English vocabulary for HR professionals

A career in human resources (HR) can be a highly rewarding one; HR departments are essential to the successful running of a business. Keeping the cogs turning behind the scenes, HR professionals make sure that employees are secure and content in their roles, dealing with the complexities of employee welfare and employment law, among other things.


If you’re interested in a career in HR you should have a talent for dealing with other people, good communication skills and a determination to make a difference. HR professionals will spend a lot of time dealing with people one-on-one, so it is important you have a good level of spoken English, and the ability to understand the terminology you’ll need for the role. Here is a breakdown of some of the different vocabulary you’ll need to learn to be successful in HR.



An apprenticeship is a work-based training programme for people aged 16 and over that is funded by the government. An apprenticeship is an alternative to higher education, providing practical experience with a nationally recognised qualification. You can complete an apprenticeship in a wide range of professional areas, ranging from marketing to carpentry and more.

E.g. Eleanor was excited to start her new accountancy apprenticeship.


Christmas bonus

Whilst not a requirement for any business, many companies will offer a monetary bonus to their staff around Christmas time. Sometimes bonuses are not in the form of cash, and may be gift vouchers or holiday gifts of food or drink.

E.g. Lena made sure her staff were always given a Christmas bonus.   



When you end an employee’s contract, this is called a dismissal. There are four different types of dismissal, they are called fair, unfair, constructive, and wrongful dismissal.

E.g. Sebastian was taking his former employer to court for unfair dismissal.


Office hours

These are the hours that an employee is contractually obliged to spend at work. Companies may ask employees to work outside of their office hours. The law states that most workers shouldn’t have to work more than 48 hours a week on average, including overtime.

E.g. Alfred was willing to work longer than his office hours to complete an important project.



Companies may try to save money by transferring the sourcing of certain goods or services to outside organisations rather than completing them internally. A business may decide to outsource tech support duties to independent IT firms because it is cheaper than hiring an in-house IT expert.

E.g. Matilda suggested that the company outsource their accounting needs to cut costs.



A company’s payroll is the sum of all money that is owed to its staff during a specified amount of time. The amount owed differs according to sick leave, overtime and other variables. Many companies will use outside payroll services to make the process easier.

E.g. Shannon emailed payroll services to find out how much money she was owed for working overtime.  


Public holiday

Public holidays are days when most businesses and non-essential services are closed, in the UK they are commonly known as bank holidays. Easter, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Day are all public holidays. Most people will not be at work on these days.

E.g. Claire had a barbecue planned for the upcoming public holiday.



When someone chooses to leave the workforce permanently this is known as retirement. There are retirement schemes in place in most companies that contribute to an individual’s retirement fund.

E.g. Edward was looking forward to being able to retire from his job.


Trade union

Organisations formed by workers from related fields that work for the common interest of its members. They often help workers with issues at work, including their working hours and fairness of pay.

E.g. Liz got in contact with her trade union after feeling like she was being treated unfairly at work.


Unemployment benefits

A government welfare programme where people who are unemployed through no fault of their own are given money whilst they look for a new job. To receive these benefits they must register as unemployed and regularly provide evidence that they are actively looking for work.

E.g. Julie needed unemployment benefits to pay for the essentials while she was out of work.


If you’re interested in expanding your work-related English vocabulary even further, take a quick look at our guide to English vocabulary for oil and gas professionals.

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