Differences in HR practices between UK and USA

‘Two countries separated by a common language’, is an often used quote to describe the differences between the UK and the USA! The quote serves as a reminder that whilst we are very much culturally alike and we approach business in very similar ways there are often some important variations within the how.


When setting up a company in the USA it is even more vital to get your HR right from the beginning as it often prevents a lot of problems occurring further down the line. Managing complex HR problems locally is difficult enough but over time zones, often by phone is a major headache that you can do without!


Some Key Differences in UK and US HR Practices

The tables below illustrate a couple of key differences in UK and US employment practices.



In the UK it is common practice to provide a new hire a contract of employment, an often-lengthy legal document that the employee needs to sign. In the US employment is considered ‘At Will’. In this case the employer and employee can terminate the relationship at any time and without cause. A contract is usually only used for Senior Executive levels. A contract is rarely referred to in the US hiring process. What is key is having an up to date HR handbook, which covers your HR policies and processes that is legally compliant in the USA.

Statutory Time vs. Paid Time Off



Another major difference is employee benefits. For example in the UK there is the NHS, which offers free health cover. The US does not have this level of cover so benefits become a large component of an attractive offer for a new employee. It is important to seek specialist help in developing your offer for prospective employees.


These examples serve to illustrate that things are not straight forward when setting up your company in the USA, however with the right advice it is easy to avoid common pitfalls and enable you to focus on the major goals of your business and not be distracted by unnecessary HR issues.

Our best advice is to take advice!

Esther McLeodEsther McLeod is a commercial, innovative and results driven Consultant/Interim with over 25 years experience in HR & business arena. She is currently holding the position of HR Consultant/Director at International Management Answers (IMA).
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