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Food and Drink

Taking on Employees

As a food business grows, there comes a time when you may need to start to think about taking on more staff.

Whether it’s part-time or full time there are a number of key steps you must take as you take on someone for the first time. 

How much do you pay them?

Assuming you have decided who you want to employ, the first step is to decide what you are going to pay them. You must at the very least pay them the National Minimum Wage (NMW). This currently depends on their age, and whether they are an apprentice or not.

The current NMW rates can be found here.

You will also need to be clear about whether bonuses or overtime is to be paid, and if so at what rate.

Can they work in the UK?

It is important to check whether your proposed employee has the legal right to work in the UK.  If they have a UK passport and are a British Citizen, then the answer will generally be yes, but of course, many others also have the right to work in the UK, depending on their circumstances.

This is a very important check to make as you could be fined up to £20,000 per employee for employing an illegal worker. Examples of illegal workers include students with expired visas, students working more hours than they are entitled to, or people working on a visitor’s visa.  The Government offer a helpline on 0300 123 4699 to help you make the right checks.

Do they need a DBS (Previously CRB) check?

The DBS (Disclosure and Barring service) check is needed for people who undertake certain jobs in the care sector e.g. working with children or in healthcare. It is unlikely that a DBS check will be needed for anyone in the food sector, but if you have any questions the government's DBS helpline can be contacted at 0870 909 0811.

Employer’s liability insurance

Once you employ someone you become liable for them as your employee. For this reason, you must make sure that you take out employers’ liability insurance. This will help you to pay compensation if the employee is injured whilst at work and it must provide at least £5m of cover. You can be fined up to £2,500 a day for each day you do not have Employers Liability insurance and you must display your certificate at your place of work.

Terms and conditions of employment

You must supply your employee with written terms and conditions of employment which set out the relationship between you as an employer and the employee. This will contains items such as details of duties, pay and holidays, hours of work, etc. You must also advise the employee about your grievance and disciplinary procedures, or state where those policies may be easily accessed by the employee.  You must provide the statement if you are employing someone for over one month.

Notify HMRC

You must notify HM Revenue and Customs that you are about to employ someone and provide them with the necessary details such as their National Insurance Number etc. This can be done online and must be done two weeks before their first payday.

This checklist may be daunting, but employing someone for the first time is an indication of a successful business. The key to avoiding problems in the future is however to make sure you follow the correct procedures, keep in mind that employees have certain employment rights that they may rely on, and make sure the paperwork is in place.

If you have any questions whatsoever, speak to your solicitor, or have a look at the Government website, which has much useful guidance and advice.