First hires – key considerations when you become an employer

Taking on your first employee is an exciting time for a business, but it can also be daunting to step into the unknown.

Here is our essential guide on what you need to know about your obligations as an employer.

Legal obligations as an employe

  •  You will want to get things started on the right footing, and also make sure you are legally compliant. How you start will set the foundations for the future as your headcount grows, but also sets expectations for staff. Mistakes can be costly for small businesses if something key is missed.
  • Start with the job description and terms of the employment, setting out the role, skills, hours and pay. That will help you begin your recruitment process. Make sure you are paying the National Minimum Wage (from 1 October 2016 £6.95 for under 25s, £7.20 for those aged 25 or over). To ensure you pay at the market rate for the role, carry out some research of comparable positions in your locality
  • You will need to consider the pension arrangements to put in place, and whether it is necessary to auto enrol your staff onto a scheme yet.
  • It is necessary to register with HM Revenue and Customs as an employer.
  •  It is also at this stage when you need to consider if the role requires any additional checks, such as a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check. This will apply if the recruit will be working with vulnerable adults or children.
  • You will also need to purchase employers’ liability insurance. It is for the protection of the health and safety of your employees and is compulsory.

The Recruitment Process

  • Once you have a job description you can begin your search for a candidate.
  • Consider where is best to advertise for the role. Agencies charge fees for recruitment so consider using your website and social media, as well as traditional methods such as signs and the local press. Make sure that your network knows you are looking for staff – word of mouth, particularly if accompanied with a recommendation – can often be invaluable in finding staff.
  • Choose the wording of your advert carefully and make sure that it doesn’t inadvertently discriminate against anyone with a protected characteristic. Consider if the role could be performed differently to how you originally envisaged it – such as a job share, or with flexible working arrangements.
  • Shortlist candidates from interview from applications using some criteria you have set for the role, but do not disregard an applicant without considering if they could bring something of value to the role, perhaps greater experience compared to qualifications or someone with transferrable skills from another sector.
  • At interview, consider a relaxed approach to get to know the candidate as a way to assess whether you could work together and if they share your business values and aspirations.
  • As part of the job offer, request references and for evidence of their right to work in the UK.


  • Consider if there are any training requirements for the employee, but also for you as a new manager, such as Leadership Training or an introduction to management.

Eagle HR can assist with all stages of the recruitment process for small and start-up businesses. Please call 0808 168 5780 to talk to us about how we can help.