Whether you choose to recruit for your business domestically or hire in the UK, the process of growing your team can be a complex one. Before expanding your company, you need to learn about the recruitment process and employment laws in the UK to make sure you remain compliant every step of the way.
Recruiting in the United Kingdom
After Brexit, the UK experienced a shortage of skills among workers, which made it hard to find the right talent for open positions.
A company can handle building its UK-based teams by itself or work with a recruitment agency where necessary.
If you’re in the agriculture, food processing, horticultural, or shellfish-gathering industries, you can work with an agency known as a “gangmaster.” However, make sure the agency is licensed to handle the UK’s hiring and recruiting tasks.
Laws against discrimination in the UK
The UK has robust recruiting laws, especially related to direct and indirect discrimination. You cannot make any employment decision based on a candidate’s sex, gender reassignment, race, age, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion, marital status, pregnancy/maternity, or disability.
As such, the following are a few recommendations for recruiting and interviewing candidates in the UK:
- Use phrases such as “recent graduate” or “highly experienced” only when they are true job requirements.
- Don’t ask about “protected characteristics” such as relationship status or children.
- Ask for someone’s date of birth only if they must be a certain age to work, such as in positions that involve selling alcohol.
- Don’t use membership in a trade union as a deciding factor in whether to hire someone.
- Do not ask questions about an applicant’s health before a job offer has been made.
Right to work and background checks
One of an employer’s priorities during the recruitment process is ensuring that the candidate has the legal right to work in the country. Since Brexit, European Union (EU) citizens and their families must apply for settled status to work in the country. An employer is legally obligated to and should, check this status before offering someone a position. Businesses can face fines of up to GBP 20,000 if they do not have proof that they verified an employee’s right to work in the UK. Right to work checks are also applicable to UK citizens.
As of April 6, 2022, it is mandatory for businesses to complete all right-to-work checks using the Home Office’s online system for holders of Biometric Residence Permits (BRP), Biometric Residence Cards (BRC), status under the EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS), Frontier Worker Permits (FWP), or eVisas. Employers are no longer able to accept physical documents to verify these individuals’ right to work.
While employers can conduct additional background checks, there are limitations on doing so, particularly related to criminal background checks. In addition, data protection regulations also limit the personal information that employers can request of job applicants. Companies should have in place a privacy notice that details the data it may collect and how it will be used.
Finally, a company can ask candidates for a health check only if it’s a legal requirement for the job, such as an eye test for a commercial vehicle driver. In some cases, the job itself may require this check if an insurer asks for it.
How to hire employees in the UK
Embarking on the hiring process without additional support means that companies must find time to seek out talented new employees and onboard them as official employees of the company. Once a company finds the perfect candidate, it will need to provide a principal statement of employment within 2 months of the employee’s start date that outlines key terms of the employment. This statement should include compensation, job title, start date, probationary period, work hours, holidays, sick days, and a notice period for termination.
Companies also need to ensure compliance with UK employment laws through the right payroll and taxation systems. The hiring process involves complying with the Real Time Information (RTI) system and reporting all relevant payroll information to His Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC). Additional requirements include registering as an employer with HMRC and obtaining employers’ liability insurance.
UK employment laws
As mentioned above, providing a written statement of employment is legally required when hiring UK employees. However, it is highly recommended to put in place a more robust employment contract. Companies should also remain aware of other employment laws, including EU data protection regulations — the legal requirement to keep your employees’ personal data secure. This directive plays a role in how you can transfer information about your employee between countries.
A company can mitigate many UK employment compliance concerns by drafting a strong employment contract. Ideally, this contract will cover, in addition to the above information, confidentiality obligations, intellectual property, sick leave, restrictive covenants, and termination of employment.
Onboarding in the UK
The hiring process doesn’t end when the employment contract is signed. A company should also implement a streamlined process to onboard new employees while staying compliant in the UK.
One of the most important onboarding processes involves setting up an employee payroll system. You’ll need certain pieces of information from your employees, including their national insurance number and tax code. You’ll then need to register every new employee with HMRC.
Grow globally with G-P.
G-P never forgets that behind every hire is a human being. That’s why we’ve backed our fully customizable suite of global employment products with our robust team of HR and legal experts, so we can remain at your side, ready to support you as you build your global teams. With G-P Meridian Recruit™, you can search for talent anywhere, and find your perfect full-time or contract match with our all-in-one platform.
Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you recruit, hire, and onboard anyone, anywhere.
THIS CONTENT IS FOR INFORMATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY AND DOES NOT CONSTITUTE LEGAL OR TAX ADVICE. You should always consult with and rely on your own legal and/or tax advisor(s). G-P does not provide legal or tax advice. The information is general and not tailored to a specific company or workforce and does not reflect G-P’s product delivery in any given jurisdiction. G-P makes no representations or warranties concerning the accuracy, completeness, or timeliness of this information and shall have no liability arising out of or in connection with it, including any loss caused by use of, or reliance on, the information.