Ensuring a smooth start: the top 5 pitfalls in new employee onboarding

Hiring a new employee is a significant investment for any company. It comes with the anticipation of fresh perspectives, skills, and energy that can potentially steer the organisation towards success.

However, even with the best intentions, many organisations inadvertently make mistakes during the onboarding process that can impact the new hire’s productivity and overall morale. Having specialised in employment law for many years now, I have seen my fair share of bad decision-making by employers when new employees enter the fold.

Here are five common missteps to avoid when integrating new employees into your team.

  1. Failing to undertake basic checks
    It’s fundamental yet often overlooked. Always secure satisfactory references and verify all claims made in a job application, such as qualifications. This proactive approach can spare you future hassles and expenses.
  2. Overlooking right to work checks
    Ensuring an employee’s right to work in the UK is crucial. In 2024, fines for illegal employment will soar, potentially reaching £60,000 per employee. Confirming this right is often as straightforward as checking the employee’s passport. Neglecting this step can result in hefty fines.
  3. Failing to confirm contractual terms
    Legally, employers must provide new employees and workers with a written statement of the principal terms of employment on the very first day. Beyond fulfilling this obligation, it’s vital that employers establish and agree on these terms to safeguard the interests of the business. Always obtain and keep a signed copy from the employee, ensuring both parties are on the same page.
  4. Failing to proactively manage, or utilise a probationary period
    Often new employees will be placed on a “probationary period” lasting three to six months.  This period isn’t just a formality but a crucial phase in which to assess the employee’s suitability. However, many employers don’t provide structured feedback during this phase. Without proper evaluation, addressing performance issues later becomes trickier and may even lead to legal disputes.
  5. Misunderstanding new employees’ legal rights
    A misconception that’s gained traction is that employees with less than two years of service can be dismissed without repercussions. It’s true that only those with at least two years under their belt can make an “ordinary unfair dismissal” claim. However, this is merely one facet of employment law. New employees may have fewer claim options, but they are still protected under various laws, including those against discrimination, whistleblowing, and breach of contract.

Recognising and avoiding these hiring pitfalls is just the beginning. As specialists in employment law, we’re dedicated to ensuring employers are well-equipped, compliant, and confident in their onboarding practices.

For advice on your new employee procedures contact Alex Kiernan or call our employment law team on 020 3811 2894.