07801 250 668secretary@uckfieldchamber.co.uk

I’d like to take this opportunity over the coming months to deal with matters which business owners face when employing staff, from recruitment of employees to termination of employment, and the potentially rocky road in between. But it doesn’t have to be a nightmare, as long as you follow proper procedures, know your legal obligations and stay compliant! There is more to consider in the recruitment process than I am allowed space here, so it’s important to take proper legal advice to get it right.

At the beginning of the employment journey, there is the recruitment of staff. Whether you are a large or small employer, you will need to ensure that the way you advertise for staff and your interviewing procedures don’t fall foul of discrimination and data protection legislation. At all stages of the process you should keep a paper trail to show the justifications for the decisions taken, in case of future litigation.

First, write up the job description and the candidate specifications, which will not only help to crystallise what and who you are ideally looking for to fill the post, but will also show that you have considered the specifications objectively, free from any discriminatory factors. When you advertise the position, the aim is to widen the pool of prospective candidates as much as possible, so try to avoid wording which is overly specific. For example, you might inadvertently preclude a great candidate by specifying working hours which might be incompatible with childcare responsibilities or religious observance.

Once you have a shortlist of candidates, it’s time to interview. It’s useful to have an interview panel, rather than one manager making decisions on their own. It is important that no one assumes who might ‘fit in’ to the workplace.

You should always ask candidates if they require any adjustments to be made, such as wheelchair access, or if timings need to take into account childcare responsibilities. At interview, it is important to avoid questions which relate to protected characteristics, e.g., plans to marry and have children. If such information is freely given, then it must not influence the decision makers. A woman does not have to declare if she is pregnant at an interview. If she does volunteer the information, then obviously this cannot be used to her detriment.

What do you do if the job you are recruiting for requires certain physical characteristics? Or if you require an employee who holds certain religious or philosophical beliefs? If so, then there needs to be an objective justification for potentially discriminating against those with certain protected characteristics. This is, understandably, a tricky area and it is important to take legal advice before doing anything which could put you in breach of the Equality Act 2010.

Robin Williams
Dawson Hart