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Hiring an employee: Part two

This second part of a two part business briefing continues to highlight the key legal issues a business needs to consider when recruiting a new employee.  Part one featured in the October issue of Employment Brief and covered advertising the job, the application and pre-employment health questions.

The interview

•  Think when and where the interview should take place.  For example:

    •  check whether the interview venue has access for disabled candidates;

    •  holding an interview during a religious holiday could discriminate against applicants from that particular religion; or

    •  candidates with children may require the interview to be conducted at a particular time.

•  Ideally, all shortlisted candidates should be asked the same or similar questions to allow answers to be compared and to avoid the possibility of a discrimination claim.

•  Avoid asking questions about a candidate’s personal life unless they are directly relevant to the requirements of the job.

•  Keep a paper trail throughout the process to demonstrate how the business reached its decision to select the successful candidate. This should include:

    •  selection criteria;

    •  notes on the shortlisting process;

    •  interview questions; and

    •  notes of panellists’ assessments
       of the interviewees.

The offer

•  Make a written offer to the successful candidate.  Consider whether to set atime limit for acceptance and specify that acceptance should be in writing.

•  A business can make the offer conditional on a range of criteria, provided they are not discriminatory.  For example:

    •  providing satisfactory references; or

    •  confirmation that the employee is free to work in the UK or has an appropriate work permit or immigration approval to work.

•  Before making a job offer, ensure the applicant confirms they are not bound by any restrictive covenants from their previous job; otherwise the business could be sued by their former employer.  Restrictive covenants are used in employment contracts to protect an employer’s business by restricting the activities of an employee, generally after employment has ended.

The contract

•  Consider whether the contract should be permanent or for a fixed term.  If a business decides that a fixed-term contract is        appropriate, it may need to justify why it reached that decision.  Remember that an employee on a fixed-term or part-time contract should not be treated any less favourably than a permanent employee (for example, they should be allowed access to a company bonusscheme or instead receive an equivalent benefit).

Probationary periods

•  A probationary period can be included in the contract.  This will enable the business to assess the employee and vice versa.  It also gives it the flexibility to dismiss someone using a shorter notice period of at least one week.

•  Probationary periods typically last between three to six months and can be extended with the consent of the employee at the end of the term (for example, if the employee was sick and the business was unable to adequately assess their performance, it may want to extend the period).