03 August 2020

Your first pest control employee: Two heads better than one?

BUSINESS | PPC100 August 2020

Taking on your first employee is a landmark moment for any pest management business. It can bring in changes to procedures, policies and management style. We asked Which? Trusted Traders to find us some top tips from real small business owners on how they went from one to two successfully. 


  • Employees come with associated costs above the amount for their salary
  • A previous working relationship helps reduce the risk
  • A probation period helps to check if new employee is a good fit with your business
  • Have clear job descriptions, health and safety procedures, and fair contracts that spell out what is expected of each employee
  • Taking on extra staff can allow you to offer additional services.

Employing you first pest control technican employee PPC magazine with Which Trusted Trader

If you own a small business, the prospect of hiring your first employee can be daunting, as you’ll have to deal with areas such as contracts, recruitment, legal rights, tax
and payments.

But having the right staff can enhance your business: adding skills and expertise to help everything run smoothly, allowing you to take on more work and enabling you to build for the future.

The key is to approach the process with the right contracts and processes in place.

Things to consider

Before you start recruiting, remember that employees come with costs over and above their salary. There’s the recruitment process, insurance, and providing essentials such as uniforms, equipment and maybe even business premises.

You’ll also have to be aware of the policies for pensions, sick pay, maternity paypaternity pay and so on.

Adam Maton from WeMove said: “It is a responsibility – you build up your business for yourself. Then when you take people on, they have families and others to support, and you are responsible for someone else.

“If you want to grow, you’ll have to have employees. It’s about doing it at the right time and finding the right people.”

Taking the first step

For many successful small businesses, employees are a necessity to keep up with an increasing workload. Some traders felt they’d been pushed into taking on employees by changes in government policy.

Peter Maton from Cox Format Developments said: “We worked regularly with the same subcontractors, and the government made it illegal to employ people on a self-employed basis continuously. It pushed up our overheads and made us less competitive.”

But it’s not been all bad for business. Peter added: “We’ve now found that customers like the fact that we employ our own staff. It makes them more confident in us. We get asked about it a lot because people hear horror stories about subcontractors.”

Getting the right contract, policies and procedures in place

Contracts, policies and procedures are all designed to protect both employer and employee.

Having clear job descriptions, health and safety procedures, and fair contracts spell out what is expected of each employee, and set out what to do if they don’t meet those expectations. It can be time-consuming, but it’s worth spending time and money to get these right.

Ideally, you would create a bespoke contract to reflect your company and your needs. Adam Maton said: “We started with downloadable templates online but that’s evolved over time. I could find a contract template online in five minutes, but it wouldn’t be industry-specific and isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on.

You need to make sure that the policies and procedures you have in place are fit-for-purpose for your industry. Then they’ll be worth something if you have an issue with a staff member

Adam Maton

Fiona Calverley found a lot of information online but, crucially, she already had some HR experience. She recommends the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) website for information on employee rights and HR procedures.

Several traders mentioned how their accountants had helped them through the process of registering as an employer with HMRC, and dealing with PAYE and National Insurance for the first time. See our article on how to find an accountant for more about how the right professional advice could help your business.

Changing the business

Taking on employees changes the way business runs generally and how you have to work day-to-day.

Fiona said her office-based role had expanded enormously now that the company has employees. She said: “There’s a lot to remember – setting up a holiday calendar, getting them to sign documents and making sure they check their paperwork. You have to have regular meetings, set up appraisals and so on.”

Taking on extra staff can also change the skills and experience that you have in the team, possibly allowing you to offer additional services.

Then there can be physical changes to the business location too. Adam Maton explained: “I ran the business from home at first, but taking on an operations manager meant that I needed an office – a fixed base for people to come to. It meant a doubled cost, but it created a professional image in line with our growing business.”

Finding the right people

Most of our traders’ first employees were people they had worked with before – either as subcontractors or in other companies. A pre-existing working relationship helps reduce the risk - you know what you’re getting, to some extent.

Fiona Calverley, of Furlonger Tree Services, said: “Our guys had been working for us as subcontractors for a while. We needed to make them employees as they were wearing uniforms and driving our truck. It was right for the company to take them on at that point.”

If you need to cast your recruitment net wider, it all starts with getting the advertisement right and being clear about what skills or experience you need for the role.

Adam Maton at WeMove has to recruit quite regularly because of the nature of the business. Experience has helped establish positive working practices around interviews and recruitment in general.

He said, “We’ve really refined the recruitment process, I won’t judge people on their covering letter and email. You can find people who have the right attitude who aren’t necessarily the best writers. It’s more important to have a series of interviews to get to know the individual and see how they’ll fit with the rest of the team.”

A probation period is a good way to see whether your new employee’s work is up to standard and that they’re a good fit with your business and any other staff.

Outsourcing HR

Growing and taking on employees is a big step, but if you are going to go for it, make sure you get it right. While it might be tempting to try to save money by doing things yourself, this could be a mistake in the long run.

There is support out there, although you may have to pay for it. Adam said: “HR issues and responsibilities can be outsourced, I network with a lot of people who do this – don’t take the burden on yourself when you can reach out and find these businesses that will support you.”

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If you’re a member of BPCA, you’ll receive 50% off your first six months’ membership with Which? Trusted Traders.

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