1. Summary

When you take on an employee for the first time, there are a number of key things you need to do under UK law. This section takes you through each of these legal requirements.

2. Taking on your first employee - legal issues

When you take on a new employee for the first time, there are 5 key things you need to do under UK law.

  1. Decide how much to pay them. You must pay your employee at least the National Minimum Wage (NMW). The NMW depends on their age and whether they are an apprentice. You can find full information about the current NMW rates on the GOV.UK website.
  2. Check that they can legally work for you. You must check that your employee has the legal right to work in the UK. Failure to comply with this legislation can result in you paying a civil penalty or being liable to criminal prosecution. Further information is available on the GOV.UK website. 
  3. Get employment insurance. You need employers’ liability insurance as soon as you become an employer. It must cover you for at least £5 million and come from an ‘authorised insurer’.
  4. Register with HM Revenue and Customs and pay your employee. You need to register with HMRC as an employer, make any deductions (PAYE and National Insurance contributions) and give a pay statement to your employee. Full information is available on GOV.UK. You can download the HMRC booklet ‘Employing someone for the first time’ from the GOV.UK website.
  5. Send details of the job, including terms and conditions, in writing to your employee. If you are employing someone for more than a month, you need to give them a written statement of employment within their first 2 months.
  6. Download a template for a written statement of employment.

Full details about each of these legal requirements and other aspects of employing staff are available on the GOV.UK website.

3. Health and Safety

As an employer you also have obligations under Health and Safety legislation. The following are some of the most important aspects you must comply with:

  • Assess risks in the workplace. You must undertake an assessment of risk to the health and safety of employees and others who may be affected by your business. This is applicable to all businesses, regardless of the number of employees you have.
  • Consider the first aid requirements in your workplace and have appropriately trained members of staff.
  • Take steps to ensure that hazardous substances do not present a danger at work.
  • Report accidents in the workplace, in accordance with the relevant legislation.
  • Make sure employees have any protective equipment they need.
  • When your business has 5 or more employees, you need to prepare a written health and safety statement.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) provides free tools and advice on all aspects of health and safety at work. Further details are available on the Health and Safety Executive website. 

4. Equality and Diversity

Equality and diversity are important aspects in the workplace. Let’s look at some definitions and the differences between equality and diversity:


  • treating everyone fairly on the basis of individual need
  • concepts underpinned by legislation
  • requires businesses to provide everybody with relevant and appropriate access for participation, development and advancement
  • requires individuals to conduct themselves in accordance with the business’ policy


  • diversity is all about difference
  • we are all different
  • our differences include race, age, disability, religion or belief, life and work experiences, education and socioeconomic status
  • some differences are visible, some are not
  • requires us all to value everyone as an individual

Diversity recognises that although people have things in common with each other they are also different in many ways. Equality means everyone, regardless of their differences, should have a right to equal access to employment and, when employed, should have equal pay and equal access to training and development.

The Equality Act 2010 was introduced in October 2010 to simplify discrimination law, making it easier for employers and individuals to understand their rights and obligations.

It is unlawful to discriminate against job applicants on grounds of race, gender, disability, pregnancy, sexual orientation, religion, marital status or age.

More information about equality and diversity is available on the Equality and Human Rights Commission website.

Employees cannot be discriminated against or dismissed because of ‘spent’ convictions under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974. Some occupations are exempt such as those that involve work with children.

As has already been covered, under the Asylum and Immigration Act 1996, you must check that prospective employees are legally allowed to work in the UK.

It is also important that any business recruiting staff complies with the Data Protection Act 1998. Any information from applications, CVs and references from previous employees should be treated with complete confidentiality. CVs should be retained for 6 months in case of complaints from rejected candidates and must then be disposed of securely.

Make sure you keep up-to-date with any changes in employment law and other legislation that affects your business.

ACAS provide regular updates on employment law.