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Top tips when recruiting household employees

Following on from Katie Lancaster's post on confidentiality in the home , Serena Nicholls looks at recruitment of domestic staff more generally and sets out her top tips.

1.  Work out what is needed

It is worth doing some careful planning before recruiting new staff to determine what exactly you are looking for; any skills or requirements for the job (for example, will the employee need a driving licence) and the specific duties the employee will be required to do. You should also consider what you would be prepared to offer in terms of pay, hours and flexibility. This will help you to prepare a precise job description, which will enable you to find the right person for the job. It should also prevent any future disagreement about what the employee is employed to do.

2. Discrimination

Make sure that your advertisement sets out the key things you are looking for in a potential employee, avoiding discriminatory language. For example, stating that a certain amount of continuous service is required could be indirectly discriminatory of women who are more likely to have taken career breaks to look after children and/or of younger candidates who may have fewer years' experience.

Whilst the interview should be sufficiently probing to ensure that a candidate has the skills required and is able to fulfil the responsibilities of the role, discriminatory questions (for instance, asking a woman of child-bearing age about her plans to start a family) should be avoided.

3.  References and checks

References should be sought and, wherever possible, referees spoken to. Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) criminal record checks should also be carried out. Where an employee will be caring for children or vulnerable adults, an enhanced DBS check will be required.

Before an employee begins work, you must check they have the right to work in the UK by checking their original documents and keeping a copy of them. The Home Office publishes a list of the types of documents that will be acceptable.

4. Contracts and confidentiality

An employer is legally required to give an employee a written statement of the essential terms of their employment (for example, in relation to hours, pay and notice periods). It is, however, worth preparing a more detailed contract, putting in place adequate protections and detailing what is expected of the employee. For instance, as Katie explained previously, it is particularly important for those employing staff in the home to ask employees to enter into confidentiality undertakings protecting the confidential information of them and their family.

5. Taxes and pension

You will be responsible for paying employer's National Insurance Contributions, as well as deducting income tax and employee's National Insurance Contributions from your employee's pay. If you have not already done so, you will need to register as an employer with HMRC.

Pensions auto-enrolment rules introduced by the previous coalition government require all employers to provide and contribute into a pension for eligible staff. The obligation for small employers (those with between 1 and 49 staff) is being phased in over a period of two years, which started in June 2015. You can find out your “staging date” (the deadline for enrolling your staff into a pension) by entering your PAYE reference into the Pensions Regulator website. You should also receive a letter from the Pensions Regulator (if you have not already) setting out your new duties, which include a duty to provide certain information to your staff.

6. Data protection

It is likely that you will be deemed a "data controller" for data protection purposes therefore (unless you fall within one of the limited exemptions) you will need to register with the Information Commissioner.

7. Insurance

Finally, as an employer you will be responsible for the health and safety of your employees while they are at work. Risk assessments should be carried out to address any risks in the workplace. You are also required to put in place employers' liability insurance covering you for the cost of compensation for any injuries or illnesses suffered by your employees as a result of their work for you.  Finally, you should consider whether additional insurance is required, for example motor insurance should you require your employee to drive as part of their work.

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