Image of one member of staff talking to another in a HR scenario offering HR support for small businesses

HR support for small businesses

From recruitment to payroll to offboarding – there are several key responsibilities of a human resources department that keep a business running smoothly. Of course, many small businesses don’t have the capacity for support from an HR department and HR duties are often done by directors, managers, and administrators within the business.

An HR department essentially manages the administration associated with the employee lifecycle – this includes recruitment and onboarding at the start of employment, training, payroll, and disciplinaries throughout the employment period, and eventually redundancies and offboarding at the end of an employee’s time with a company. That can be an awful lot to manage for a small business without a dedicated HR department – and that’s why many look externally for human resources services and support.

For small businesses wanting HR help, there are some amazing resources out there to offer some guidance. If you’re looking for some HR advice and information, below are some key areas of human resources with links to information from York & North Yorkshire Growth Hub designed to provide HR support for small businesses. You may also be interested in the support ACAS can offer.


Recruitment is an essential part of growing your business. Putting a great team together (however small) can be one of the most challenging things a small business can face. You want people who bring the skills and experience to make you better but having such a small team means that finding the right fit is fundamental.

Whether you choose to outsource your recruitment to a specialist agency or you decide to take the reins and go on the hunt yourself, you should think about how to attract strong and talented candidates to your business. Think about what you want to know about your potential employees, so you know what to ask them at the interview stage – but also think about what you want them to know about you, your business, your ethos, and your goals.


Once you’ve got the team of your dreams, you want to keep them moving forward so both they and your business can continue to grow. It can often feel like training gets pushed to the wayside to focus on the day-to-day and it can come as a shock to find that the skills and knowledge of your teammates aren’t as up to date as they once were!

Finding the time to train your staff, while a challenge, can bring new skills and innovative ways of doing things into your business – and this makes it something really worth the effort. Equally important as your team begins to grow, is to develop team leadership skills in your business. There are lots of HR support services out there providing training options, so it can seem like a (potentially costly) minefield. If you’re looking for free support, take a look at Growth Hub’s Learning Toolkit for useful learning resources and short courses to help develop your workforce.


If your background isn’t in managing money or numbers, being in charge of employee payroll can be a daunting prospect. Even if you do have some experience, the pressure of ensuring all your employees are compensated correctly and on time (every time) is something all small business owners have to contend with.

It’s up to you whether you tackle payroll internally – in which case, learning about Pay-As-You-Earn (PAYE) and getting some business tips on tax and HMRC will be key – or externally. You might even decide you need to hire an accountant or bookkeeper to make sure you’re following the letter of the law and can rest assured that you’ve got an expert on hand to balance the books and manage payroll for you.

Records, Contracts & Policies

As your business continues to grow, you’ll have to keep things changing and moving to adapt to all the challenges and opportunities you’ll face. This means making changes to internal policies, updating employee terms and conditions and restructuring your business when you need to. This can be a lot of admin for a small business – so it’s a good idea to find out more about employment contracts and your legal obligations to make sure you’re following the rules and keeping your staff happy.

Staying up to date with policies is also important to help keep your business safe from cyber threats. Making sure all your employees are aware of potential cyber security threats is really important for the integrity of your business and there are resources – like Growth Hub’s Top Tips to Deter Cyber Crime – that you can share with your employees so everyone knows what they need to look out for.

Sickness & Maternity

Employee sickness and parental leave bring their own sets of rules and administrative practices that can be tough to get your head around. When it comes to managing sickness in the workplace, you’ll need to think about how you can support your employee through their illness and their return to work as well as understanding how sick pay works.

Equally important is having a plan of action for parental leave, how to support your employee while they’re gone and knowing how to manage someone returning to work from parental leave after having a child. Planning this out can help these transitions be a lot smoother for your employee, for their colleagues, and for your business as a whole.

Wellbeing Support

Building resilience and supporting team wellbeing is another important part of business growth and a key aim of a successful HR department. A team that bonds together, feels supported, and feels capable of weathering the storms of any and all challenges that come their way is a team that will take your business where you want it to go.

Maintaining positive mental health and wellbeing can be tough, especially when many people are working from home. Taking steps to understand the needs of your employees and working towards creating a happier workforce can be extremely beneficial for your overall business objectives as well as keeping your staff mentally safe and healthy.

Disciplinaries, Firing & Redundancy

One final key part of human resources is potentially the most difficult to manage, even for an experienced HR department. That involves having honest conversations, finding out the best ways to manage conflict within your business and, occasionally, going through a disciplinary process with employees.

Offboarding, making employees redundant, and firing people can be difficult, and even emotional. Knowing how to manage things fairly in person or remotely is really important to make sure everything goes as well as it can for yourself and any employees involved.

Where to go for more information…

York & North Yorkshire Growth Hub offer free resources and support to help small businesses and we’d love to help you if you’re looking to outsource your HR support.

Looking for an HR advice helpline? Give us a call at York & North Yorkshire Growth Hub for free HR advice. Find out more about York & North Yorkshire Growth Hub HR, People & Skills Support.