Navigating Growth: When to Hire Your First Employee

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A question we often get asked by our businesses who have set up alone and wondering when they need to take on their first hire, or when they need to consider stopping outsourcing and bringing it in house.

Hiring your first employee as a small business owner is a significant step. It’s not just about expanding your team; it’s about understanding growth implications, balancing risks, and weighing costs and benefits, including tax considerations and the advantages of hiring versus outsourcing. Additionally, Health and Safety (H&S) considerations play a crucial role in this decision-making process.

Understanding Tax Considerations

Before hiring your first employee, it’s crucial to understand the tax implications. As an employer in the UK, you’re required to:

  • Register with HMRC as an employer.
  • Run payroll and deduct National Insurance Contributions (NICs) and Income Tax.
  • Contribute to your employee’s pension under auto-enrolment.

These responsibilities bring additional accounting and administrative work, which could mean higher costs if you need to hire an accountant or purchase payroll software.

Assessing Your Risk Appetite

Hiring an employee is a commitment. It’s not just about paying a salary; it’s about being ready to manage human resources, handle employment rights and potentially deal with issues like sick leave or underperformance. Assess your risk tolerance:

  • Are you prepared for a long-term financial commitment?
  • Can your business handle fluctuations in revenue while sustaining an employee?

Evaluating the Costs

Hiring an employee goes beyond their salary. Consider:

  • Recruitment costs.
  • Training and development expenses.
  • Employee benefits, such as health insurance or pension contributions.
  • Office space and equipment needs.

Ensure your business cash flow can support these expenses without jeopardizing its stability.

Incorporating Health and Safety Considerations

When hiring your first employee, it’s crucial to consider the Health and Safety aspects. As an employer, you’re legally obligated to ensure a safe working environment. This involves:

  • Conducting risk assessments to identify potential hazards.
  • Implementing measures to mitigate these risks.
  • Providing adequate training and information on H&S practices.
  • Complying with UK H&S regulations, such as ensuring ergonomic workstations or appropriate protective equipment.

Failing to adhere to these regulations can lead to legal consequences and harm your business’s reputation. Consider whether your business is prepared to meet these standards before hiring.

Benefits of Hiring

Despite the costs and risks, hiring an employee can be highly beneficial. It allows for:

  • Expansion of business capabilities.
  • Sharing the workload, leading to increased productivity.
  • Bringing new skills and perspectives to your business.
  • Potential to increase revenue and growth.

Outsourcing as an Alternative

For some businesses, outsourcing tasks can be more viable. It offers:

  • Flexibility to scale services up or down as needed.
  • Access to a wide range of skills and expertise without the long-term commitment of an employee.
  • Potentially lower costs, as you don’t have to worry about employee-related expenses like pension contributions or sick pay.

Hiring vs. Outsourcing: Making the Decision

Deciding whether to hire or outsource depends on your business needs, the nature of the work, and your future plans. Hiring might be the right choice if you need someone dedicated and fully integrated into your business culture. On the other hand, outsourcing can be ideal for project-based work or tasks requiring specialized skills not central to your business.


Deciding to hire your first employee is a major milestone. It’s not just a growth step but a commitment to upholding tax, cost, risk, and Health and Safety considerations. Whether you choose to hire or outsource, your decision should align with your business goals and be sustainable for your business model. Embrace this step not just for growth, but for smart and responsible growth.

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