Establishing the terms of employment

Now that you have considered the roles and responsibilities of the job, and the type of person you are looking for, it is time to consider the main terms and conditions of the position.

Part-time or full-time?

Whether the position you are recruiting for is a new one, or you are recruiting to replace someone who has left your organisation, it is a good idea to consider carefully the terms of employment that you can offer. In the first place, ask yourself whether the position requires a full-time employee, or if someone working part-time could perform the role. There are two main factors to consider:

The amount of work

Does the volume of work demand a full-time employee? Could someone working three days each week perform the role effectively? Has the role been performed by a full or part-time person until now? If this is undoubtedly a role requiring five days each week, then recruiting someone full-time is really the only option.

The intensity of work

Some roles are particularly demanding at certain times of the day, like lunch periods, or first thing each morning. Examples include customer service positions, or catering roles. If the vacancy you wish to fill falls into this category, then it is a good idea to consider recruiting someone part-time. There are several advantages to employing one or more part-time staff.

Advantages of Part-time staff

  1. Part-time staff tend to be more flexible about the hours that they can work. They can cover peak periods such as lunch hours, or when the phone lines are particularly busy.
  2. Employing a number of part-time staff increases your ability to cover sickness, holidays and other absence.
  3. Many part-time staff are happy to increase their working hours when trade picks up, or as the demands of the job dictate.
  4. During busy periods, you can usually pay part-time staff on their hourly rate, rather than paying overtime to full-time employees.

Disadvantages of Part-time staff

  1. You may find it harder to recruit part-time staff in the first place. Although part-time work suits many applicants, the majority of job hunters will be looking for full-time positions. You can assume that it will take as long to recruit and train a part-time employee as it does a full-time one.
  2. You need to establish any other commitments that the potential part-time employee might have. Do they work anywhere else? What hours do they work for another employer? You may discover that your part-time employee is not as flexible as you imagined.

Short-term contracts

You may have decided that you need to recruit a full-time employee, but this does not mean that the position has to be a permanent one. Offering a short-term contract allows you to recruit someone to fill a role for a fixed period, often for six or twelve months.

When considering whether a short-term contract is appropriate, ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Is it likely that the role will exist, in its current form, for more than a year?
  2. Does the role exist as a result of a short-term or long-term increase in sales or performance?
  3. If the employee left in two years time, are you likely to replace them?
  4. Are the skills or knowledge required for the role difficult to find?
  5. Might technology or machinery develop over the next two years, such that the role will no longer exist?
  6. Are you recruiting to cover another employee during absence (long term sickness or maternity leave)?

If you are in doubt about the longevity of the role, you should consider employing someone on a short-term contract. If you recruit a good employee, and they are motivated to stay with your organisation, then they may accept a permanent contract at a later date. If a position is proving particularly difficult to fill, or you are not entirely sure about what the role might eventually entail, then it can be beneficial to employ someone on a short-term contract initially, until a permanent solution can be found. You can re-employ your recruit on a permanent basis if they perform well, or you can recruit someone else.

There are dangers associated with short-term contracts, however. Your recruit may continue to look for a permanent position after you have employed them, and may not last the duration of the contract. During the last few weeks or months of the contract, your employee’s attention may be more focused on finding another job, rather than on performing well for your organisation. You cannot always expect the same commitment from an employee on a short-term contract as from a permanent employee.

Nevertheless, short-term contracts may be the solution in your particular case. Good recruitment involves considering every option available.

Job sharing

Job sharing is when two people share responsibility for a role or for achieving certain objectives. The two employees are jointly answerable to their line manager, and often work on separate days to combine to make up a full-time position. In the UK, it is becoming more common to offer positions to job sharers, and employers are starting to recognise the many advantages that they bring to an organisation.

Employers often complain that they lose good employees because their circumstances change such that they are no longer able to work full-time. If the demands of the role dictate that it would not suit a part-time employee, then the employer often loses a good member of staff. Job sharing can provide the answer.

Some organisations welcome applications from candidates looking for a job share, and will refer to this in the recruitment advertisement. Others do not actively encourage it, but are happy to consider it if the right candidate(s) apply. Job sharing often suits female staff returning from maternity leave, who would otherwise think twice about returning full-time. There are a number of situations that suit job sharing, and you should be open to the idea when planning your recruitment campaign.

If you need to recruit for a role that requires several key, though not complementary, skills, then job sharing can provide the perfect solution. For example, if you are looking for someone with management and administrative skills, you may find the search easier if you are able to split the role and recruit two job sharers, each with experience of one of the skills you are looking for.

Organisations offering job sharing opportunities tend to offer the same terms, pay and conditions to each of the job sharers. But you do not have to follow this model. You could split the role between a senior member of staff and a more junior one, for example. The senior job sharer could be involved in training the junior one, perhaps with an eye to taking on the role full-time in the future.

There is a danger associated with splitting responsibility for a role between two people. You need to ensure that the job sharers understand that they are equally culpable, and share responsibility for the role between them. You also need to encourage every possible means of communication between them. If the job sharers are never in the office on the same days, you need to establish regular telephone, e-mail or face to face contact between them.

Using freelancers

Freelancers are self-employed workers that you can call upon, when you need them, to perform specific finite tasks for your organisation. You should consider using a freelancer when:

  • The role that you are recruiting is finite, and contains specific targets or objectives
  • The position is likely to be redundant in the foreseeable future
  • The role does not demand a full-time employee, and the position is not appropriate for a part-timer
  • The role could be performed on or off-site
  • The role could change significantly over time
  • There is insufficient budget for a full-time employee
  • The role exists as a result of a short-term increase in sales or performance

Using a freelancer is often used as an alternative to offering a fixed short-term contract. A freelancer carries few overheads for the organisation, and will not appear on its staff list or salary costs. Although a freelancer’s daily rate will be higher than a salaried member of staff, you only need employ them to undertake specific tasks when you need them. Over a six month period, therefore, they cost an organisation less than a salaried member of staff. Freelancers are often used to provide skilled services that the organisation does not have in-house, like graphic design, public relations, copywriting or training. Freelance staff are not always the answer, but they do allow an organisation to call upon expert staff as and when they need them.

Finding freelancers

Throughout the recession of the 1990s, UK companies made thousands of staff redundant, only to re-employ many of them on a freelance basis. The result is that there is a vast reserve of competent, skilled freelancers in the UK for virtually any role that your organisation needs to perform. But where and how will you find them?

You may find that you have ex-staff who are now self-employed in a similar field. If you don’t, it is worth asking colleagues and staff if they know anyone working in the particular field you are looking for. You would be surprised how many leads you will generate.

Freelancers are responsible for marketing and selling themselves, so there are several other methods for locating the right freelancer for you. If you are computer literate then the Internet can greatly assist your search.

Internet searches

If you type ‘freelance’ together with the type of vacancy that you have (like ‘sales’ or ‘graphic design’) into one of the better search engines, you will find a number of freelance individuals and groups that should satisfy your criteria. Search engines tend to give mixed results, however, and you may want to go for a more targeted search.

There are a number of websites dedicated to finding work for freelancers, and to putting organisations in touch with them. One of the most popular is Here, freelancers can enter their details, experience, qualifications and references into a searchable, categorised database. Potential employers can search the database for the freelancer most suitable for the work on offer. The site has a useful category listing (Accounting & Finance, Administration, Business Strategy, Graphic Design, Legal etc), or a search engine to enter a more specific keyword string.

There are other freelance network websites that cater for specific industries or functions., for example, offers a comprehensive network site for freelancers in the web design and IT industry. If you have a web site project, or need some programming code to be written, this would be an excellent way to locate freelance staff, bypassing expensive web building design agencies.

However you locate the freelance staff that you employ, make sure that you give them a tight and well-defined brief. Issue them with a contract, and manage their work as if they were salaried staff.

Salary ranges and scales

Before you start the recruitment process, you need to have considered the important issue of what you will pay. Larger organisations often have comprehensive salary bands and scales in place, with a fixed upper and lower salary for each type of role. These are generally reviewed annually, and are based on some of the following factors:

  1. The level of responsibility of the role
  2. The contribution of the role towards sales or profit goals
  3. The skills and experience required for the role

Notice how these factors are all based on the role itself, rather than on the person performing it. If you work for a larger organisation that has salary bands and scales in place, then the job of deciding what you will pay may be a straightforward one. If your organisation does not have a fixed salary system, then the answers to the following questions should help you to determine what you will have to offer potential employees:

  1. What was the outgoing jobholder’s salary?
  2. Did the issue of salary contribute to the departure of the outgoing jobholder?
  3. How important is this role to the objectives of the department/team/organisation?
  4. What level of responsibility does the role carry?
  5. What skills/experience am I looking for?
  6. Are these skills/experience hard to find?
  7. What do my competitors pay for similar roles?
  8. What salaries are offered in classified advertisements for similar roles?
  9. What do trade/professional associations recommend for this type of role?

If you cannot answer all of the questions above, then consider doing a bit of research. Ask colleagues both inside and outside your organisation. Contact the relevant professional associations, if they exist. Ask a recruitment agency for advice. With a little networking and simple research, you should have a feel for what is the ‘going rate’.

Pay the ‘staying rate’ not the ‘going rate’!

A very successful businessman once gave me this simple piece of advice. If you want to recruit motivated, loyal employees, then you should pay the ‘staying rate’ not the ‘going rate’. In other words, the ‘going rate’ is what everyone else pays. That’s fine, if the skills required are easy to find. But recruitment is an expensive business. An employee can leave an organisation for many reasons. By paying a little more than the ‘going rate’ you will ensure that an employee leaves for a reason beyond your control, rather than just to work for your competitor for a higher salary.

Consider an upper and lower salary band that is fair, and that will encourage the most skilled or able to apply. You do not have to advertise the salary during the recruitment process, unless you want to, but be prepared to discuss it if asked. Above all, remain flexible. You might wish to take on someone more junior than you had originally planned, in which case you can offer a lower salary, combined with an appropriate training package. Or you might find yourself taking on someone more skilled that you had expected, in which case you will probably have to offer a higher salary.


  • Are you looking for a part-time or full-time employee?
  • Should you offer a short-term contract?
  • Is the role suitable for job sharing?
  • Would using freelancers be effective?
  • What salary range and scale will you offer?