HR for start-ups – what you need to know


The key HR documents you will need for your start-up when you take on your first employee.


· Contract of employment

You will need to get a legally compliant contract of employment in place before recruiting your first employee. Getting this right from the very beginning will save on confusion further down the line, and protect your intellectual property and confidentiality after an employee has potentially left the business. There are particulars of employment that you must provide to an employee within two calendar months of them joining. The most important of these being:

· name of the employer;

  • start date/date of continuous employment;

  • their job title, salary and pension;

  • place of work and hours of work;

  • holiday entitlement; and

  • notice periods.


Don’t forget pension auto enrolment. It’s your duty to let employees know when they will be auto-enrolled (often the first day of employment, but it can be postponed for up to three months). The Pensions Advisory Service has more information.


Another point to consider are the terms of your contract. Are they being employed on a fixed term or perm contract? Be aware of the working time directive which states that all employees must have 20-minute break every six hours (which is unpaid).


Also bear in mind the 48-hour working limit, which ideally you will want employees to opt out of because this makes it difficult for them to do overtime. Include an opt-out clause in the contract.


  • Probationary period

All new hires will need a probationary period (which needs to be communicated with them). This is essential to ensure that standards are met and doesn’t delay any decisions if the hire doesn’t work out.


  • Dress code


Are you comfortable with a causal environment? What are the boundaries about what is acceptable and practical? Publishing a dress code on the intranet cuts out the need for awkward conversations down the line.


  • Sickness policy

Employees need to be made aware of the rules in your business around taking time off for sickness, who should they notify, by when and how often, and most importantly will they be paid more than statutory sick pay? Don’t assume that employees know the rules if you haven’t told them.


  • Managing performance

A full induction is crucial and this will also allow you to set out what’s expected of the employee. This should be detailed in a job description. A buddy system can be particularly useful as your business grows. Current employees can help new staff settle and find their feet.



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