Added: 26 August 2008
This is Part 3 of three guides on hiring staff to work in an MP’s office. They are primarily aimed at staff of MPs and particularly those of you who have the job of recruiting, interviewing and inducting new staff. But these guides will also be of interest to anyone wanting to gain an insight into working in an MP’s office, whether at Westminster or in a constituency.
Part 3 is intended as a follow on from ‘Part 2 – Hiring Staff’ and aimed at those who have already interviewed and selected a new member of staff.
The three guides are:
- Part 1 – Recruitment (published 24 June 2008)
- Part 2 – Interviewing (published 15 July 2008)
- Part 3 – Induction (published 26 August 2008)
Hiring Staff: Part 3 – Induction
- Formal Job Offer
- Resources Department
- First Day
- Services for Members’ Staff
- Office Work
1. Formal Job Offer
When you write to confirm a formal job offer make sure you include the following information in the letter:
- Salary details: what you are offering and, if appropriate, when the salary will be reviewed
- Office hours that they will be expected to work
- Holiday entitlement (i.e. as per the standard contract – 20 days in the first year, rising to 25 in the following year) Might be worthwhile mentioning what their pro-rata holiday entitlement is – if they have joined halfway through a year they will be entitled to 10 days etc
- The expected start date and time (you may want to suggest they start at 10.00am on the first day as this will give you time to get into the office and prepare for their arrival)
- Dress code
You should also include:
- Application form for a pass (available from the pass office at 1 Canon Row) and a stamped addressed envelope so they can return it to you
- Copy of the standard contract (available from the Resources section for Members’ Staff on the Parliamentary intranet. When you get there click on Index > Contracts of Employment for Members’ Staff)
- Details of the Stakeholders Pension Plan (available as above. Click on Index > Pensions – Members’ Staff)
2. Resources Department
You must inform the House of Commons Resources Department that you have a new member of staff starting and request a ‘new starter pack’ from them (ext. 1340). This includes contracts, the SA1 form giving authorisation to pay a salary, a P46 which sorts out the correct tax codes and the pension application forms.
Make sure you send back the SA1 form as soon as possible otherwise the salary won’t be paid!
The contract must be returned with an outline job description, both signed, within 8 weeks of the start date. Ensure you keep a copy on your staff records and give a copy to the new staff member to keep.
For those of you unfamiliar with the Parliamentary Intranet, it’s worth spending some time browsing there. From the home page, on the left side, click on House of Commons > Resources > Members and Members’ Staff. This takes you to the Resources homepage; now have a scroll through the Index. You will be surprised how many useful checklists, guides and links you’ve always wanted – but could never find – are listed there.
[We hear from the Resources Dept. Personnel Advice Service that they are in the process of reviewing the new entrant pack and that a new version will be available from October 2008. Some of the forms currently in use will become obsolete at that time. Ed]
3. First Day
To guide you in more detail on what to go through on the first day you can download a checklist from the Parliamentary Intranet and use this as a basis for information which you might need to provide.
However as a summary you should include:
- Signing of contracts and job descriptions
- A tour of Parliament (include the library, vote office, Post Office, cash machines, gym, restaurants and any other places you think they may need to go to regularly in future)
- Rules and procedures relating to fire alarms, first aid, smoking areas, personal use of phone/email/internet
- Book a new starter’s induction course (details available on www.w4mp.org). There may not be a course date for a few months but it will still be worthwhile.
- Email address. They will only be able to obtain an email address once their pass has been received. Once they have this you should call PICT (x2001) and explain you have a new starter. They will email you a form to complete and details of a short presentation and induction for the new member of staff. Log in to the computer with the details PICT have provided, and ask the staff member to watch the presentation and complete the questions. Once this has been done you can complete the form and fax it back to PICT. They will then be able to create a new email account and give the new staff member their own log-in details
- PICT will also be able to help you set up permissions in order that the new member of staff can access the Member’s mailbox, calendar and contacts if this is required.
5. Services for Members’ Staff
There will be more specific details available on the resources page but as a guide you may be wish to point out the following:
- Childcare. Staff with children under the age of 12 may be eligible to claim childcare vouchers if they need to arrange this in order to work (ext. 5973).
- Travel Office. Staff can access discounted air and rail travel and foreign exchange services (ext. 4232) but these facilities are available to staff only on Mondays and Fridays when the House is sitting or at any time during recess.
- Library. You can organise tours and training for new staff at various times during the week (ext. 3666).
Full information is set out in the guide from the Office of the Clerk Facilities and Services for Members’ Staff (latest version is 20 October 2006) and covers: Employment and financial information, The Parliamentary estate, Business of the House and Information services
6. Office Work
Each office works differently in how they train a new member of staff and obviously this will depend on what position they are working in, but it may be helpful to be able to provide your new staff member with:
- Handover notes from the previous incumbent
- The morning to look through files, emails and computer records in the office so that get an idea of how things work
- Someone to take them to lunch, or introduce them to others working in nearby offices, until they have their own pass
Finally, if they haven’t already found it, point them towards the W4MP guides page (www.w4mp.org/html/library/default.asp) which will give them information on what to expect when working in an MP’s office, help with different types of casework and how to undertake research projects. Even if these aren’t relevant to their own position it will help them understand what other staff members do.
Many new staffers find the first few weeks pretty overwhelming and this can be made worse by the lack of independence they experience while waiting for their pass to come though. You may have forgotten how it was for you but you can help a newcomer by acknowledging that it’s ‘normal’ for them to feel as though they have been thrown in the deep end! Promise them that it will get better and try to spare time to show them round yourself.
SG August 2008