Amy Cowpe

Written by:

Amy Cowpe

Early stages can be scary, especially when it comes to small businesses and startups. At Charlie, we built our HR processes step by step, tackling one challenge at a time. I was lucky enough to follow this journey from the very beginning — this HR checklist is a collection of everything that I've learned about building solid HR foundations for your startup.

So if you’re looking for where to start, this is a great document to help you build HR from scratch and make sure you don’t forget anything along the way.

Download it right here, or simply follow the steps on this page. 

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HR checklist PDF

HR checklist and HR organisation – does my startup really need it? 

It seems obvious that there are many aspects you don’t want to forget about when it comes to HR, but a checklist may seem like an old-fashioned way to handle it.

Sometimes, however, the old ways can be the best ones. I find myself making checklists for everything at work: onboarding, HR audits, finances, etc. There’s always something to remember.

The same goes for HR, so yes, you do need a checklist and a plan for your startup or small business and remember, the sooner you get a plan, the easier it will be to deal with HR.

HR checklist – 10 Startup Essentials for Your Business 


Pick someone to be responsible for HR

What does it mean? 

Organisation is key when you start dealing with HR for startups, and that’s why you should always keep someone accountable. 

At Charlie, the early days were very up in the air in terms of HR accountability – HR was often left to the side, resulting in delays for team members and potential legal risks. 

When I joined, I was first responsible for marketing, but being in a startup allowed me to realise I was much more passionate about HR and Operations.  

Of course, in the beginning, I was only doing HR part-time (the rest of the time was dedicated to marketing) – and remember, I didn’t have an HR background. 

Maybe it will be the same for your business – just ensure that the person responsible for HR knows they are – it can even be you, as long as you fully take on that responsibility.

A few tips to understand how to pick the right person: 

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Get HR software to help

Having someone responsible for HR is one item ticked off your checklist, but the next thing you need to do is make sure this person and your team have the tools in hand to perform well in their job

Doing this requires understanding what the best HR software for small businesses is and how it can help your day-to-day admin tasks. 

Here’s a list of benefits your HR software should cover when you’re starting out, and when you’re less than 250 people in your company: 

  • Helps you get rid of spreadsheets – they may be everywhere in the early days, but don’t make your job easier; HR software automates everything from employee records to time off management so you can smoothly get on with other tasks. 
  • Takes the faff out of admin – no need to jump between email threads, spreadsheets and files. Everything can be handled on one platform. 
  • Ensures you stay compliant – to have all your employee's information securely stored in one place and to be able to update it at any time (and comply with employee data regulations)

These are the three core aspects you should look out for when picking HR software, but if you’re not sure where to start to automate these tasks, we got it all figured out for you – start a free 7-day trial with CharlieHR today.


Get HR software to help

The third item you shouldn’t miss out on is setting the right HR policies for your business. This is pretty much an HR basic for any small business, and it will help you comply with the law. 

As a reminder, here are the three mandatory HR policies UK businesses must have:

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That’s if you have more than five employees – bear in mind, however, that if you disregard any of those, you could get fined or taken to court, which would have serious consequences for your business. 

HR policies are also a great way to set clear regulations when it comes to what your team members can and can’t do – that means you don’t leave any room for interpretation and everyone is aware of your HR processes. 

Whilst other HR policies are not mandatory, they will come in handy for you and your team, especially because you have a legal obligation to provide some of them such as parental leave or holidays. At Charlie, for example, we have a few HR policies that we built from scratch: 

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There are tons of policies you can create for your business, and the good thing with Charlie is that we store them directly in our software – our team has access to them at any time, removing any intermediary between their questions and the answers they need (freeing way more time for me).  

Give your people all the information they need


Comply with UK employment law 

Complying with UK employment law can encapsulate a lot of factors – including the HR policies we mentioned earlier. 

Here are the main items you should tick off your checklist when it comes to compliance:

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That’s a long list, and there are many more items to cover– perhaps book a call with one of our HR experts to ensure you stay in line with employment laws. 


Get your recruiting and onboarding right from the start 

One aspect that many don’t mention when it comes to your HR checklist is how seamlessly you need your onboarding to follow your recruiting process. 

Once your new employee has signed their contract, you want to be as quick as possible when it comes to onboarding them

That starts by getting a few things in motion before they start: 

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Once that’s all done and your new hire’s first day is approaching, here’s what should follow: 

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Finally, getting them started means collecting all necessary documents from them (this can be done beforehand), as well as checking their Right to Work as mentioned in my previous point – whether that’s a passport or visa.

If you want to make onboarding easier, you can also choose to set it up with HR software and have it all done via the system without any back-and-forth between you and the new hire.


Optimise your HR for remote and hybrid working 

Many employers tend to forget about the necessity of making everything remotely accessible – especially these days. 

So you may not be a hybrid or remote company (and that’s absolutely fine), but setting the onboarding process in motion, for example, without getting the new hire in the office is essential

And if you’re a remote company, even more so. Here are the items to set up on your HR software if that’s the case:

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Some extras to think about as well: 

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You can also list all the elements you need your HR software to do one-by-one so you don’t forget anything.

And if you want software that helps you manage your team remotely in a few clicks, start a 7-day free trial with Charlie now. 


Give your team a clear sense of career progression

Maybe that doesn’t seem like a priority right now, but trust me, thinking about progression at the beginning of your HR checklist will save you a lot of headaches further down the line. 

There are a few benefits to providing progression for your team members: 

  • Putting business and employee development at the same level of priority for your team
  • Ensuring everyone shares the same vision for success
  • Retaining your team members by putting an emphasis on their growth 

In practice, however, it can be difficult when you’ve got no experience setting this up and that’s why it’s often left behind. So here are some steps you can follow: 

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One easy way to do this is to automate your performance management process – with one click of a button and easy templates, HR software like Charlie can help you do it in no time. 

Choose from best practice review templates


Provide the right benefits for your team members  

This may come as a shock to some of you, but benefits really matter to your team, and they don’t always mean more money.

This is good, because small businesses can’t really afford what bigger companies can offer – this is something team members are aware of, so you need to understand they will seek different types of advantages. 

That’s where you need to be aware of new expectations people have from work. At Charlie, for example, we have a myriad of benefits that don’t always incur a direct cost. Here’s how you can think outside the box: 

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There are tons of options you can go for, so remember to make it specific to your own small business or startup. 


Stay on top of the law with an HR audit checklist

Being compliant sets you off for a great start, but employment laws have a tendency to change every year, and that means you have to keep on top of it. 

So what does that mean in practice? 

Again, the person responsible for HR at your business – that may mean you – needs to ensure all these changes are implemented. 

But it can be difficult to keep track of or to action these changes yourself, especially with no HR experience, so maybe an alternative to this is to get HR support for small businesses

This will allow you to get an HR expert for ad-hoc necessities such as an HR audit, but also to have the knowledge you seek in every aspect of HR, without the need for a full-time CIPD-qualified hire. 

Here are some examples of what the HR audit checklist our HR advisors created can take you through: 

  • Review of your employment contracts 
  • Adjustments of your company handbook and HR policies 
  • Review of your Health and Safety procedures
  • Evaluation of your practices and processes 
  • Discussions around your main HR indicators and what you want to change (DE&I, recruiting, etc.) 


Our top 3 tips to complete your HR checklist as smoothly as possible

As an extra, I asked our CEO Ben Gateley how he thought we managed to cross all these items off our HR checklist over the years.

Here are the three top tips he shared:

  • Stay open to change and don’t simply assume things will always stay the same
  • Consult with your team to understand what they need from your business 
  • Don’t ignore HR, it’s an integrative part of your business that really matters 

That’s it for us, but maybe have a look at the extra guides we put together to help you along the way. 

Did you know that with Charlie, you can create and templatise your HR checklists directly on the software? Set due dates, tag coworkers and get automatic reminders to complete tasks all in one place. 

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