How to hire employees in United Kingdom
Hiring and recruiting in the United Kingdom means understanding the distinct compliance obligations and work culture for employers in that country. Here we set out the key things you need to understand when onboarding a workforce in the UK.
Recruiting and hiring in the UK
Onboarding your local workforce in the United Kingdom
Making the decision to expand your global business into the United Kingdom means that you also need to think about how you will engage a workforce in that country, compliantly and efficiently. Here we explain the process of recruitment and hiring in the UK.
The job application process
The job application process in the United Kingdom is reasonably similar to the approach that is taken in other English-speaking countries. Some key elements include:
- CVs and cover letters. It is standard for job applications in the United Kingdom to involve both a curriculum vitae or ‘CV’ (a longer document than the North American ‘Resume’), as well as a cover letter. The cover letter sets out the applicant’s motivations and why they think they would be well-suited for the job in question. Note, it is also relatively common (and becoming more so) for jobs to have an online application form to fill in which contains all the key information required for a job;
- Interview process. There may be several interviews for a job with different managers within the organization. Interviews may be either competency-based (i.e., based on the past experiences and general skills of the candidate), or related specifically to the role in question;
- Testing. Psychometric testing may be part of the candidate assessment process;
- References. In the United Kingdom it is common for prospective employers to call prior line managers of the applicant as referees. Note that written references alone are often not accepted.
Understanding the workplace in the United Kingdom
Some key components of work culture in the UK that you should be aware of include:
- Hierarchy in the workplace. While the ‘power distance’ between senior managers and staff may feel smaller than in some other European countries, or Asia, hierarchy is still important. It is probably more important than in Australia, for example;
- Initial Contact. In the first engagement with another business contact (such as via email), it is important to be relatively formal (e.g., using any applicable titles) until both individuals have gotten to know each other;
- Time management. Punctuality is very important in the UK. If you are going to be late for a business engagement, prior notification should be given (where possible) and apologies should be made;
- Vacation. Brits place significant value on their vacations (‘holidays’) and most employees are entitled to 28 days’ paid annual leave per year.
How to hire staff in the United Kingdom
If your business is not based in the UK, it is worth considering what the best mechanism for recruiting and hiring your UK workforce might be. One possibility is to set up a local legal entity, such as a subsidiary limited company. Another possibility is to engage a specialist umbrella company or global Professional Employer Organization (global PEO). One difficulty with setting up your own local legal entity is that you take on all applicable employer and tax obligations in the UK.
An umbrella company or global PEO is able to compliantly hire the UK-based workforce for your enterprise. The umbrella company or global PEO can become the ‘Employer of Record’ for your employees, while the employees work at your direction on a day-to-day level.
Employer compliance in the United Kingdom
Hiring in the UK (whether directly, or by engaging an umbrella company or a global PEO) means complying with a range of laws which protect the rights of employees. Key employee protections include:
- A guaranteed minimum wage of £8.72;
- Enrollment by the employer in a pension plan;
- A right to a safe workplace;
- A right to equal treatment;
- A written employment contract;
- Guaranteed parental leave;
- Fair dismissal and employee redundancy provisions (i.e., the UK does not permit ‘firing at will’ as is permitted in many states in the USA);
- Compulsory employer contributions to National Insurance;
The obligation for employers to withhold and pay employee income tax.