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Employing staff and apprentices

As your decorating business develops you are likely to want to recruit more staff or apprentices. This can be one of the most important elements involved in making a growing business a success.

This section is designed to provide a few starting points to help you with recruitment. It does not provide a comprehensive statement of the law nor does it constitute legal or financial advice. You should always seek specialist legal or financial advice to suit your particular circumstances.

Recruiting new staff

It may sound obvious, but the first step when thinking of employing new staff is to be absolutely sure of what kind of employee you want. Taking on new people costs time and money, particularly in the early stages, so it's important to make sure you get the worker who fits the bill.

A good idea is to write down a brief job description outlining the exact skills, amount of experience and maybe even personality of the person you are looking for.

You might then consider whether any of your existing employees have the right abilities or whether they could be given training.

If you are thinking of replacing an employee who has left, first ask yourself if they actually need replacing. If they do, consider the reasons they left so that you are more likely to be able to retain their replacement.

Once you've decided on what kind of person you need to recruit, the next stage is to decide whether they are needed on a full or part-time basis, and whether they are going to be a permanent member of staff or employed on a fixed term contract to help with a temporary increase in work.

Employing part-time workers

If your workload fluctuates and you need to keep costs down, then employing part-time workers could be a good solution. You are less likely to pay them during lean spells and your company can stay flexible, responding quickly to increases in work.

But remember that part-time employees are entitled to the same rights and benefits as full time employees in proportion to the hours they work.

Employing contractors and subcontractors

When your company doesn't have all the specific skills to complete a project or the workload suddenly becomes more than you can handle, one answer is to contract out the work.

Before taking on contractors or subcontractors however, it is worth bearing in mind that they tend to cost more than an equivalent employee. Also they do have some of the same entitlements as your own employees. For example they are able to claim for unfair dismissal and the legal responsibilities for on-site health & safety still lie with you.

It's important to check on the current tax situation too. You don't normally have to make tax or National Insurance deductions for contractors and subcontractors, but IR35 rules can apply in certain situations. A good place to look for more information is the HM Revenue and Customs website.

You should also check with your insurance provider that any contractors and subcontractors you hire are covered in your existing policy.

Taking on apprentices

Today's apprentices combine off-the-job learning arranged by The Learning and Skills Council along with on-the-job learning provided by employers like you. It's an excellent way to add people to your workforce whose knowledge is bang up to date, and who comes with high levels of enthusiasm and commitment.

Apprenticeships in the decorating business have been designed by people within the industry to give trainee decorators the grounding and skills they need for their trade. You can use apprenticeships to train your existing staff or take on somebody new, already in training. Either way you'll be investing in the future of your business.

Depending on the kind of apprenticeship that is being undertaken, there may be funding available. You can find more information here.

More information and a free employers pack is available from www.apprenticeships.org.uk

Or you could ring the following numbers:

  • England - 08000 150 400
  • Scotland - 0141 568 4101
  • Wales - 02920 906 801
  • N Ireland - 0800 100 900

ConstructionSkills also offer apprenticeships in painting and decorating as well as grant facilities. To find out more click here.

City & Guilds offer an introductory vocational certificate 'Certificate in Basic Construction Skills - Painting & Decorating'. To find out more click here.

How to start the recruitment process

As already mentioned, successfully finding the right candidate is much more likely when you have a clear understanding of what type of person you want and what the job involves. Putting together a simple job description will help you focus on this. It's also a big help if you decide to advertise.

A job description doesn't need a lot of detail but should cover the following:

  • Job title
  • Position in the company
  • Who the person will report to
  • Who will report to the employee
  • Location
  • Outline of duties and tasks
  • Pay and conditions

Where to find the right candidate

Finding reliable employees with the right skills can take time and patience, but there are a number of options to maximise your chances of success.

Advertising for employees

It costs relatively little to advertise for staff in local newspapers and trade publications, but of course the larger the ad the more it will cost, so keep the description of the job clear, concise and attractive. Explain what experience you are looking for and how to apply. It's also important to make sure the advertisement doesn't discriminate on ground such as sex, race, age, religion or disability.

Using an employment agency

If you want to hand your recruitment over to professionals, then an employment agency dealing with the decorating trade is an option. They have existing databases of people in the area and can advertise on your behalf. It will save you time wading through every applicant as they will draw up a suitable shortlist, but this route can be expensive as you pay the agency a percentage of the employee's annual salary.

Using Jobcentre Plus

A free alternative to employment agencies is Jobcentre Plus which works in a very similar manner. You can usually choose from a vast pool of people seeking employment and is ideal if you need to recruit quickly. You'll also get access to the latest Government initiatives such as New Deal which may provide financial support for you to take on and train a new employee. In fact, Jobcentre Plus is a great place for all kinds of information and resources as well as staff recruitment. You can visit the website here.

Interviewing the candidates

You can tell quite a bit about the people interested in your job from their applications, but once you've drawn up a shortlist the next step is an interview so you can really get to know each other and decide who is most suitable.

Make sure you spend a bit of time preparing to interview candidates. Revisit the applications and decide on a handful of key questions, particularly if the candidate seems to have particular strengths or areas of weakness. Try to think of questions which get the candidate talking, rather than just giving a 'yes' or 'no' response.

The best interviews are reasonably relaxed occasions - you're not giving somebody a grilling so make sure you are well prepared with the time and space to do the job properly. Here are a few pointers:

  • Avoid being disturbed during the interview, either by phone or people coming into the room.
  • Make sure you've got enough time to cover everything and make notes afterwards.
  • When you meet the candidate, introduce yourself and explain what form the interview will be taking.
  • Tell them about your company and confirm what the job will involve.
  • Don't rush the person you are interviewing - you'll get better answers if they feel they have time to think.
  • At the end of the interview ask the candidate if they have anything they'd like to ask you.
  • Let the candidate know when they will be hearing from you about your decision.

As soon as the interview is finished make a record of what was said to help with your decision making.

As long as you have carried out the interview fairly everything should be fine, but it's worth remembering that your notes can be used in an employment tribunal if the candidate makes a complaint for any reason, including accusations of discrimination, so avoid any careless remarks.

How employment contracts work

As soon as a job offer is accepted, a contract of employment exists. This can be just by word of mouth, but it's much better to put down the terms of the contract in writing straight away. This can save a lot of trouble if there is any dispute.

In any case by law you must give your new employee a written statement of their main terms of employment within 2 months of them starting work. This should include the following:

  • The employer's name and address
  • The employee's name
  • Date employment commenced
  • The place where the employee reports for work and the address of the employer
  • Job title or brief job description
  • Employee's pay, including how it is calculated and when payment is made e.g. weekly or monthly
  • Hours of work
  • Period of employment - if the work is to be temporary or for a fixed term then the period the employment is for and/or the date it is to end should be included
  • Holiday entitlement and pay
  • Sick pay arrangements
  • Employment benefits e.g. bonuses, overtime rates, paid holiday etc
  • Notice periods - the length of notice required from both parties
  • Grievance and disciplinary procedures - who the person should speak to if they have a grievance and what the disciplinary rules are

There is a great deal about employment contracts and how they work on the Acas website.

The legal side of employment

As soon as your business employs people, you must follow a number of legal requirements. Many of these are designed to protect the rights of your employees, while others relate to issues such as employees' tax, National Insurance, working time and health and safety.

The main piece of legislation covering the relationship between employer and employee is the Employment Rights Act 1996. You also need to be aware of the Employment Relations Act 2004 and the Employment Act 2002 which covers things like grievance procedures, the rights of parents for leave and flexible working and resolving disputes in the workplace. The Work and Families Act 2006 introduced additional rights for working parents.

These can't be ignored because they are the law which every employer must follow, so if you feel it's all a bit too complicated the best thing is to talk to your local business network or employ a professional such as a solicitor to explain your position if the needs arises.

Your employees' statutory rights.

Anybody you employ has automatic statutory rights, with some of them applying from the day they start work. Others come into force after they've been employed for a specific period of time.

Here are some of the main statutory right every employer should know about:

  • No employee should be discriminated against on the grounds of race, sex, age, marriage, disability, sexual orientation, religion or belief.
  • Both sexes must be paid the same if their work is similar or of equal value.
  • Health and safety law is designed to protect your employees and company directors can be personally liable so ensure your practices are always up to date.
  • A pregnant employee has the rights to ordinary maternity leave (normally paid leave) and additional maternity leave. You can find the full statutory rights and more information on Work and Family here If your employee qualifies for Statutory Maternity Pay you have to pay, but can reclaim all or most of it from the government.
  • Employees who are working flexible hours have many of the statutory rights of full time workers. It is important to know the legal situation if any of your workers are part time or flexi workers. A good place for information is the 'Flexible Working and the Law' appendix on the Acas website.
  • If an employee has time off work for sickness you must pay them statutory sick pay (assuming they are entitled). Part time, temporary and casual workers may also qualify. For more information see the Inland Revenue website or the Department for Work and Pensions site. You may be able to recover some, or all, of the Statutory Sick Pay you have paid if you qualify under the Percentage Threshold Scheme (PTS).

This has been a brief introduction to some of the areas to consider when you employ staff. New legislation is being introduced all the time so be sure to check the details are up to date by visiting the links or referring to a professional advisor.

Further Assistance

There are a number of websites and organizations you can contact for additional help and support:

  • 'Employment Rights Act 1996'. 1996 c.18, Office of Public Sector Information, Website: www.opsi.gov.uk
  • Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (previously known as Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform), 1 Victoria Street, London, SW1H 0ET, Tel: (020) 7215 5000. Website: www.berr.gov.uk
  • Institute of Employment Rights, The People's Centre, 50 -54 Mount Pleasant, Liverpool, L3 5SD, Tel: (0151) 702 6925. Website: www.ier.org.uk

The above information is correct at the time of writing (July 2009) but please check the details are up-to-date with the various organisations listed.

The contents of this guidance are for information only and no guarantee, representation or warranty of any kind is given (whether express or implied) in relation to any of the information, advice or opinions expressed in it. Whilst ICI Paints AkzoNobel have made all reasonable efforts to ensure that statements appearing in this guidance are accurate, ICI Paints AkzoNobel disclaims all liability and responsibility arising from any reliance placed on the information, advice and opinions contained in this guidance. ICI Paints AkzoNobel reserves the right to make any amendments or alterations to this guidance at any time, without notice.

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