English for Human Resources professionals

As an HR professional, your command of English has a profound impact on overall company performance. For example, did you know that a professional recruitment process can improve the quality of new employees by 70%?  

To sound more natural, learn 2 or 3 new words/expressions at any one time and then incorporate them into sentences which you already use. Here are the most common vocabulary and expressions you need to be familiar with. 

1. Common vocabulary

Here are the most common basic HR terms which you will encounter when working in an HR department. 

  • Salary (n): fixed amount of money paid to an employee for their work – often expressed as an annual amount 
  • Wages (n):  fixed amount of money paid to an employee for their work, usually in a weekly or monthly context 
  • Employer (n): an individual or business that employs people 
  • An employee (n): a person paid to work for a company 
  • A worker (n): a person who works 
  • A freelancer (n): a person who sells their work or services to different businesses instead of working for just one company permanently 
  • A contractor (n): an individual or company who does work under a contract for a fixed amount of time or to cover specific tasks 
  • Hourly/daily/weekly (adj): examples of frequency of pay  
  • Contract of employment/employment contract: the contract between an employer and employee describing duties, holiday entitlement, workplace rules, etc 
  • Contract for services/Services contract: a contract between a company and a self-employed individual or outsourced business

2. Common collocations

These are the words that are commonly used together for HR purposes: 

Employment / contract   

This is the document an employer gives to an employee confirming the employee’s employment details, such as working hours and pay.  

Full-time or part-time / employment  

This describes the number of hours that an employee will be required to work.  

Job / application, description, satisfaction, security, sharing  

Use these to explain the type of work an employee will be expected to do as part of their job, or to describe any other aspects. 

Minimum / wage  

Use this to explain the lowest amount an employer can legally pay to an employee. 

Retirement / age  

This describes the age by which an employee can stop working and receive a pension.  

Redundancy / payment 

Use this to describe the payment an employee receives from their employer as a result of losing their job for economic, restructuring or change of business reasons. 

To apply /for a job  

Use this to invite people to apply for a job by completing an application form and/or writing a formal letter. 

To fill / a vacancy 

This is used to describe the process when a person has accepted a job that has been offered. 

To be laid / off  

This means someone has no work when a company either cannot afford to pay them, or there are no duties to perform. Often someone might be laid off, but still have a role to perform in the company when the situation improves. 

To take / measures 

Use this when describing what actions are being taken to achieve something specific. 

Trial or probation / period 

This describes a specific period of time when a person starts a new job. Usually this lasts 3 or 6 months to allow enough time for the employer and employee to ensure they are both happy with the arrangement. 

To take unpaid / leave  

This phrase is used when taking time off work without being paid. For example, if an employee has used all their holiday and they need more time off, the employer may agree to let them take the time off work but will not pay them for it. 

To work / overtime, a shift 

Use this to explain when an employee has to work more than their contracted hours or at different times of the day or night. 

3. Common expressions 

These expressions can be used either verbally or in written format: 

  • ‘The business is currently going through a restructuring process.’ 

This might be used to explain to a potential new employee that the company is currently going through a change, perhaps because of a merger. 

  • ‘We have a new employee starting next week, so we need to go through an onboarding process.’ 

This might be used by a manager confirming that a new person is starting and therefore the team needs to go through a specific process for new employees. 

  • ‘What are your competencies?’ 

This question might be asked to a potential applicant to find out what their skills are.  

  • ‘It’s compulsory to attend monthly meetings.’ 

A manager might say this to a new employee who is unsure whether to attend monthly meetings or not. 

  • ‘The company has dismissed 5% of its workforce in the last year.’ 

This might be read in a news article or said by someone commenting about a specific company. 

  • ‘I’ve asked Sarah to fill in for Sabine while she’s away on holiday.’  

A manager might say this in reply to a question asked about who will cover Sarah’s work while she’s on holiday. 

  • ‘Tayal was recently promoted to Head of Marketing due to her exceptional work over the last year.’ 

A senior executive might say this when explaining why Tayal was given a promotion. 

  • ‘Staff retention is critical to the success of our company.’ 

Senior management might say this when replying to a question about staffing in general. 

  • ‘We set milestones every month and review them at the end of the month.’ 

This expression might be used by management to explain to a new member of staff that there are certain tasks that need to be achieved every month. 

The London School of English runs regular English for Human Resources courses. With almost a quarter of our alumni coming from the HR sector, we are very experienced in delivering targeted training to HR professionals. Many of these clients come to us when they wish to improve their English ability for HR management, including the recruitment process, describing salaries and benefits, and performance-management and problem-solving. 

This blog has been written at level C1. Practise your reading and listening by reading the blogs below.

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