Onboarding is key to introducing both the employee to their role, and to the business.

Image: Ratburger © Sky UK Ltd

Good onboarding, especially of freelancers, creates an environment where the role, company policies and company culture are quickly understood.

Paperwork and pre-employment checks

In industries that hire individuals in a variety of ways (Fixed term PAYE contracts, self-employed ‘workers’, self-employed contractors, consultants and service providers), it is important to determine the correct employment status of the person being hired, ensuring they receive the correct contract.

There are three relevant employment status options: employee, worker, independent contractor. This is particularly relevant in the screen industries in terms of tax status (which can differ from employment status) and relates to HMRC guidelines for behind camera workers. For independent contractors this can involve IR35.

Read more about IR35 here: Off-payroll working (IR35): detailed information.

Research the types of employment status here: Checking your employment rights.

Written statement of employment particulars

All employees (those on PAYE contracts – including fixed term) and workers are legally entitled to receive a document on their first day of work (Employment Rights Act 1996) outlining the following:

  • Place of work,
  • Job title
  • Hours of work
  • Details of salary, pay intervals and method of payment
  • Holidays and public holiday entitlements
  • Benefits, including any pensions provision
  • Details of probationary period (if applicable)
  • Sickness procedures and sick pay details (if applicable)
  • Notice periods

The document should also clearly state that the offer is subject to satisfactory pre-employment checks, and if the employment is fixed term, the end date.

A written statement of employment particulars is not an employment contract and should not be used as such. However, it can form the basis of the legal contract of employment. If issuing an employment contract on or before the first day of work, there is no need to issue a separate written statement of employment particulars.         

Check out these essential resources:

Ensure that all relevant paperwork in terms of personal information (including emergency contacts), bank details, diversity monitoring forms, and new starter forms (if PAYE) have been filled in and given to the appropriate person.

Right to Work

All employers must legally check a candidate right to work before they start any job. The only exception is with independent contractors, who are responsible for ensuring their own right to work status.

From 01 October, 2022, the Government adjusted right to work checks that were introduced during the pandemic (the ability to check right to work documents by video call). Employers are now required to check British/Irish nationals' right to work in either of the following ways:


A meeting with the new employee in person and checking their right to work documents are original and match the identity of the employee. This document should be copied, signed and dated by the person checking the document.

For example: I [insert name] verify that this is a true likeness of [insert name from right to work document] and that I have seen the original document. Sign the copy and date it.


Appointing an Identification Service Provider who will check the passport on behalf of the employer. The provider will charge a fee for this service.

If checking right to work documents while on location, you must still ask to see the original document, such as a passport, which you can then take a digital image of and send by email (from the person who checked the right to work) confirming that you have seen the original document and that it is a true likeness of the person presenting it.

Employers checking the right to work of non-British/Irish nationals is simpler. A share code should be obtained from the employee and entered into the online Employers Checking Service. There is no charge for this service.

There are penalties involved for employing illegal workers and not having carried out the correct right to work checks, which include substantial fines and jail time.

Make sure you read this essential guide on right to work checks.

Reference checks

Employers are under no legal obligation to obtain an employment reference for a prospective employee and have no automatic right to receive a reference from a previous or current employer.

It is good practice for organisations to request, and obtain, references after an offer of employment has been made to the individual rather than before. Job offers can be made conditional on receipt of a satisfactory reference, allowing organisations to withdraw the employment offer if the references are not deemed satisfactory.

This reference check template provides best practice guidelines on how to request and provide references. 

How your organisation or production works

Make sure things are set up for day one.

Order IT equipment and make sure there is desk space, if relevant, and that appropriate staff are available to be introduced to.

If there isn’t a company handbook, make sure that it is clear how everything works. From accessing the building, to logging on to computers and accessing appropriate files, phone systems, working hours, pay dates, security procedures, expenses, how to book holiday, pension schemes (where applicable). This is not an exhaustive list.

If working in an office, studio, on location – ensure that health and safety briefings are done with all new starters.


It is important to make sure all new starters are familiar with company policies and procedures. There are three legally required policies for UK employers: health and safety policy*, grievance policy, disciplinary and dismissal policy.

Other policies are optional, though there are recommendations of which basic policies all companies should consider putting in place. All policies should be made available to everyone that works with you, but it is important to note that not all policies apply to employees, workers and contractors in the same ways. Suggestions include:

  • Equal opportunities
  • Sickness and leave of absence
  • Flexible working
  • Training and development
  • Bullying and harassment
  • Code of conduct
  • Internet and email
  • Drug and alcohol
  • Social media
  • Privacy policy

Please seek advice from a third-party HR professional if you need help implementing policies for your organisation.

To make sure your company is legally compliant in terms of contracts, policies, and procedures, take a look at the HR 1-2-1 sessions here.

This e-learning module is designed to help you recognise bullying and harrassment: Tackling harassment and bullying at work.

Communicate with others when there is a new starter and encourage people to interact. A buddy system of pairing a new starter with an existing employee is useful. After the first day, make sure there are regular check ins to see how things are progressing.


*This includes mental health. The Film and TV Charity’s Whole Picture Toolkit can give guidance and support to improve mental health on productions.’