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Employment law

Updated on 15 July 2021

Taking on an employee

If you are going to employ someone, you must find out about your employment law responsibilities.

Illustration of an employment law book and scales of justice

Taking on someone as an employee, even for only a few hours a week, brings with it almost the same range of issues that exist for a business employing thousands of workers.

You may think this is excessive, but all employees, whether they work for a large or small employer, are given many rights in law to prevent them from being taken advantage of. Matters such as employment contracts, pay, working hours, holiday entitlement and the rights of employees in the workplace are all important areas for a new employer to get right.

Getting things right from the start, can prevent many problems from arising later. We are not employment law experts but to help you understand your responsibilities, we set out some basic guidance in the following pages, along with information on where to find more help below.

  • Employment law status: is the person you take on an employee, 'worker' or self-employed? Your responsibilities depend on their status.
  • Employing staff in more detail: have an employee? Find out more about employment contracts, pay, working hours, holiday entitlement and other rights and protections.

Where can I get more help?

There is lots of information and some tools to help you in the 'Employing people' section of GOV.UK which we direct you to frequently.

On GOV.UK, you can also find the following introductory guides which you may find useful:

Taking on a new employee – first steps

Your responsibilities as a new employer, employment rights and checks you must make to ensure new employees are entitled to work in the UK.

Common myths when employing someone for the first time

This government guide dispels common misconceptions about taking somebody on if you are a first-time employer.

The independent, government funded, public advice body ACAS (Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service) have expertise on employment matters. They have a website that contains some useful general information on the employment law issues involved in being an employer and a Helpline that deals with issues relating to employment. The Helpline provides clear, confidential, independent and impartial advice to assist the caller in resolving issues in the workplace. You can call the Helpline on 0300 123 1100.

Customers with a hearing or speech impairment may prefer to contact ACAS using the Relay UK service. You can contact the ACAS Helpline using Relay UK by dialling 18001 0300 123 1100. Your questions will be relayed to the Helpline adviser who answers the call and a real-time conversation will take place.

⚠️ An important note

It is important to understand that employment law is a complicated area. If you are unsure at all about your obligations, you should ensure you take proper advice based on your circumstances rather than acting or refraining to act based on GOV.UK or ACAS guidance alone.

You may need to consult a local lawyer. As an employer you are likely to need employer's insurance. Some insurance companies offer access to employment law specialists as part of their employer policies.

You should also be aware that employment law is constantly changing, and it is important as an employer to keep up to date. ACAS provide training courses and webinars, which include employment law updates, to help people understand changes and their potential impact. It is probably a good idea to check for any updates regularly (or subscribe for updates).

Some law firms and other consultancy firms that specialise in employment matters, also provide free newsletter updates and employment law briefings that you can sign up to – an internet search on ‘recent’ employment law changes’ or similar, should provide you with some options.

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