of red tape, so it’s crucial to make sure you learn about all of the legal issues and requirements involved in becoming a first-time employer.
Resources such as the official UK government web portal and Acas are on hand to offer advice and guidance on exactly what this process entails, but there are a few core issues that you can focus on immediately as you begin your research:
- Decide a fair rate of pay. Initially, your ability to pay a generous salary is likely to be limited, but you need to offer a sum that at least matches the National Minimum Wage level, which is calculated according to their age and specific employment status.
- Carry out the necessary employment checks. This will include making sure any candidates have the legal right to work in the UK, as well as performing Disclosure and Barring Service checks if you operate in a field that requires these, such as when working with vulnerable people or in the security field.
- Sort out your insurance status. You will need employers’ liability insurance as soon as you become an employer, which will help you pay compensation if a staff member becomes ill or injured while working for you.
- Notify HM Revenue & Customs. You need to register as an employer up to four weeks before you start paying your first staff member, and the process can take around a fortnight. However, it can be done online, which makes things easier.
- Provide details to your prospective staff. All the details of the job need to be sent over to the chosen candidate in writing, including terms and conditions. A written statement of employment is essential if you’re planning to retain a staff member for more than a month.
Finding the right candidates
Once you understand the practicalities of how to employ staff members, your focus will undoubtedly shift to finding the right candidate with the skills, temperament and personality to really make your business thrive.
One of the keys to attracting talent is making sure the vacancy is advertised as widely and visibly as possible. Naturally, in today’s world, the internet is likely to be your primary means of doing this, but don’t overlook the potential of more traditional channels such as newspapers and relevant trade publications.
As well as featuring the vacancy on your own company website if you have one, you can work with an employment agency to help manage the recruitment process; alternatively, you can contact Jobcentre Plus to advertise the position free of charge.
Once you’ve had a few applications, it’ll be time to start looking over CVs, weighing up qualifications and inviting people in for interviews. Since you’re running your own business, you’ll be well-placed to know exactly what the ideal candidate should offer – try and find someone who not only has the right skills for the job, but also a personality type that will mesh well with your own, and abilities that will complement some of the areas in which your organisation might currently be lacking.
The importance of good people management
With your new staff in place, the onus will now fall upon you to be the kind of manager that can inspire employees to give their all for your company – rather than the sort of boss that may have played a role in driving you to freelance working in the first place.
That means paying close attention to developing your people management skills, monitoring your staff’s welfare, doing all you can to facilitate smooth working and better performance, and providing them with the tools they need to succeed.
Regular performance reviews, feedback sessions and appraisals can be a good way of ensuring you and your workers know exactly what to expect from each other, while the proper equipment and training should be provided to make sure your workers are able to carry out the tasks you set for them.
It’s also important to acknowledge the potential risks involved in employing your own staff, and to put a system in place to deal with them. Health and safety is a key concern – even if your work doesn’t involve physically dangerous activities, there are always matters such as fire safety that need to be considered, and that you’re liable for as the company owner.
Similarly, not every working relationship runs completely smoothly, so it’s important to devise discipline and grievance processes that provide you and your staff with some recourse and best practice guidelines as to how any problems can be dealt with.
By taking these steps, you’ll be able to make sure that you establish a functional, professional and positive relationship with a well-motivated and effective workforce, and truly take your business plans to the next level of growth and success.
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