Three-quarters of computer users still not sitting pretty

01 Jan
by Donna Obstfeld, posted in Blog, Employees, Employers, Health, Health and Safety   |  No Comments

Around 75 per cent of regular computer users still aren’t aware of the principles of good workstation posture, according to research carried out by Clearworld Health & Safety. The consequences of poor posture include neck, back and shoulder pain, as well as joint problems and even increased stress.

Having prepared risk assessments for over 10,000 regular computer users, I consistently find that a tiny minority of computer users experience no problems at all.

Computers are as integral to our lives as phones and TVs, yet the majority of people still don’t seem to be aware of how to use them safely. A few simple changes in the way you sit at your desk can easily prevent the onset of long-term health problems.

Following these five simple tips will help you remain safely seated at work:

  • Make sure the height of your chair is adjusted so your elbows are level with the desk and the backrest is at a comfortable angle.
  • There’s an art to sitting properly! Perching on the edge of the chair or leaning forward provides no support for your back. Sit as far back in the chair as possible, so you can feel the backrest support where your back curves inwards.
  • Prevent twisting and stretching by ensuring the PC screen is directly in front of you, with the keyboard and mouse close enough to have your arms in a comfortable L-shape.
  • Accessorise if necessary. If your feet aren’t resting flat on the floor, get a footrest. If your wrists are titled upwards when using the keyboard or mouse, get a wrist rest.
  • Screen breaks should be taken for about five minutes an hour – this can simply mean letting your eyes focus on a different part of the room.

Many owners of small companies aren’t aware that they are legally obliged to have up-to-date health and safety documentation (including workstation risk assessments) if they employ five people or more. For a competent risk assessor to carry out these risk assessments, please visit clearworld.co.uk. For a 10% discount, please mention DOHR at the time of booking.

Haydn Glick (Tech IOSH), Clearworld Health & Safety Ltd.

Recharge the Batteries

07 Dec
by Donna Obstfeld, posted in Annual Leave, Blog, Employees, Employers   |  No Comments

The festive season is nearly upon us, the new year is looming, staff are flagging and lookingHoliday forward to a few days off. If you work in retail – not a chance, prepare for the onslaught – Christmas and the January sales. If you work in an office or a manufacturing environment, you might be in luck. Many offices and factories close for at least the three bank holidays, some even close for the three working days between Christmas and New Year. Us, well we are closing for a few extra days as well.

We all need a break and recharging the batteries is absolutely essential to achieving an engaged workforce who are healthy, motivated and highly focused on delivering a fantastic service to clients. In many companies the annual leave (holiday) year runs in line with the annual calendar and therefore for many, this is the last opportunity to take unused holiday time. Many companies operate a ‘use it or lose it’ policy and as long as they have given employees  the opportunity to use the time, the onus is on the employee to ensure they ‘claim’ everything they are entitled to.

It is really important that an annual leave policy is clearly documented: that staff know when they can take their holiday, what their entitlement is, how bank holidays are treated and are aware of any ‘black out periods’ when the business is at it’s busiest and holiday can not be taken.

Rules such as the number of staff allowed to be off at any one time and any priority given to parents required to take leave during the school holidays should be communicated so that expectations are managed appropriately.

Good practice dictates that managers ensure leave is spread throughout the year and that staff know what holiday time they have left. They should be encouraged to have used at least half of their leave before the end of Q3 with the rest of their leave planned, authorised and booked appropriately.

Holiday pay can be confusing for some employees and the complexity may occur with part time or term time only staff. It is essential that the contract of employment provides the formula for calculating holiday pay and / or holiday entitlement. All entitlements for part time staff must be pro rated based on the full time entitlements i.e. if the normal working week is 40 hours and an employee works 20 hours, they are a 0.5 full time equivalent (FTE). Therefore the annual leave entitlement is pro rated and if the full time employee has 30 days holiday including bank holidays, the part time employee has 15 days including the public and bank holidays which fall on their normal working days.

Ensure your employees have the opportunity to recharge their batteries – it will be better for your business.Christmas holidays

Flexible Working

08 Aug
by Donna Obstfeld, posted in Blog, Carers, Employees, Employers, Flexi-time, Flexible working, people manaagment   |  1 Comments

 Within your business, you are obliged to take eligible employees’ requests for flexible working arrangements seriously.

It is your right as an employer to determine whether a flexible working request will be detrimental to delivering your business services / products to your clients and you are able to reject requests for flexible working as long as you comply with the regulations.  You could also consider a trial period, but once agreed any variation to working conditions are permanent and become contractual.

You may ask who is eligible for flexible working.  By law, there are three groups of eligible employees as follows:

  • Employees who care for a child aged 16 or under
  • Employees who care for, a disabled child under 18
  • Employees with elder care responsibilities

However, employees must also qualify for flexible working by:

  • Having been employed  by the business for  at least 26 weeks (continuous service)
  • Be the parent or guardian of a child as defined above or be married/a partner of the parent as defined above.
  • If the request is linked care for an adult, the employee has to be a relative of the adult in question.
  • Not having made a request for flexible working within the last year.

If all of the above is in order then your employee making the request should submit a formal ‘request  form’ in line with the Company’s policy. The onus is on the employee making the request to detail the nature of the flexible working request i.e. to work from home, to change hours, to job share etc. together with mitigating actions required to ensure minimal disruption to the business.

The employer must consider and respond to applications within 28 of receipt and either hold a meeting to discuss any modifications to the application / alternative options or accept the request in writing.  If a meeting is required to discuss the application, a mutually convenient appointment should be made and a decision given within a fortnight of the meeting.  Time periods are flexible subject to agreement by both yourself and your employee.  It is also possible to agree a flexible working arrangement on a trial basis (normally up to three months), and if the arrangement is not working within that time, the trial can be terminated, again complying with the regulations.

Any changes to employment patterns agreed must be documented and no further requests for varying work arrangements can be made for at least a year after the initial application, regardless of whether you, the employer, accepted or rejected their first request.

As an employer, if the flexible working request is proven to not work for your business (for example it may have an unacceptable burden of additional cost or require a structural change) then you are at liberty to refuse the request, but you must document the business reasons for this.

Employees are able to appeal against a decision of refusal but must do this within 14 days of the date of decision.

Flexible working can work in many circumstances, but sometimes it just doesn’t do the business justice to accept an application.

While the law allows requests from three specific groups, many businesses, both large and small have allowed all employees the right to request flexible working. By adopting a flexible approach for all workers, many businesses benefit from longer operational hours of business, multi-skilled employees covering different shifts and greater holiday cover.

For further information on understanding flexible working, developing policies and procedures and protecting your business when receiving a formal request, contact enquiries@dohr.co.uk or call 01923 504100.

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 enquiries@dohr.co.uk

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 enquiries@dohr.co.uk

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 enquiries@dohr.co.uk or call 01923 504100

Job Sharing

01 Oct
by Donna Obstfeld, posted in Employees, Employers, Flexi-time, Flexible working, HR, HR Policy, Job Sharing   |  No Comments

For most employers, a job does not shrink just because an employee applies for flexible working and as a result many employers are resistant to job share arrangements.

The truth is, that for many employers job sharing is just too scary. It is not the way things have traditionally been done and it is a step into the unknown. Employers can’t imagine trying to work out who does what, how they will ensure consistency and continuity and how they can afford two people.

What they do not often think about is the advantages of having two people who know the job (if the job is shared) and therefore being able to provide sickness and holiday cover; or the advantages of having employees dedicated to a discrete area of work (if the role is divided) and therefore becoming more expert or proficient in that field.

The cost of job share is minimal as the employee only gets paid for the hours they work, they usually share facilities such as a desk and the cost of their pension contributions, if based on a % earned will remain unchanged. So the only additional costs may be health care or life assurance (if offered) or other similar benefits.
The key to a successful job share is communication. It is important to ensure that the job is well defined and that the whole organisation knows who to approach and when. Communication between the job share employees is vital to ensure efficiency and continuity of service to the business, its suppliers and its customers.

Another essential factor is getting the right people in the roles. If the role is shared, the job holders must be great team players, they must be able to work and thrive within a team and not be possessive of their role. They must also be highly motivated and driven to do a good job so that bits of the job are not continually left for the other person and end up never being done. Getting recruitment right is essential.

When an employee applies for job sharing, they may be doing so under the flexible working legislation. If so, there is a duty on the employer to seriously consider the request and to respond within specified timescales. Although there is an obligation to consider the request, there is no obligation to grant it, but if the employer decides not to allow the arrangement, their decision has to be based on specific criteria. The employer can reject the request if the proposed changes result in:
• a burden of additional cost
• a detrimental effect on the business’s ability to meet customer demand
• an inability to re-organise work among existing staff
• an inability to recruit additional staff
• a detrimental effect on quality
• a detrimental effect on performance
• an insufficiency of work during the periods the employee proposes to work
• a planned structural change

With the improvements in technology, the need for employers to compete for top talent and the desire to retain high performing employees, job sharing is becoming more popular. Employers who look after their staff and allow them to work in patterns they are able to, generally find that the employees are more productive while at work and perform to a higher level as they are more motivated and focussed.

To find out more about job sharing, your obligations as an employer and the HR Policy you need in place, please visit us at www.dohr.co.uk or call us for a chat.

HR ……. How will the election affect employers?

06 May
by Donna Obstfeld, posted in Election, Employers, HR   |  No Comments

I wish I had a crystal ball. I want the truth. I want to know what each of the political parties will really do to help employers.

“We will protect jobs
We will reduce youth unemployment
We will increase NI by 0.5%
We will not increase VAT (yet)
We will relocate 15,000 civil servants from London
National Minimum Wage increases are needed”

DO employers consider the impact on their business when choosing who to vote for?

Have any of the political parties won the hearts and minds of employers?

Share your views as an employer or an employee.

No matter who wins the election today, DOHR will be here to help you remain legally compliant with the ever changing employment legislation and ensure your business is stronger as a result of your employees.

Can you afford to give employees time off to train?

14 Apr
by Donna Obstfeld, posted in employent law, Employers, Human Resources, training   |  No Comments

On 6th April 2010, the law changed to allow all employees to request time of to train.

Here are some of the issues which need to be considered:

  • Will the training benefit the employer as well as the employee?

If it won’t benefit the employer, you can turn down the request.

  • Will you give the time paid or unpaid?

There is no requirement to pay salary while an employee is taking time off for training, even if it will benefit the employer.

  • Will you pay for the training?

Again, there is no need to pay for the training, even if it will benefit the employer.

  • By saying yes to some employees and no to others, you may open yourselves up to discrimination claims.

Have a clear policy and procedure and communicate the criteria you will judge all applications by.

To find out more about the new legal entitlement to request time off for training or for assistance with your policy development, please contact us.