Employing staff in the UK: key considerations

The UK remains an attractive destination for foreign investors, with a relatively straightforward employment system for companies to recruit and employ staff. 

We asked Melanie Stancliffe, Employment Partner at Cripps, to share her insights on the key considerations for French entrepreneurs when hiring employees in the UK. 

1. The job offer 

When you have selected your preferred candidate, you should set out the offer in writing and make the offer conditional upon satisfactory references and right to work checks. 

2. Right to work check 

You must ensure your intended hire has the legal right to work in the UK before they start work or face a fine. The check usually entails reviewing and retaining a copy of the passport.  They may have (pre-)settled status allowing them to work however, a visa will take two to three months to obtain.  

3. Employment contract 

There is no UK equivalent to the Code du Travail. The terms of employment must be set out in the individual’s employment contract, which makes them lengthier documents than in France. The norm is an indefinite contract, not a CDD. It is mandatory to provide key information in writing to the employee on or before their first day, including: 

  • start date 

  • job title 

  • pay (13th month bonuses are not paid in the UK) 

  • place of work 

  • holiday  

  • sick pay 

  • salary 

  • probationary period (not fixed by law) 

  • pension (contributions of 3% of salary are required) 

  • notice period  

  • how the employee raises a complaint. 

An opt-out from the maximum working hours or your personal data notice are usually provided separately to the employment contract. These are not mandatory and like policies on discrimination, bullying and bribery, can be implemented later, as your business grows. 

4. Collective agreements 

Unlike in France, it is rare for employees in the private sector in the UK to have terms governed by collective agreements. Only 23% of the UK workforce are trade union1 members, the majority working in the public sector2. 

5. Business protection clauses 

Clauses to protect your business and its confidential information should be included in the contract of sales and senior employees. Without any additional cost, you can: 

  • prevent competition during and after employment 

  • prevent the solicitation of your clients and staff 

  • exclude the employee from their workplace in their notice period (“garden leave”) 

Non-competition clauses must be drafted narrowly and carefully. The maximum length enforced is 12 months after the employment ends. The UK government is considering a change to require a payment for non-competition clauses in the future. 

6. The working week 

UK employees usually work 40 hours per week, longer than in France. The maximum working week in the UK is 48 hours on average, including overtime, unless the employee agrees to opt-out. You do not have to pay higher hourly rate of pay if they work overtime. 

7. Registration 

You must possess Employer’s Liability Insurance before the employee starts work and register as an employer with the UK tax authorities (HM Revenue & Customs). 

Cripps regularly provides employment advice to French start-ups, small, mid-size and intermediate companies with new or existing UK establishments. As highly experienced employment solicitors, they can help you meet your legal obligations, designed to protect your business and your employees. 

If you need guidance on understanding UK employee rights, or if you need specific advice in relation to hiring staff in the UK, get in touch with their employment team

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