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What does a HR advisor do?
A human resources (HR) advisor provides advice, guidance and support on many HR issues and acts as a conduit between employers, managers and employees. Human resources cover various people-focused activities in the workplace, including recruitment, selection and onboarding, employment contracts and conditions, training and development, staff retention, staff attendance and sickness, disciplinary and grievances, dismissals, employee benefits and even payroll.
HR advisors can combine their roles with other disciplines, such as health and safety, learning and development, or finance. They can generalise in all aspects of human resources or specialise in specific areas, such as employee relations. Therefore, what an HR advisor does will depend on their role and specialisms and where they work.
An HR advisor’s main aim is to ensure that employers, their employees and others in the workplace are aware of their legal duties and rights and comply with relevant employment and equality legislation, policies and procedures. They have a pivotal role, as they prevent employers from falling foul of the law and subsequently being sued or prosecuted. They also look after employees and ensure they are happy and have everything they need to do their jobs to the best of their ability. Overall, HR advisors are responsible for managing the whole employee lifecycle, from recruitment to an individual leaving the company.
An HR advisor will carry out many tasks, including keeping up to date with employment and equality legislation, assisting with recruitment, providing HR advice and information to employers and employees, conducting inductions and training, holding various meetings, handling grievances and complaints, etc. The role also encompasses a significant amount of administrative work, such as writing policies, procedures, handbooks, reports, job descriptions and contracts, and keeping accurate, confidential records.
HR advisors can work with various colleagues (at all levels, including directors, CEOs and boards) and departments within a company (depending on the business activities and size). They may be the only HR advisor in a company or work in an organisation’s HR department with other personnel, such as HR managers, officers, other HR advisors and support staff. They may also be required to liaise with other external stakeholders, including trade unions, health and safety personnel, occupational health providers, insurance companies, solicitors, enforcement authorities, customers, etc.
An HR advisor can work in almost any industry and a company of any size. Some may be at one site. Others may work at multiple locations or be home-based and travel regionally. There are self-employment and freelance opportunities for those in an HR career, e.g. as a consultant.
An HR advisor’s responsibilities will depend on the industry they work in, whom they work for, the activities carried out by the business, and whether they have a dual role, e.g. H&S and finance.
Some examples of common duties for HR advisors can include (this list is not exhaustive):
- Keeping up to date with employment, health and safety and equality legislation.
- Assisting with recruiting new employees, e.g. writing and reviewing job descriptions, advertising roles, creating recruitment campaigns, reviewing CVs, conducting interviews and assisting with selections.
- Ensuring employees’ pay and benefits are correct.
- Negotiating employment terms and conditions with employees.
- Helping with the onboarding process, e.g. ensuring employees have the right to work in the UK, taking copies of new employee identity documents, conducting inductions and introductions and managing probationary periods.
- Advising employers and employees on many HR issues, e.g. employment and equality law, recruitment and selection, salaries, redundancies and dismissals.
- Providing coaching, advice and guidance to managers.
- Dealing with various HR queries as they arise.
- Planning and providing training and development opportunities for employees.
- Handling grievance and disciplinary procedures.
- Monitoring employee sickness absence, performance, satisfaction, retention and turnover.
- Holding various meetings and briefings on numerous HR-related topics.
- Arranging employee benefit programmes and support services, e.g. employee assistance programmes, counselling, pensions and occupational health.
- Producing and reviewing HR policies, procedures, handbooks and other documentation, e.g. forms and contracts.
- Creating and updating confidential employee records, usually using specific HR software.
An HR advisor can expect to work 37–40 hours a week, but they can do more or fewer hours depending on their role and the business’s needs. Most HR roles are 9am to 5pm, Monday–Friday. Some HR advisors can work part-time or on a flexible contract, and there are roles where homeworking or hybrid working is possible.
It is unusual for HR advisors to work unsociable hours, such as nights, weekends and bank holidays. However, there may be some roles where these types of hours are required, e.g. if a company has 24/7 shifts.
The role may involve local or national travel, as HR advisors may need to travel to other business sites or attend meetings and conferences. There may also be opportunities for HR advisors to work overseas, e.g. if they work for an international organisation.
What to expect
Being an HR advisor can be challenging but rewarding. Employees are a company’s most important asset, and HR advisors look after them to ensure they are happy and have the necessary resources to carry out their roles. If employees are happy, a company is likely to be more successful. HR advisors ensure that employers have the best possible people with the right talent, skills and qualities, so this should increase productivity and overall turnover. They also help keep businesses on the right side of the law and prevent compensation claims and prosecutions, saving companies money in the long run.
HR is people-focused. Therefore, the role is ideal for individuals who enjoy dealing with many people and interacting with them during their working day. They will need to be ‘a people person’ to be successful in this role.
There are numerous opportunities for growth in human resources, various industries to work in and specialisms. Jobs are available nationally and internationally, and the role can be combined with other disciplines, such as health and safety, employee relations, people management and health and wellbeing. Salaries for HR roles are also competitive, but it reflects the demands and workload associated with the job.
Boredom will never be a problem for HR advisors, as it is a busy, varied role. They will look after a diverse workforce, and there are numerous areas to specialise in, and they will face different daily challenges. Some jobs may enable individuals to work from home or hybrid work, and there may be opportunities to travel overseas.
Even though being an HR advisor is rewarding, and there are many positives, individuals should consider the cons and challenges, for example (this list is not exhaustive):
- Challenging people and situations – HR advisors will deal with people from all backgrounds with various personalities and issues. They will handle many people’s problems and can face many challenging situations, e.g. conflicts, grievances, mediations, redundancies, disciplinary hearings, etc. The role can be mentally demanding at times. HR advisors may also face rudeness and abuse.
- Computer work – the role involves a considerable amount of time at the computer. For example, updating policies, procedures, handbooks and other documents and forms, updating employee records, producing training presentations, researching laws, emailing advice, etc.
- High workloads – the workloads in HR roles can be extremely high, and HR advisors must juggle multiple demands, which can be stressful. Also, numerous employment and equality laws will need to be researched, which can be time-consuming and add to the workload.
- Balancing employers’ and employees’ demands – HR advisors can be caught between employers and employees. Individuals must get the right balance and compromise, which can be difficult. However, having the necessary knowledge, skills and personal qualities can help with these situations.
Every career choice has pros and cons, and individuals must know what to expect before deciding whether it is a suitable career. People and situations can be challenging, and workloads are high. There is also a lot of computer work. However, there are many positives too, and ensuring employees are happy in their work and employers have the best possible workforce can be rewarding.
When considering whether to be an HR advisor, individuals should look at the pros and cons. They should also ensure they have the right personal qualities to carry out the role and responsibilities required.
Personal qualities needed to be a HR advisor
Some of the personal qualities an HR advisor requires will include (this list is not exhaustive):
- An interest in human resources, the law and helping people.
- Knowledge of human resources, health and safety and employment and equality law.
- Confident, patient, persuasive, persistent, tactful, determined and assertive.
- Excellent communication skills, both written and verbal.
- Active listening skills.
- Analytical and research skills.
- Problem-solving and conflict management skills.
- Business management skills.
- Negotiating skills.
- Administration skills.
- Interpersonal skills.
- Training skills.
- Time management, planning and organisational skills.
- Thinking and reasoning skills.
- Being thorough, accurate and having attention to detail.
- Having sensitivity and understanding.
- The ability to work well with others and alone using own initiative.
- The ability to interpret laws, codes and standards.
- The ability to monitor employee performance.
- The ability to communicate and engage with people at all levels.
- The ability to present complex information to others clearly, simply and concisely.
- The ability to work quickly and efficiently, prioritise different demands and meet tight deadlines.
- The ability to work under pressure and remain calm in stressful situations.
- The ability to develop strong relationships.
- The ability to be flexible and adapt to change.
- The ability to accept criticism.
- The ability to use IT and software packages.
There are many different routes to becoming an HR advisor. Individuals could go to university or college, enrol on a course with a private training provider, apply for an apprenticeship or apply directly to companies. They could also do work experience to help them enter the role.
An individual does not need a degree to become an HR advisor. However, having an undergraduate or postgraduate degree can help individuals stand out from the crowd.
Some examples of relevant courses are (this list is not exhaustive):
- BA (Hons) Human Resource Management.
- BSc (Hons) Human Resource Management.
- BSc (Hons) Human Resources and Business Management.
- BSc (Hons) Business Management (People Management).
- MSc and PGDip Human Resource Management.
- MA Strategic People Management and Human Resources.
Other relevant topics may include economics and psychology.
It is better if courses are accredited, e.g. by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD).
The entry requirements will depend on each university, and individuals should check before applying. They will typically need three good A Levels for an undergraduate degree or a certain number of UCAS points to get into university. Postgraduate degrees usually require a 2:1 or 2:2 in a relevant undergraduate degree. Some institutions also invite applicants for an interview as part of the selection process.
Undertaking a college or private training course can help individuals get into the role.
The most recognised human resources qualifications are CIPD certificates and diplomas, and there are various levels, e.g.:
- Level 3 Foundation Certificate in People Practice – equivalent to an A Level.
- Level 5 Associate Diploma in People Management – equivalent to an undergraduate degree and is an intermediate qualification.
- Level 7 Advanced Diploma in Strategic People Management – equivalent to a master’s degree.
The entry requirements and completion time will depend on the course type and study mode. There are no specific entry requirements for CIPD qualifications apart from a minimum standard of English. It is recommended individuals complete the certificate before attempting the Diploma. Always check the entry requirements before applying.
Short CIPD courses are available, e.g. awards, which may be a more cost-effective option. Individuals could complete these to see if the role is for them.
Individuals are not guaranteed success with courses and qualifications. However, it will demonstrate to employers that they are keen on the job and may give individuals a competitive edge.
There is an apprenticeship route to help individuals become an HR advisor, e.g. human resource assistant advanced apprenticeship, human resources consultant partner higher apprenticeship or senior people professional degree apprenticeship.
Individuals will usually need the following:
- Advanced apprenticeship – four or five GCSEs, grades 9 to 4 (A* to C), including English and maths, or equivalent.
- Higher or degree apprenticeship – four or five GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C) and A levels, or equivalent.
Opportunities are found on Government’s Apprenticeships, Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education and Indeed.
Some organisations offer HR trainee or internship roles where they will train individuals on the job and pay for them to do HR qualifications. It can be a good route for those struggling to pay for courses, as they can be expensive. Individuals will still need a good education and demonstrate a passion for HR in the industry in which they want to work.
Graduate HR opportunities may be available for individuals with undergraduate or postgraduate degrees. Individuals could apply to small, medium or large-sized private companies, public bodies and charities. They may need to have, or be working towards, CIPD qualifications.
Most job sites advertise trainee roles, internships and graduate opportunities.
Having relevant work experience can help individuals become HR advisors. They could apply for jobs as an HR assistant or administrator, work their way up and enrol on an HR qualification/course while working.
Individuals could apply for work experience in an HR department and shadow people already in the role to get an idea of what it is like and if it is for them. They could also contact local consultancies or a CIPD branch to ask for advice.
There may be volunteer opportunities where individuals could gain experience in certain areas of HR or work in a people-centred role. There is information on volunteering and local opportunities on Do-IT, NCVO, Volunteering Matters and Indeed.
Learning does not stop with experience or once someone becomes qualified. Attending relevant training courses and having additional certifications can help individuals enter the profession, enhance their employability and give them a competitive edge. Many colleges and accredited private training providers can provide relevant training courses. We offer various approved Business Courses, including human resources training, that can help individuals build their knowledge.
Some examples of courses that may be useful for HR advisors include (this list is not exhaustive):
- Employment law.
- Health and safety, e.g. office H&S, work-related violence and manual handling.
- Safer recruitment.
- Data protection and GDPR.
- Customer services skills.
- Resilience training.
- Complaints handling.
- Equality, diversity and inclusion.
- Sexual harassment in the workplace.
- LGBTQ+ awareness.
- Unconscious bias.
- Disability awareness.
- Work-related stress.
- COVID-19 awareness.
- Time management.
- Business management.
- Conflict management.
Professional bodies, charities and associations, such as the CIPD, the Company of Human Resource Professionals, the City HR Association, the UK body for independent HR and People Professionals (HRi), the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (Acas) and the Charities HR Network (CHRN), can also advise on reputable training courses. Some also provide memberships, events and support to help individuals become HR advisors and give those already in the profession the means to continue their professional development.
The type of training required will depend on the organisation an individual works for, the industry and the HR activities carried out. It is worth looking at several job advertisements to identify the training needed for roles. Jobs can be found on websites such as GOV.UK find a job service, Indeed, LinkedIn, Glassdoor, Simply HR Jobs, PMJ Official CIPD Jobs Board and HR Ninjas. Also, look at recruitment agencies and the armed forces for HR advisor jobs.
More relevant training and competence (skills, experience and knowledge) will open up more opportunities. Refresher training is also advisable as it is a legal requirement and keeps an individual’s knowledge and skills up to date.
Criminal records checks
Some HR advisors may need to undergo a criminal record check, e.g. if they work in an industry where they will have contact with vulnerable children/adults. It may also be required if they work for the police and armed forces.
A criminal record, caution, warning or conviction may put off prospective employers. However, employers should account for the seriousness of the crime, when it occurred and its relevance to the role.
The organisation that holds criminal records will depend on the country within the UK, for example:
- England and Wales – Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS)
- Northern Ireland – AccessNI.
- Scotland – Protecting Vulnerable Groups (PVG) scheme.
Some HR advisors will need a full driving licence (preferably with no points), especially if they travel to different sites. Some roles will provide a company vehicle for this, but others may require individuals to use their own, which must have business insurance.
Where do HR advisors work?
HR advisors can work for public and private companies in various industries, such as (this list is not exhaustive):
- IT & communications.
- Admin & support.
- Financial services.
- Health and social care, e.g. hospitals, care homes and hospices.
- Local authorities and the government.
- The armed forces, e.g. the Navy, the Royal Air Force (RAF) and the Army.
- The prison service.
- The emergency services, e.g. police, ambulance, and fire & rescue.
Where HR advisors work will depend on their industry, the requirements of their role and the activities the business carries out. They can work in a variety of settings but will usually be in an office environment. Some can work remotely, from home or hybrid work, especially if their role is regional. There is also scope for them to freelance, usually through recruitment agencies, or they can become self-employed.
Jobs are available nationally, and HR advisors can work in cities, towns or villages. There may also be opportunities to work overseas.
How much do HR advisors earn?
The salaries for human resources roles tend to be competitive. However, what an HR advisor earns will depend on their job, industry, employer, specialisms, location, qualifications and experience.
Some examples of average salaries include (these figures are a guide only):
- Entry-level (less than 1 year experience) – £24,489 a year.
- Early career (1–4 years of experience) – £27,094 a year.
- Mid-career (5–9 years of experience) – £28,948 a year.
- Experienced (10–19 years of experience) – £29,541 a year.
- Late career (20 years and higher) – £30,083 a year.
According to Glassdoor, the national average salary for an HR advisor is £31,400 annually.
Some employers offer numerous benefits, such as company vehicles, bonuses, pensions, private healthcare, employee assistance programmes, etc.
As an apprentice, the salary will depend on an individual’s age and how long they have been in their apprenticeship. Apprentices must earn at least the current National Minimum Wage (NMW). Some employers will pay more than this. However, it will depend on the organisation and role on offer.
Types of HR to specialise in
Most HR advisors will generalise in all aspects of human resources, but there are opportunities to specialise in specific areas, such as (this list is not exhaustive):
- Immigration and overseas recruitment – specialising in recruiting overseas staff or UK staff working abroad, which requires knowledge of different laws, e.g. work authorisations.
- Employee relations – specialising in all aspects of employee relationships, e.g. conflicts, grievances, bullying, harassment, safety, etc. They help build and manage positive relationships between employees.
- Learning and development – specialising in employee training and competencies. They identify training needs and help employees to become more competent to enhance their performance at work.
- Rewards, compensation and benefits – specialising in salaries and wages, sick pay, employee services and other benefits, e.g. employee assistance programmes, private healthcare and pensions.
- Talent acquisition – specialising in recruiting talented staff (that fit best within the team) in line with organisational needs.
- Payroll – specialising in payroll functions, e.g. converting time sheets to wages. It will typically require additional qualifications in finance.
- Equality, diversity and inclusion – specialising in equality laws, policies, procedures and practices and ensuring they are delivered.
- Transformation and TUPE – specialising in employees’ rights during business takeovers and service provision changes, as per the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations.
They can also choose HR roles combined with other disciplines, such as health and safety. There are also options to specialise in industries such as financial services or education.
Various HR roles will require differing knowledge, skills, experience and qualities. All HR advisors must keep up to date with relevant employment and equality legislation, provide advice and guidance, fulfil various HR functions, write policies, procedures and reports, engage people, maintain confidential records, etc. Any additional areas of expertise will depend on what an organisation is looking for and the type of HR role an individual wants.
HR advisors not competently carrying out their roles can result in incorrect advice being given to employers or employees, non-compliance with employment and equality laws, and issues not being resolved. It can mean unhappy employees, a loss of staff and a loss of productivity. Employers may be at a higher risk of compensation claims and prosecution, which can cause reputational and financial damage. Therefore, whatever the type of role, HR advisors must have the necessary competence to carry out the work professionally. They should also know the limits of their competency, i.e. asking for help when something is beyond their expertise.
Standards, best practices, laws and technologies are regularly changing. Therefore, HR advisors must keep abreast with the latest developments and changes to ensure they carry out their roles effectively and correctly. Continuing professional development (CPD) gives HR advisors the knowledge and skills to keep up to date with these changes, understand their responsibilities, be legally compliant and progress in their careers.
Joining a professional body, charity or association (as mentioned previously) can help individuals enhance their skills and overall career. They offer different levels of membership, CPD, support, access to industry contacts and networking events. Some employers will require individuals to be CIPD members.
There is ample opportunity for career progression for HR advisors. With more qualifications and experience, they can become an HR manager, lead, specialist, business partner or director. They could also manage an HR department and team or combine their role with other areas, e.g. health and safety. Alternatively, they may move from a small organisation to a large one, work for an HR consultancy or start their own business.
Knowledge, skills and experience from being an HR advisor can also lead to a career in different areas. For example, they could work in research, training, or learning and development. They could decide to work for professional bodies, e.g. the CIPD, or concentrate on employment/equality law.
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