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4 common pitfalls when employing staff and how to avoid them!

Keeping employing staff simple

This week’s blog is for all those interested in knowing more about the facts concerning employee wages, accommodation charges, holiday entitlements and finally sick pay, income tax, national insurance and pensions.

Linda Hudson, Head of Business Development at Educ8 Training, (our Apprenticeship provider partners), has in the last 10 years worked in both college and private training organisations and now kindly offers us all a short review with some handy hints, tips and links for good measure!

4 common pitfalls of employing staff and how to avoid them - Don't fall inThe information provided is given in good faith, but do ensure that the information you are working to is correct and appropriate for your specific circumstances and double check with a suitably qualified professional.

Linda possesses that rare ability which most of us appreciate, which is to be able to demystify the nuts and bolts of a normally quite complicated subject in just about the time it would take you to make and drink a nice cup of coffee. Time well spend these days on both counts I am sure you’d agree.

Thanks, Linda.



4 Common pitfalls of employing staff

and how to avoid them

by Linda Hudson

4 common pitfalls of employing staff and how to avoid them - Employment LawWhen I was Autumn hunting many years ago I saw a bad accident caused by a ‘blind ditch’ and it left me with a fear of riding at speed across Autumn long grass which has remained with me to this day.  As many of you will know, at this time of year the long grass falls over, or into, little ditches and they become ‘blind’ or hidden.  An accident waiting to happen.

Being unaware of the law as it relates to us when employing staff can cause the same kind of sudden mishap.  Most equine employers intend to stay on the right side of the law but, as the old saying goes, ‘ignorance is no defence’ when you get it wrong.  When you are an employer there are quite a few ‘blind ditches’, or pitfalls as you might call them, that are easy to stumble into as time passes. Here are a few hints on what to watch out for if you employ anyone – including apprentices.


Pitfall 1:

Miscalculating wages

You will have heard of the National Minimum Wage, and you should also be aware of the National Living Wage because this falls into minimum wage legislation.  Did you know, though, that there are now five minimum wage rates?  Or that the apprentice minimum wage doesn’t apply to an apprentice who is aged 19 or over and has completed the first year of their apprenticeship?

These rates below are for the National Living Wage and the National Minimum Wage. The rates change every April. In recent years, several equine employers have fallen foul of this legislation quite unintentionally and some fines have been in the tens of thousands of pounds – enough to put many equine businesses out of business!  Equine employers have been publicly ‘named and shamed’ by Government after HMRC investigations for breaches of this legislation amounting to as little as under £300 underpayment of their staff.

4 common pitfalls of employing staff and how to avoid them - Keeping track of hours workedHandy Tip number 1: have a system so that you can keep an accurate record of hours actually worked by your staff (as opposed to contracted hours) and check this regularly.  This allows you to pick up issues such as if a member of staff is struggling with an excessive workload or someone is staying at work unnecessarily after their own tasks have been completed and is counting this voluntary overtime in their own working time records.

Handy Tip number 2:  Be clear about what constitutes working time and what doesn’tfor example, if you invite your apprentice to accompany you to a show during their time off, for the experience, but you don’t expect them to work as your main show grooms are in attendance.  Even something as simple as making sure your employees understand that their lunch break is unpaid and doesn’t count towards working hours is important especially if they are a young apprentice and this is their first employed position.  Voluntarily staying late (different from being asked to stay late) needs to be managed carefully.


Minimum wage current rates

Year 25 and over       21 to 24   18 to 20    Under 18          Apprentice
April 2018       £7.83         £7.38     £5.90      £4.20              £3.70



4 common pitfalls of employing staff and how to avoid them - Apprentice WageApprentices are entitled to the apprentice rate if they’re either:

  • aged under 19
  • aged 19 or over and in the first year of their apprenticeship

Example An apprentice aged 22 in the first year of their apprenticeship is entitled to a minimum hourly rate of £3.70.


Apprentices are entitled to the minimum wage for their age if they both:

  • are aged 19 or over
  • have completed the first year of their apprenticeship

Example An apprentice aged 22 who has completed the first year of their apprenticeship is entitled to a minimum hourly rate of £7.38.

It’s an employer’s responsibility to be aware of the different minimum wage rates depending on the circumstances of their workers – and to make sure all eligible workers are paid at least the minimum rate they are entitled to.

Handy Tip Number 3: know your employee’s age and birthday.  It’s a very nice gesture to give them a birthday card, but it’s essential to ensure you are paying the correct minimum wage!


Pitfall 2:

Knowing when and how to legally charge employees for their accommodation

If you provide live in accommodation it is important to consider whether you wish to make a deduction from wages for this or not and, if so, how much.  Providing accommodation as part of a wage and benefits package can be helpful with regard to minimum wage calculations as a nominal value (accommodation offset rate) can be included towards the minimum wage.

The MAXIMUM accommodation charge which can be deducted from an apprentice is the ‘accommodation offset rate’ and is fixed by the government in April each year.  It is currently £49 per week or £7 per day and is explained more fully here.

4 common pitfalls of employing staff and how to avoid them - Providing Staff AccommodationNote – this is maximum, and you may choose to deduct less than this but should not deduct more from an apprentice, or any other employee who is receiving the National Minimum/Living Wage.

There is no rule to say that employers must deduct an accommodation charge but if no deduction is made, the offset rate is added to the employee’s wage for the purposes of checking whether the applicable minimum wage is being paid.

It is feasible, though, if the accommodation is free, that the combined wage and benefit in kind could be later construed by HMRC as producing an unexpected tax and/or National Insurance liability later.

The offset rate can be counted towards the minimum wage but of course, the minimum wage itself is a MINIMUM and may be increased if an employer wishes to pay more.  Many equine employers start an apprentice on the minimum wage but increase this as time goes by to reward progress and achievement, which helps with staff job satisfaction and retention.

When it is so difficult to recruit good apprentices another consideration for employers is that if you’re providing accommodation you can advertise your hourly rate of pay at the amount which includes the accommodation charge.  For example, if you are paying £3.70 per hour for a 30 hour week this is £111 per week.  Add on the accommodation offset rate of and the job can be advertised at a weekly wage of £158, or hourly rate of £5.26.  this may attract more applicants but should, of course, state that there is a deduction for accommodation.  Be careful with this though as you generally can’t pay different hourly rates for staff simply because they don’t live in.

If you provide free accommodation be careful and check with your accountant as in certain circumstances this could lead you to an accidental underpayment of National Insurance contributions or a failure to count your employee as eligible for Statutory Sick Pay – more on this later in the article.


Pitfall 3:

Neglecting or getting in a muddle over paid holidays

There is no doubt that it is better for business to give your staff time off – they come back refreshed, rested and with their enthusiasm restored especially after a long hard winter!  But there are things you can do to ensure that staff holidays don’t cause disruption to your business.

All employees, including apprentices, are by law entitled to a total of at least 5.6 weeks of paid annual leave.  There is no additional entitlement for Bank Holidays.  The Government website is especially useful for calculating holiday entitlement for full time, part time, irregular hours and hourly paid staff.  There is also an easy-to-use calculator for part of a year. You can make use of these online facilities here.


Carrying leave over from one leave year to the next

Employees must take at least 4 weeks of statutory leave during the leave year, they may be able to carry over any remaining time off if their employer agrees. So if a worker gets 28 days of holiday, they may be able to carry over up to 8 days. Workers who receive statutory leave don’t have an automatic right to carry leave over to the next holiday year, but employers may agree to it.

4 common pitfalls of employing staff and how to avoid them - Holiday EntitlementHandy Tip number 4: make sure your contract of employment, employment offer letters or staff handbook state the start of your business’s holiday year. For example, does it run from 1st January to 31 December? Or 1 April to 31 March? This is important for making sure that staff do take their allocated holiday within the year.

When employees are unable to take their leave entitlement because they’re already taking time off for different reasons, such as maternity or sick leave, they can carry over some or all of the untaken leave into the next leave year. An employer must allow a worker to carry over a maximum of 4 weeks if the worker is off sick and therefore unable to take their leave.

If an employee chooses not to take statutory annual leave during sick leave, they can carry forward the untaken leave for up to 18 months from the end of the leave year in which the leave arises. This means that if a leave year ends on the 31 December the worker would have 18 months after that date in which to take the annual leave for that year.

Handy Tip number 5: keep a written record of when staff are on holiday – especially odd days!

It can be challenging to organise cover for holidays and Caroline Carter Recruitment can assist with this but the key to effective cover is ensuring your staff give you adequate notice.  If your contract of employment doesn’t state the notice you require, then you can’t insist on it.  It’s usual to ask for at a week’s notice for one or two days’ holiday and two weeks ‘ notice for any more than this.  It is possible to decline holiday requests which don’t meet these criteria or which need to be declined for reasonable needs of the business.  But be wary of this – declining holiday requests is one of the quickest ways to cause your staff to become disenchanted with their job!

4 common pitfalls of employing staff and how to avoid them - Planning for holiday leaveHandy Tip number 6: make sure your staff know what notice you expect for holiday requests – ideally in writing in their offer letter and contract of employment or staff handbook

There may be times of the year when you do not permit holidays to be taken.  For example, if you always spend time away competing at a large international event and need all staff on hand to cover the show and home yard, you can state that no annual leave is permitted during this time.  Again, make sure this is in writing and they are aware of it well in advance.  Equally, you can specify that some of the annual holiday entitlement must be taken at a time to suit you.  Christmas and New Year are common examples of this, especially with small, privately run competition yards where the yard owners prefer to cover the yard duties themselves.

There is no legal entitlement to Bank Holidays, including Christmas and New Year.  However, all good employers will ensure that employees are able to spend some of the holiday period at home with their families and/or friends.  Advance notice of what you expect, fair allocation of the days, and advance planning of the rota, are essential for a happy team.

Handy tip number 7: if there are times when you do not allow annual leave to be taken, or when you require some leave to be taken, this should be stated in your contract of employment


Pitfall 4:

Overlooking the finer details – sick pay, income tax, national insurance and pensions

Statutory Sick Pay

All employers have to pay Statutory Sick Pay to eligible employees who are absent due to sickness and the rate of SSP is set in April each year.  For April 2018 – 2019 it is £92.05 per week and is paid for up to 28 weeks. Statutory Sick Pay starts after 4 ‘waiting days’ which includes non- working days, i.e. the first 4 days of sickness are unpaid and this includes non-working days.

4 common pitfalls of employing staff and how to avoid them - Sick PayIf an employee earns less than the lower earnings limit for National Insurance contributions (currently £116 per week) they are not eligible to be paid Statutory Sick Pay during sickness absence.

For example, an apprentice earning £3.70 per hour, for a 30 hour week, with no accommodation included would not be eligible for SSP as their total pay is £111 per week.  The same apprentice with accommodation which is not deducted from their pay WOULD be eligible for SSP as their wage would be calculated as £111 plus £47 accommodation offset rate so the total weekly wage would be counted at £158 and above the threshold for Statutory Sick Pay and National Insurance. (see my Blog Part 1 for details of the accommodation offset rate).


Income Tax

4 common pitfalls of employing staff and how to avoid them - Income Tax and National InsuranceThere is a threshold for payment of income tax which is also set in April each year, called the ‘personal allowance’ and it is unlikely that apprentices will be paid above this amount.  Again, the personal allowance is set in April each year and is currently £228 per week, £988 per month or £11,850 per year. Find out more here.


National Insurance

There is a threshold for payment of National Insurance contributions set in April each year called the ‘lower earnings limit’ and from April 2018 – 2019 this is  £116 per week, £503 per month, £6,032 per year. Find out more here.


Workplace Pensions

Pensions legislation applies to certain employees who earn over £192 per week.  You must enrol and make an employer’s contribution for all staff who:

  • are aged between 22 and the State Pension age
  • earn at least £10,000 a year
  • normally work in the UK (this includes people who are based in the UK but travel abroad for work)

4 common pitfalls of employing staff and how to avoid them - Workplace PensionThe minimum employer contribution is 2% so if you have an employee who is aged 25 or over and on the National Living Wage of £7.83 for a 40-hour week the employer pension contribution would be £6.27 per week.  So it’s not usually the cost of pension contributions that puts employers off, it’s just a lack of time and understanding about how to go about setting one up.  It’s actually quite simple!  So sit down with a coffee and check this out – it will only take you 15 minutes to get to grips with the basics.

Here’s a guide to working out if you should have a workplace pension scheme – click here.

And for a quick and easy guide to setting up a workplace pension scheme here.


So for relatively little effort and very little cost, you can give your employees a workplace pension.  This is a really attractive additional benefit which could make all the difference when you’re trying to recruit a good groom.

I hope you’ve found this information useful and interesting – stay safe, stay on the right side of the law and watch out for those blind ditches!!


There’s lots of helpful guidance available on the Government website –  – and I’ve included links to some of these.   If you think you may be breaking any of this guidance you should take advice from your qualified legal advisor or accountant.

If in doubt, take advice from a suitably qualified professional such as your solicitor or accountant.


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Both employers and jobseekers alike, if you would like free, friendly, no obligation recruitment advice from Caroline please do get in touch!

The content provided in this article is for informational purposes only. It is the responsibility of the individual to ensure that the information they are working to is correct and appropriate for their specific circumstances.

© Caroline Carter Recruitment Ltd and The Grooms List, 2018. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Caroline Carter Recruitment Ltd and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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*Beautiful Location *Exceptional accommodation * IRO £350 PW + accomm. Experienced Groom/Rider required to work alongside very experienced Yard manager on this beautiful family estate. Must be capable of sole charge on occasions but also capable of working well within the team and alongside the Yard Manager. Activities include Hunt/PC/RC/Eventing/SJ.  Personable individual who is child & VIP livery friendly is definitely high on the list of attributes along with  GSOH, ability to be enthusiastic, hardworking, happy to help maintain high standards of the yard. This is a Grooming/riding role which demands exceptionally high standards. Lightweight competent rider a must. Lots of ‘fun and frollicks’ to be had alongside real professionalism! Please call Caroline on 0203 006 5730 or 07747 686118 or email        
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*Salary range from IRO £18-£23K * shared apartment *Dog welcomed Professional Stud with impeccable track record breeding Arab horses is looking for a  Stud hand , ideally with some experience and love of the breed. You will work within a friendly and positive team to enjoy all  of what they do, keep happy horses and to help achieve the vision of driving the stud  forward to achieve good results in a proper way for the future. Small family stud 27 acres & 21 stables in  a lovely part of North Yorkshire. Experience with broodmares, Equine First Aid, Foaling/Foal Watch, Stallion Handling, Veterinary Experience, Young Stock Handler all ideal . Please call Caroline and the team on 0203 006 5730 or email  
Intermediate event rider/Hunting client is looking for a live out, experienced 2nd in command Groom and ideally a decent rider (flat/jumper).  7 quality horses. Grooms work alternate Sundays and have Thursdays off, but of course there is flexibility. Top location and facilities ie: gallops/x country course/SJ arena/great hacking Do call Caroline & Team for more information on 0203 006 5730 or email
*Salary very negotiable IRO £350/£370 * 5 or 5.5 day week neg *Live in or out *Dog can be accommodated Experienced and capable temporary grooms required. Must be willing and capable of high standards for all usual duties. Mucking out straw/shavings beds , grooming, clipping and turnout, tacking up, cleaning tack, keeping yard tidy and handling sometimes highly strung competition horses. Experience of working around stallions and young stock would be an advantage. Team player a must. Care of some field kept horses as required. Experience of sole charge and show grooming a real bonus but not essential. If live in, own bedroom and bathroom with a kitchen and living room that is shared with the 2 other grooms. There is sky TV and wifi.  Lovely convenient location, great for shopping and small villages, and transport up to London or city of Winchester and Southampton and Portsmouth all within 15 min drive. Please call Caroline & the Team 0203 006 5730 or email  
🙂 Opportunity for stud hand to step up 🙂 *£20,000-£23K and 1% of sales*Roomy 2 bed house *5 day week outside of season TB stud looking for one person or possibly 1.5 🙂 to run a small, successful but low key family operation sole charge. 4 mares kept and generally 3 foals in the season. Some yearling prep required but consigned, so no need to attend sales. Must have genuine TB foaling/aftercare stud experience. All usual duties plus helping with vet/stud duties/tractor work/maintenance/tractor driving/field maintenance etc. This position requires a flexible individual who must like dogs as owners dogs will be left in your care on a not infrequent basis! Do call Caroline & the Team on 0203 006 5730 or email
*Top Remuneration IRO £40K+ according to experience*Annual bonus *Private healthcare *Pension *Lovely Family accommodation available if required *Successful commercial stud * Great career opportunity We have a position available that would suit someone who is currently a Stud Manager/Stud Groom or who has the ability to take that next step. This is a position which would suit someone with ambition as owners are commercially minded and run their operation as such. Good track records with much success at yearling sales etc. All the usual skills are required plus you must be willing and able to manage a small but capable team of  Stud professionals.  All previous Stud Managers have been in this position for very good periods of time so this would demonstrate a rewarding and happy environment . Willing to wait for the right person. Looking for someone to start after the Tattersall’s yearling sales in October as most likely applicants will be in the middle of yearling prep etc. until then. If you feel you are ready for that next move and interested in a totally confidential discussion then please do contact Caroline and the Team on 0203 006 5730 or email with a full CV to  
Job Description Live in job vacancy in South Wales, 20 mins from Swansea. We are looking for someone who has worked with horses for some time, an experienced, independent person with references and their own car. Large luxury static two bedroom home, with a small garden suitable for a dog. Our horses vary from rescues to our small group of lovely riding horses, suitable for dressage / hacking / shows if someone was interested. However, riding is not essential and isn’t a requirement of the job. The work is mucking out, feeding, turning out, and being able to identify if a horse/ pony was unwell with lameness or colic etc. A free stable is available to the right applicant, use of the school, and a lorry, should that be of interest. Also, further stabling may be available if someone wanted to use it for their use for schooling or bringing on a horse (if they wanted to use that in  their spare time) We can hack to many beaches, and directly onto the famous Cefn Bryn network of miles of bridlepaths – little or no roadwork necessary . We are close to the famous equestrian centre Crickton Livery in Llanrhidian, where there are clinics throughout the month with famous instructors in all disciplines from dressage to eventing and the best surface in their enormous school. We are hoping to find a person who will fit in with our busy life and would enjoy the challenges of restoring the confidence to some of our extremely nervous rescued ponies as this is the most important part of our life. We are a sanctuary and you can see further details on our website and Facebook Page.   Minimum Requirements Previous experience working with horses References required Some basic DIY skills would be preferred but not essential e.g. Fixing a broken fence rail     Accommodation details Luxury two bedroom static caravan based within our home in Gower, Swansea   Benefits Location on the Gower, surrounded by beautiful beaches and award winning countryside with access to a huge network of bridleways right on our doorstep Own horse welcome Well behaved pet welcome Plenty of riding available on our horses, with the opportunity to compete Go riding on the beach! Good salary

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Caroline Carter Recruitment Ltd
The Stables
Fildyke Road
SG17 5LU
0203 006 5730 / 07747 686 118

Registered company number 10657796

Caroline Carter Recruitment Ltd is registered with the UK Information Commissioner as a data controller with registered number ZA250621


The Grooms List by Caroline Carter Recruitment in partnership with Educ8 Equine