Annual Leave

24 Jun
by Donna Obstfeld, posted in Annual Leave, Blog, Contract of employment, Employees, Employers, Holidays, people management   |  1 Comments

Many of us look forward to a summer holiday and a well-earned break. We’re just about to come into that time of year when employers will start to see the ebb and flow of their workforce as staff start to take their main holiday.  It’s important to remember that annual leave is much more than just a benefit; it’s essential for the long term health and well-being of your staff.  As an employer, you probably recognise that many of your employees are working long and hard, perhaps a reflection of the current recession and harder times.  Therefore it’s important and in fact essential that you ensure your team take their annual leave.  A holiday gives a much needed boost to often tired workers.  When working long hours over extended periods of time, mistakes are made and accidents can occur.  It is often the case that motivation and morale can also be low.  By encouraging staff to take time off for perhaps a week’s holiday, preferably two means that those run down batteries can be re-charged!  It is generally a common theme that people return with new-found inspiration, refreshed and motivated which in turn really can energise and benefit a business.

The entitlement to paid annual leave is governed by the Working Time Directive Legislation. This provides all full time employees with a minimum of 28 days leave per year, including public and bank holidays. This is then pro-rated for part time employees – and this is where the complication for many starts.

We find that one of the biggest on-going issues for our clients is calculating part time annual leave entitlements.  It can be complicated so here we provide you with some easy to understand golden rules to enable you to choose the method most appropriate for your business needs.

Rule 1: You cannot treat part time employees any less favourably than your full time staff. Entitlements can be pro-rated, but the base benefit must be the same.

Rule 2: Work out your full time weekly hours as this is the anchor point. If you have two very different categories of staff such as those at head office and those in retail outlets, you may choose to have different full time hours for each category.

Rule 3: Calculate the FTE (full time equivalent) of each member of staff based on your full time hours for that category.  Here’s an example: If your full time hours are 40 and someone works 30 hours, they are a 0.75 FTE if your full time hours are 35 and someone works 30 hours, they are a 0.86 FTE.

Rule 4: Following Rule 3 work out leave entitlement. As both annual leave and public & bank holidays are pro-rated, assuming a full time employee has 28 days, in the first example the employee would have 21 days leave. In the second example the employee would have 24 days. The main thing to note with this first calculation is that the day is a normal length working day for that category i.e. 8 or 7 hours if it is a 5 day working week, Monday to Friday.

Rule 5: Perhaps you are managing annual leave in hours? In some organisations, where staff work a different number of hours on each day, it may be easier to manage annual leave in hours, so that in this example both employees have 168 hours leave (first employee 21 days x 8 hours) and (second employee 24 days x 7 hours). In this case if they take a day off and they would only normally work 6 hours on that day, then it is 6 which is deducted not 7 or 8 for a whole day.

Rule 6: Be clear on the Bank Holidays! Bank holidays notoriously cause a problem. The key is to record every absence whether it is a personal holiday or a public holiday. So if the employee usually works 8 hours on a Monday and Monday is a bank holiday, you deduct 8 hours (or 1 day) from their leave entitlement. If the employee does not usually work on a Monday, there is no change to their leave record.

Rule 7: Sunday working; where an employee works short days on a Sunday, it is important to ensure that they don’t use all their annual leave entitlement to take every Sunday off! Therefore it is essential that your policy is well written restricting this practice so that may mean no more than 6 Sundays per year and that your managers are trained to manage holiday absence efficiently and ensure adequate cover for the business.

Rule 8: Where an organisation has staff who do not work regular weekly hours, managing holiday accurately is much harder. We recommend accruing holiday based on actual hours worked on a weekly basis. The accrual rate is determined by your full time hours and normal leave entitlement. Then for every hour worked, holiday is accrued. If the person works every week (or most weeks) then they need to be able to take their leave. If they are a temporary member of staff or only work periodically, then it may be better to pay them each month for the holiday they have accrued. This should show as a separate line on their pay slip.

Getting holiday right is important, legally, morally and for the sake of the business. We recommend you ensure you have a clear policy which supports your business needs and culture.  Understand what you have to do and clarify what you want to do. Communicate it to staff and if in doubt, seek advice. Ensuring staff use their annual leave entitlement is for the long term health of your business as well as for good morale. Oh, and don’t forget to lead by example. You are no good to your business if you are exhausted.  On that note, have a good holiday; we’re off to book ours!

For more information, or for help with drafting your annual leave policy, contact us on 01923 504100 or at

Father’s Day –Pay Some Attention to Dads!

07 Jun
by Donna Obstfeld, posted in Blog, Employees, Mediation, Paternity   |  2 Comments

Father’s Day is just around the corner, for those of you who haven’t marked it in your diary in a giant red circle – it’s Sunday 17th June.  Make sure you spoil Dads and Carers – because I think they often get left out of any celebrations!  Notoriously, did you know that Father’s Day is actually the least important event in retailers’ calendars? No, it’s not the retailers’ fault, it’s as simple as this; consumers don’t spend as much on Dads as they do Mums, Valentines and even Halloween.

While I was thinking about my own preparations for Father’s Day it got me contemplating Dads in the workplace. Becoming a parent is no doubt one of the most exciting things that can happen to someone, if not THE most exciting thing.  There’s so much to think about, all that baby shopping, decorating a nursery, obviously names and also the well-being of Mum, so Dad’s needs sometimes may be again, left a bit further down the list!  As Dad’s are often a little neglected I thought it would be useful to re-cap on paternity leave and pay policy.

Legislation didn’t come in just to make life easier for new Mums,  it came about to allow Dads to have special time to bond with the new addition.  Whilst it will take a few years (probably around 15), the new addition will one day thank Dad for all his love and care – with a Father’s Day gift of course!

So what rights do Fathers have?

Fathers and Partners who have at least 26 weeks of service 15 weeks prior to the Expected Date of Confinement (EDC) are entitled to two weeks of paternity leave.  This period of time is called Ordinary Paternity Leave and must be taken within 56 days of the birth or adoption of a child. Officially this is paid at the statutory rate (currently £135.45 – subject to qualification), however many companies will pay this at full pay. In addition, new fathers can add annual leave (full pay) or up to 4 weeks parental leave (unpaid) to their ordinary paternity leave period.  

In addition, for fathers of babies born after 3rd April 2011, there is an entitlement of up to 26 weeks Additional Paternity Leave (APL). This must be taken between 20 and 52 weeks after the birth and the mother must have returned to work. Any of the mother’s SMP remaining can be transferred to the father. Legislation currently provides for APL to be paid at the statutory rate, but a word of caution here …. Regardless of the policy at the mother’s company, If you provide enhanced Maternity Pay to your female workforce, not providing this to your male workforce could lead to discrimination claims. This is as yet unproven in court, but a case in Spain indicates that this would hold up.

There are several other considerations for employers when developing Paternity Policies:

– Consideration needs to be given to the way in which time off for ante natal appointments such as scans are managed. There is currently no obligation on employers to allow leave for this purpose. The same is the case for consultants’ appointments and ante natal classes. However, allowing time off for women and not for men may increasingly be seen as discriminatory and may impact on motivation and productivity.

– A same sex partner is just as entitled to paternity leave and pay as any other partner. In the case of adoption, the same rules also apply.

– Every year, the Government reviews the weekly amounts of SMP/SAP and SPP so the amounts in this blog are subject to change!

However companies decide to manage paternity and parental issues in their workplace, there is a need for compliance. Companies must document their policy, communicate it and apply it consistently. The policy should respect the law, but also reflect the type of company you are (or want to be). If you are a family orientated organisation, then you may choose to have your policy reflect that. If you want to encourage great employee relations, trust, respect and appreciation for you as an employer, then getting your policies aligned to your culture and ethos is a great way to do it.

For more information on what we do and how we can help, please call us on 01923 504100 for a free, no obligations chat. Alternatively, email us or fill in the form on the ‘contact us’ page of our website and someone will give you a call.

If you want the job, prove you can do it!

04 May
by Donna Obstfeld, posted in Blog, Employees, Employers, Recruitment   |  No Comments

How many times have you taken on a new member of staff, only to find they are not capable of doing the job?

As a practice we are frequently helping clients to manage poor performers out of the business. People who came across really well in interview, but when it came to it, their ability to do the job was not as good as their ability to ‘sell’ themselves.

And whose fault is this? …. Well I’ll let you into a secret ….. It’s your fault. Just because you are a good manager or fantastic at your job, doesn’t necessarily mean that you can spot a fraud when they are working really hard to impress you so you give them the job you have on offer.

Buyer Beware

So, how do you tell the difference between a lovely person and someone who can actually do the job and add value? The answer lies in the recruitment and selection process.

Recruitment is about attracting the right people and ensuring they apply for the role.

Selection is the process of choosing the right person for the role.

Top Tips

Not all of these will be appropriate to every situation, so do speak to us if you need any guidance

  1. Write a comprehensive job description including key deliverables, the skills & experience required and personal attributes needed to succeed
  2. Choose the most appropriate method to advertise your vacancy: This may be through online job boards, recruitment agencies, face to face networks such as colleagues, suppliers, customers, family and friends; or social media networks
  3. Design a selection process which is fair and free from the risk of discrimination
  4. Design a selection process to specifically identify the skills and attributes you are looking for
  5. Use a minimum of two steps i.e. 2 interviews or an interview and a test
  6. If possible, get the shortlisted candidates assessed by more than one person from the business
  7. During the interview, identify behavioural evidence based on past experiences. Ask an open question and then drill down until you fully understand the behaviour and can take a decision based on objective evidence
  8. Don’t be afraid of silences during the interview – they can be very powerful. If you have asked a hard question, the way in which the candidate thinks about it is also very indicative of their personality
  9. Always respond to applicants, candidates and interviewees in a respectful way with due consideration for their feelings if you are rejecting their application. Your company reputation is at stake!
  10. Remember, recruitment is a two way process, you have to sell your company to the candidate as much as they have to sell themselves to you.

No one will get it right every time, but doing a robust behavioural and competency based interview as part of the process is an excellent first step and will significantly increase your chances of getting it right.

Over to You

We would love for you to share your experience of the recruitment process, either from an employers perspective or indeed as an employee. I myself have several horror stories from both sides of the table! If you share yours, I’ll share mine:)

Back to Us

If you require assistance with your recruitment and selection processes, we are able to help you every step of the way from writing the job description to holding interviews all the way through to reference checks and offer letters.

For further information, call 01923 504100 or email

Try Before You Buy?

24 Apr
by Donna Obstfeld, posted in 121's, Blog, Employees, Employers, Induction, Probation, training   |  No Comments

When taking on new staff, employers have a choice as to whether to give a probation period or not. And if they do put a probation period into the contract of employment, they can (within reason) choose how long to make the probation period.

As advisors we generally recommend a 6 month probation period, but why do we do this?

Taking on a new member of staff involves finding the right person, offering them the right package and training them up as quickly as possible so that they are adding value to your business. All this takes time and money, so is giving them a probation period a sign of lack of trust, or a sensible precaution?

A probation period is designed to be a period of training, immersion in the company and it’s culture and an opportunity for a new employee to find their feet, learn their role and thrive. Most people pass through their probation period with no problems at all. Employers sometimes don’t even remember to confirm employment at the end of the probation period. But what happens when things don’t go to plan? How should employers deal with a failing employee within their probation period? And is it always the fault of the employee?


When an employee joins the company, they should be given an induction programme aimed at giving them all the information they need as quickly as possible. Examples of things which are commonly included are a health and safety briefing, meetings with key people within the business, organisational charts, copies of company policies and procedures and attendance at company, service or product specific training courses.

An intensive induction programme could take anything from one day to three months, depending on the nature of the business and any specific cyclical activities.

Regular 121s

As the line manager of a new employee, it is important to have regular 121s with your new team member. This may be work related, but should also include time to talk about them, their experiences within the business, their progress and any concerns they might have. This is an opportunity to identify any additional training or support needs or to amend workload and expectations (upwards as well as downwards).

Mid Probation Review

Regardless of how long the probation period, half way through you should have a more formal review which is properly documented. This is an opportunity to measure performance against objectives, to set objectives for the rest of the probation period and to ensure that progress is being made.

End of Probation Review

This should be a formal meeting along the lines of an appraisal. The meeting should take place 2 weeks before the end of the probation period. There are three possible outcomes:

  • The Employee Passes their probation period and is confirmed in role
  • The Employee Fails their probation period and a termination process starts
  • The Probation Period is extended in line with the contractual terms

Over to You

What is your experience of probation periods? You may be a line manager or an employee? Have they worked? Do they support the employee? Do they offer the business an opportunity to try before you buy?

Back to Us

When taking on staff, it is essential that the employment contract is robust and that there are adequate provisions for a probation period. If you do need to terminate employment, it is essential that you do it legally or you could end up with a discrimination claim.

For help and support with all contract and probation issues, contact us on or call 01923 504100

Business Continuity – Plan for the Unplanned

02 Feb
by Donna Obstfeld, posted in Business Continuity, Employees, HR Consultancy, HR Policy, Human Resources   |  4 Comments

Business continuity, disaster recovery, whatever you call it, it has to happen. 2011 saw many disruptions to businesses both here in the UK and abroad. How prepared were the businesses, how did they recover and could you do the same?

Do you take the view that it will never happen to us and then bury your head in the sand, or keep your fingers crossed that it never does? Or do you sit around the table with your manager(s) and plan for all eventualities. There is no point always being an optimist if it puts your business at risk. You need to develop a list of possible scenarios, precautions and solutions to ensure no matter what the weather, terrorists or the Olympics throw at you, you know your responses, have the policies and procedures you need and the contact numbers of your key staff, IT support company and other key emergency response people.

Several years ago, I had first had experience of disaster recovery and the need for preparation. I worked for a company based in Hemel Hempstead when there was a massive explosion at Buncefield. Fortunately the explosion was in the early hours of the morning and there were minimal numbers of people on site. The building was absolutely out of action. The glass atrium collapsed and windows all over the building were shattered. Many other businesses were affected with sprinkler systems causing more damage than the actual explosion in several cases.

The priority was business as usual. With another local facility, staff who could worked from home or the London office on laptops, call centre staff from Hemel Hempstead were moved to St Albans and IT had back up systems running in less than 24 hours.

It is the people, information and customers which are valuable, not buildings and furniture. Ensure that your people have the ability to work from anywhere as the needs of your business dictate. You can’t avoid snow, floods or incidents, but you can plan for the worse and give yourself a competitive advantage if you can get back up quicker and better than others.

Your people are the key to your business continuity planning.

Do you have a plan for the unplanned?

Have you had an incident where Business Continuity Planning saved the day?

Share your thoughts and experiences.

Bribery – Have you protected your business?

27 Jan
by Donna Obstfeld, posted in Blog, Bribery, Compliance, employent law, Employment Legislation, Hertfordshire, Policies and Procedures, training   |  No Comments

I was in a room with 20 different employers this week and asked a simple question….

How many of you have a policy on bribery and have trained your staff in the application of that policy?

Despite the Bribery Act 2010 having come into force in July 2011, 90% of the businesses represented did not have a policy and had not trained their staff in relation to their duties under the Bribery Act. The first case has now been brought under this legislation and a court official was found guilty of being bribed to make a speeding offence disappear.

The previous bribery legislation was mixed and confusing, some of it being over 100 years old.

For those of you who are not clear, bribery is defined as ‘the giving or taking of a reward in return for acting dishonestly and/or in breach of the law’. There are four offences under the Act:

  1. Bribing another person
  2. Being bribed
  3. Bribing a foreign public official
  4. Failure to prevent bribery

It is the last of these which employers need to be especially wary of. There is an absolute obligation for employers, even those with one employee, to have a policy which ensures that employees know that bribery is not acceptable. There is also an absolute obligation for employers to brief / train their staff in relation to the law, their policy and its application to their business environment.

So what counts as bribery? Is it…..

  1. Tipping your postman for Christmas deliveries
  2. Taking clients out for dinner
  3. Taking potential clients our for an afternoon at Wimbledon
  4. Sending clothing samples to a fashion reviewer for their children
  5. Giving a FIFA official an amount of money to secure their vote in deciding the location of the 2022 World Cup? – This news broke the week the legislation came into force!!!

To find out more about The Bribery Act 2010, it’s implications for your business and how to protect your business from prosecution,  join us at the Business Essentials Conference on 29th February 2012 where you will be able to discuss the Act in the context of your business and walk away with a policy, training guidelines and some standard forms and letters. This would normally cost approximately £500 + VAT but the one day conference will cost you just £120. For more information and to book visit or call us on 01923 504100.

Recruiting Blind

18 Jan
by Donna Obstfeld, posted in Blog, Discrimination, HR Policy, HR Support, Human Resources, Policies and Procedures, Race Discrimination, Recruitment, war for talent   |  3 Comments

Would you? Could you?
Over 100 UK businesses have pledged to recruit blind as a way of increasing social mobility and reducing the risk of discrimination candidates with submit their applications on standard company from without a name or school.

As an HR professional, I’m not sure how I feel about this.

15 years ago I developed application forms with tear off flaps for equal opportunity monitoring. The forms were all numbered sequentially and the applicant tracked through the system by number so we monitored age, gender and ethnicity. It actually made no difference to our employee demographics. It did however take time and resources to manage and continually monitor the applicants through recruitment, selection and promotion within the company. Even at the time, removing date of birth from the application form seemed odd – you just needed to look at when someone was at school or entered the workplace to be able to estimate their age.

So now we are removing name and school as well. Will it really make a difference? Will this prevent ‘the old boys network’ from blocking social mobility?

Companies signing up to the Compact have also agreed to use schools and other public forums to advertise work experience / intern opportunities rather than offering the places to informal contacts.

Thinking about your business, would you prefer to advertise for a junior in your local schools or take the son / daughter of an existing employee or a friend?

Is this the end of the saying “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know”?

I can’t afford to give pay increases!!

04 Jan
by Donna Obstfeld, posted in Annual Leave, Benefits, Blog, pay, Reward, Total Reward, Voluntary Benefits   |  No Comments

As I speak to my clients, I pick up on general trends. Sometimes it is based on stuff they have heard in the news, sometimes it is the fear of forthcoming legislation; but recently there is one trend which is repeated by almost all of my clients – pay increases! Staff are asking for them because the cost of living is on the increase, but companies can’t afford to give them as the economic future is so uncertain.

Going back five and even ten years, pay increases were generally given by small companies at about 5% and by large companies at 5 – 10% depending on the industry, company and individual performance. In these instances, the pay increase was above inflation and employees generally felt valued.

Today, with RPI at 5.4% and CPI at 5% these sorts of pay increases, if even possible, are barely covering Cost of Living increases. In many cases employees really do understand the pressure their management is under and would prefer to have a job with a low pay rather than no job at all, should the company go out of business. However, employees still need to be able to live: feed and cloth their families, put their children in childcare to enable them to work and to provide an adequate standard of living. As inflation increases and pay rises are not achievable, employers are having to look to alternative ways of motivating staff, ensuring they feel valued and remain engaged in the company, helping it to achieve its aims and objectives.

So, how are companies doing this? The answers vary based on size, industry and performance, but here are some ideas which can be adopted.
Communication and expectation setting
Talk to your staff. Be open and honest with them. If company performance is good, tell them, if it is bad – tell them. If you have to make changes to their compensation packages, tell them why and tell them when you will review the situation and what changes you need to see to provide a platform for restoration of their package. If there are decisions you are making to save costs, consult with staff – they may have useful insights and ideas. Try to put bad news with good news messages, but don’t lie and don’t ‘spin’ – you will loose their trust.
Other Rewards
Good performance does not mean you have to give pay increases. If the performance is due to a one off successful sale or project, providing a one off bonus to show your appreciation is an ideal way to demonstrate how much you value staff. It won’t add to the long term fixed financial commitments of the company, but will enable a set amount of money to be shared among employees.
Access to voluntary benefits is another way of showing staff that you are thinking of them, even in these stretched times. The employer usually pays a small amount per person and this enables the employees to access all sorts of discounts making their existing pay packet go a bit further. Choosing the right benefits programme is important, but it can be a very cost effective way of rewarding staff.
Time off
Providing staff with extra time off can be another cost effective way of rewarding them. This may not work for every business and certainly won’t work if you have a workforce who are too busy to take the annual leave they normally have, but for many extra time off goes a long way.

Getting reward right is hard at the best of times. Getting it right in the current economic climate is even harder.
What has your experience been with recent pay reviews? What alternative approaches have you adopted?

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