There are numerous reasons why, as a dental practice owner, you may need to recruit. Whatever the reason, recruitment can be costly, time consuming and not without risks of litigation. It’s therefore important that the process is undertaken carefully to ensure that you recruit (and keep) that ultimate team member. Here, HR Solicitor and Director at FTA Law, Sarah Buxton, takes you through six key points to be aware of when recruiting and the potential pitfalls to avoid.
1. First things first… preparing a job description
Drawing up a detailed written job description and person specification will not only focus your mind on the skills and experience required, but will also demonstrate an objective approach (not influenced by any unlawfully discriminatory considerations).
We all too often decide to recruit someone because we like them and although this is an important consideration, to recruit the ultimate member of staff you must take care to ensure that the candidate actually has the skills necessary to undertake the role. Do also keep in mind that a prospective employee can make a claim against you in the Employment Tribunal for discriminatory acts that may have been committed during the recruitment process, before they have even commenced working for you or even if they never begin working for you.
You need to ensure you use an appropriate job title, for example, ‘senior’ nurse suggests that it has been predetermined that you would like to recruit an older person, or ‘admin boy’ suggests an intention to recruit a younger man. You need to accurately describe the job and the specific duties and responsibilities of the post.
A person specification describes the skills, abilities, qualifications, experience and qualities that are needed or desirable in a candidate. Including health requirements can amount to direct discrimination against disabled people, where those requirements lead to a blanket exclusion of people with particular impairments and do not allow individual circumstances to be considered.
“A person specification describes the skills, abilities, qualifications, experience and qualities that are needed or desirable in a candidate.”
Except in specified circumstances, it is unlawful to ask questions about health or disability before the offer of a job is made or a person is placed in a pool of people to be offered a job. Including criteria that relate to health, physical fitness or disability, such as asking applicants to demonstrate a good sickness record, may amount to indirect discrimination against disabled people in particular, unless these criteria can be objectively justified by the requirement of the actual job in question.
2. Advertising the vacancy
The vacancy should be advertised in various places and mediums. For example, if you advertised in the Jewish Chronicle, this would be indirect discrimination as it would be implied that you were only directing your job vacancy at the Jewish Community.
The easiest way to advertise, which saves you a lot of time, is to use a recruitment agency who is aware of the employer’s equality policy, as well as other relevant policies, and should be given copies of the job descriptions and person specifications for the posts they are helping you to fill.
3. Undertaking equal opportunities monitoring
Equal opportunities monitoring forms should be separated from your application forms prior to the shortlisting process so that the information provided by applicants has no influence on the process. However, it is good practice to use the monitoring information when reviewing your recruitment process.
The review should consider whether any stage of the selection process might have contributed to any significant disparities between the success rates for different groups of people sharing protected characteristics. If so, the employer should investigate further and take steps to remove any barriers.
4. Shortlisting and interviewing
You must ensure that the process is fair, consistent and results in the appointment of the best person for the job. Once a shortlist has been produced, you must then undertake the interview stage.
“You should prepare questions based on the person specification and job description and the information provided in the candidate’s CV.”
You must ensure that the arrangements for holding an interview do not coincide with religious festivals or observances, or may hinder childcare. You should prepare questions based on the person specification and job description and the information provided in the candidate’s CV. Avoid questions that are not relevant to the requirements of the job.
5. Making an offer of employment
Once the successful candidate has been identified, you should write to the individual making an offer of employment, or where you have made the offer verbally, to confirm the offer.
The letter should confirm the key terms of the role and if possible, the contract of employment. Too many dental practices ask the employee to sign the contract of employment after the employee has successfully completed their probationary period. Once the employee has begun employment, it can be much more difficult to negotiate the terms of a contract and ensure that an employee has actually signed a contract. Dealing with it at this stage, however, means that you can have a ‘take it or leave it’ approach.
The letter should set out the conditions of employment, for example, subject to two satisfactory references, confirmation of the qualifications, GDC registration and a DBS check. Further, you should state any timescale in which the conditions need to be satisfied and the employee needs to confirm acceptance of the offer (often by returning a signed copy of the letter and/or the employment contract).
6. Induction of a new employee
When a new employee starts work, you should have a procedure to ensure that you have all the information and documents that are needed so that a new member of staff can settle quickly into their roles.
“Good practice throughout the recruitment process is to ensure that there is a paper trail and this should help avoid any litigation.”
The following are likely to be dealt with as part of an employee’s induction:
- Confirmation that you have copies of necessary paperwork, employee’s contract signed, together with employee address and emergency telephone numbers, and P60 for payroll
- Health and safety training, including location of fire exits and alarms
- Job-specific training which may include processes, procedures and health and safety issues, and allocation of protective clothing and equipment
- An explanation of the probationary procedure (and set performance objectives and dates for progress meetings, where applicable)
- Ensure the employee is either given or signed up for the employer’s next session of equal opportunities training.
Good practice throughout the recruitment process is to ensure that there is a paper trail and this should help avoid any litigation. Once the member of staff has settled into the role, you need to keep reviewing the position and ensuring that the member of staff understands what is expected of them and why. The key to retaining the ultimate member of staff is to ensure you recruit someone who can perform and understands their role, and to continually communicate with them.
About the author
Sarah Buxton is a dental HR specialist and employment solicitor who acts for dental practice owners, practitioners and managers up and down the country.