July 5, 2018

What your onboarding documentation really tells new talent


This is not the ‘sexiest’ blog I have ever written but stay with me, it may surprise you to know that this is not a blog about compliance.  Rather, in my view, a blog about protecting your employer brand.

"How come?" I hear you say!

Getting all your documentation right is an important part of the process of onboarding new employees.  Present them with poorly drafted documents or omitting items that they know you should have, will undermine their early confidence.  In the worst-case scenarios, it will lead to a similarly lazy attitude to the detail of their own job, disaffection, and unnecessary litigation if the relationship does not work out.

Here’s my attempt to capture all the requirements in one place.


You are required to give new employees certain details about their terms and conditions of employment in writing within two months of their start date. Technically this is called a ‘statement of employment particulars’ but usually this is given in the form of a contract of employment.

Sometimes everything may just be covered in an offer letter with references to other sources of information such as a Staff Handbook. You can see an example of a contract which covers all the requirements here.


If you have five or more employees, you are required to have a Health and Safety Policy and record the significant findings from risk assessments, and occupational injuries that result in more than three days incapacitation (conventionally in an Accident Book).


You are required to give employees a copy of, or display, the health and safety law poster.


Unless you only employ family members you will need employer's liability insurance for at least £5 million from an authorised insurer. You can be fined £2,500 for every day that you don't have this cover. You must display the certificate.


Since May 2018 you must have a GDPR compliant Privacy Statement which tells employees and job applicants about how you manage their data. Amongst other things, it needs to tell them what and why you collect data, and advise them about their rights to access, ask for deletion etc.

You can probably no longer rely on a data protection statement in your contract – these need revising.


In order to avoid a hefty fine, you need to retain evidence that you have checked the right of all new employees to work in the UK. Strictly speaking this is not a legal requirement. If you are caught employing someone without the right to work, the evidence will be your defence!


You need to keep payroll records, and keep them for at least three years after the tax year they relate to.


Since April 2018, all workers (this may include people who perform work personally for you but who are not genuine self-employed contractors) are entitled to a payslip which must show the number of hours paid for if they are hourly paid, and differing rates of pay if there are any. This is in addition to the previous requirements to show gross, deductions and net salary. Pay slips must be given before or at the time of payment.


Information about pension auto-enrolment, including the right to opt out. The information must be actively given in writing and in plain English. Asking the employee to seek it themselves from the Finance Director is probably not compliant!

You can delay enrolment for 3 months, but after that anyone over 22 and earning more than £10k (2018/19) must be enrolled in a qualifying scheme. Click here for further guidance.


Keep records to show that staff are not exceeding the average working week of 48 hours, unless they have ‘opted out’, and that you are complying with the night work and health and safety assessment requirements of the Working Time Regulations 1998. These records must be kept for at least two years.

Arguably, if everyone has ‘opted out’ and you don’t have night work, then there is no need to keep these records.

It is a common myth that you must have a Staff Handbook, and generally I don’t recommend having one until you have at least 10 employees – it’s just something else to maintain and I’m not a fan of running a business through written policy and procedures.  With up to ten people you can just talk to them and set standards yourself.

Opinions are divided on whether you at least need a disciplinary and grievance procedure.  It’s all to do with the interpretation of one line in the Employee Relations Act 1996. In my opinion (and I don’t know of any case law where this has been clarified) it says that if you have any disciplinary rules or procedures you must specify them or reference them in the ‘statement of employment particulars’ (1. above) i.e. if you don’t have any, you don’t have to say anything.

The Act does say that you must specify in the ‘statement of employment particulars’ (as stated above, usually called a contract), who the employee can go to if they want to appeal a disciplinary decision, and who they can raise a grievance with.

There are some additional requirements which are dependent on size or other characteristics: -

    • Since April 2018 organisations with 250 or more employees are required to produce data on their gender pay gap on an annual basis;
    • Those with a total turnover of £36 million or more are required (since 2015) to have a slavery and human trafficking statement;
    • With an annual ‘pay bill’ exceeding £3 million (less than 2% of employers according to the Government) an employer is likely to have to pay and keep records with regard to the apprenticeship levy;
    • Regardless of your size, if there is a risk of bribery in your business, you need (since 2011) to have anti bribery procedures;
    • There are additional requirements for public bodies.

So, essentially, there are ten pieces of documentation all employers are required to have, although I’d love it if anyone can suggest something I have not covered, and a few extras for larger organisations and public bodies.

Why not check you’re covered, today?

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