PeopleTalk March 2016

30 Mar
by Donna Obstfeld, posted in Newsletter   |  No Comments

140915_6860 - editedFrom  Donna’s Desk

Spring is in the air and as March sets in, Easter looms and the start of the new tax year is just around the corner, it is time to have a spring clean; to brush away the business cobwebs of winter hibernation, to take a fresh look at the green shoots of your business, to sow the seeds of a successful summer and then to harvest the rewards. Just like the evolving seasons which need to be respected and behaviour adapted based on environmental conditions, your business needs the right amount of planning, food, water and light to help it grow. Spring is an invigorating time of year for most of us and it should be for your business too.

Take a clean piece of paper and a sharpened pencil. Right down the three things which will make a real difference to your business this year. Now for each of those ‘goals’ identify the things which need to happen to ensure you achieve those goals. What do you need to do this quarter, this month, this week and today to ensure that in 12 months time, you have achieved those goals?

Enjoy this month’s newsletter and as always, if you have any thoughts, comments or content for us, please let us know.

Private messages made public. Who’s watching you?

Employers are being warned against ‘snooping’ on staff, despite the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruling that this is actually allowed under certain circumstances.private messaging

Bogdan Bărbulescu, an engineer in Romania, had been using Yahoo Messenger to chat with his family as well as professional contacts, and had asked the ECHR to rule that the company had breached his right to confidential correspondence by accessing his personal messages.

He claimed that his employer had violated his right to correspondence and was in breach of the Constitution and Criminal Code by accessing his communications. However, his complaint was dismissed on grounds that his employer had complied with dismissal proceedings and the complainant had been informed of company regulations which stated that it was “strictly forbidden” to use computers, photocopiers, telephones, telex and fax machines for “personal purposes”. Bărbulescu appealed, claiming his e-mails were protected by legislation – the right to respect for private and family life, the home and correspondence. However, the Court of Appeal held that the employer’s conduct had been reasonable and that monitoring had been the only way to establish whether a disciplinary breach had occurred.

Ben Willmott, head of public policy at the CIPD said the ruling was “not a green light for businesses to start snooping on employees. The line between work and personal life is becoming increasingly blurred. We know that the working day rarely fits into a nine-to-five mold any more. Employees often respond to work emails on personal devices outside of usual working hours so it makes sense that, on occasion, they may want to engage in social correspondence during the working day on a work device.”

Our advice is to ensure that you have a clear policy on the use of company facilities for personal use and on your right to monitor communications into and out of your business. This policy needs to be documented and communicated to all staff and, as with all policies and procedures – applied consistently throughout your business.

Embedding policies by communicating them, ensuring adequate training is provided and keeping an audit trail such as signed acceptance forms will all help to reinforce your policies and provide you with a defense should you ever need it in an employment tribunal.

In business, give and take is essential, especially where you require your staff to work long hours and to monitor emails in an evening or over a weekend. Allowing employees to use company equipment for personal use can buy you credit with your staff and encourage them to go the extra mile, but you still have a business to run and your staff need to know and respect the difference between reasonable use and abuse.

Ask the Expert!

140428_7577One of my employees is on a zero hours contract but most of the time works he works 9am – 5pm, five days a week.   Is that acceptable or should I change his contract?

The Government has recently issued revised guidance for businesses which employ workers on zero hours contracts. The guidance gives examples of what is considered “inappropriate use” of zero hours contracts and states that zero hours contracts should not be used as a permanent arrangement for an employee who works set hours each week, even if the hours worked are part-time.  For example if an individual is asked to work, from 9am to 1pm, Monday to Wednesday for a 12 month period, it may be more appropriate to offer that worker a permanent part-time contract or even a fixed-term contract.

Zero hours contracts would only be applicable if the hours you are asking an employee to work are variable from week to week and day to day, and are therefore not consistent. Zero hours contracts are rarely appropriate to run the core business, but might be useful for unexpected or irregular events such as bereavement leave or where the business has varying levels of workflow i.e at different times of the year.

Furthermore, from 11 January 2016, employers are no longer able to restrict zero hours employees from working elsewhere whilst in employment with you. Zero hours employees have the ability to make a complaint to an employment tribunal if they have been dismissed or subjected to a detriment or they had been prohibited from working for another employer. No qualifying period is required to bring this type of claim.

As a result of these changes and the guidance issued, businesses need to review whether employing zero hours employees is in fact appropriate. Ultimately it will depend on the individual circumstances, but due consideration should be given to issuing such employees with a standard full or part-time contract instead.

If as a result of these changes, you need to change the contract of employment for any of your staff, you should seek advice before issuing an existing employee with a new contract as prior consultation needs to take place. It is imperative that the new contract reflects the fundamental terms contained within the zero hours contract, such as the rate of remuneration and job role, so that the worker does not suffer any detriment by the change.

New Pay Rates

As you already know, there is a new National Living Wage coming into force in April. This means that if you employ anyone over the age of 25, you must pay them at least £7.20 per hour.

As a quick guide, the following rates apply as a minimum from 1st April 2016:

Hourly Rate Annual Salary per hours per week
Age   35 37.5 40 45 48
Apprentices £3.30 £6,006.00 £6,435.00 £6,864.00 £7,722.00 £8,236.80
16 – 17 years £3.87 £7,043.40 £7,546.50 £8,049.60 £9,055.80 £9,659.52
18 – 20 years £5.30 £9,646.00 £10,335.00 £11,024.00 £12,402.00 £13,228.80
21 – 24 years £6.70 £12,194.00 £13,065.00 £13,936.00 £15,678.00 £16,723.20
25 years + £7.20 £13,104.00 £14,040.00 £14,976.00 £16,848.00 £17,971.20

Calculating Holiday Pay

The majority of employees are paid their annual salary in 12 equal monthly instalment, but new case law now means that it is no longer just the basic pay which is paid when an employee is on annual leave.

There has been hours and hours of tribunals and appeals involving Unison, British Gas and an employee called Locke. I am not going to bore you with the details here, but if you pay a sales commission to an employee whilst they are away on annual leave, you still need to pay them commission as if they had been at work.

The industries we expect this to affect the most are estate agents and recruitment agents, but there will be numerous businesses all around the country now trying to find a legal way of calculating pay while an employee is on annual leave. We do expect further case law in this area as various scenarios are ‘tested’, but we would prefer our clients not to be the guinea pigs!

The way in which each employer will deal with this change will vary depending on their contracts of employment, commission structure and the nature of their business. We will ensure that we raise annual leave pay with our clients over the next couple of months, but if you think this change affects you, please do call your nominated HR advisor for a personal discussion.

Quotes of the Month

March is the month of Mother’s day and National Women’s History. Through the centuries, many courageous women have stepped forward to fight inequality and to champion causes for the benefit of society. Their work to break down barriers has allowed future generations of women to pass through with significantly less resistance.

In 1975, International Women’s Day was developed. Women’s History Week is a progression of that, and Women’s History Month is a further extension. Throughout the month, various community events, internet blog series and television programmes will be staged to look back on women’s’ achievements, to celebrate the progress made by women around the world and to remember that there is still plenty of work to be done .

  • “Parents can only give good advice or put them [children] on the right paths, but the final forming of a person’s character lies in their own hands.” – Anne Frank
  • “As you become clearer about who you really are, you’ll be better able to decide what is best for you – the first time around.” – Oprah Winfrey
  • “Seize every opportunity you have, embrace every experience. Make a mark, for all the right reasons.” – Chrissie Wellington
  • “Plan your work for today and every day, then work your plan.” – Margaret Thatcher
  • “People tend to forget their duties but remember their rights.” – Indira Gandhi

Jacqui Frost Profile PhotoMissed business opportunities if you don’t have your phones answered properly – Jacqui Frost

Each month we bring you the thoughts, learnings and insights from a guest writer. This month, it is our privilege to introduce you to Jacqui Frost, founder of The Office Genie, a call answering service and back office support company.

Opportunities Are Never Lost…

I recently came across a quote that literally sums up the reason for my entire businesses existence in just two short sentences. It read…

“Opportunities are never lost; someone will take the ones you miss. Seize the moment”.

You see, I often come across businesses that are unknowingly pushing potential clients straight into the hands of their competitors and I’m willing to bet that they are losing out on a fairly large chunk of money in doing so! Think about the last time you tried to find a new mechanic or book in with a new hairdresser, was it a simple process? Or did it consist of you flicking through an online directory trying salon after salon or garage after garage just waiting for someone to pick up the phone?

If I told you that you could be much more profitable by simply picking up the phone, you’d probably say I’m bonkers! But it’s a fact that when someone calls a business with a genuine enquiry they are usually at the very end of the conversion process, all you need to do is answer their questions and make the sales process as simple as possible, but do you think that playing telephone tag is the simplest way of selling? Unfortunately, in our fast paced and desperately competitive world, by the time you call them back to make the sale, they’ll more than likely have purchased their goods elsewhere, resulting in a missed opportunity.

Answering your phone really could be the difference between £100 profit or £10,000 profit – which would you prefer? I understand that many industries require hands on work, work that you can’t simply drop just to answer the phone so you need to ensure you have measures in place which means your business can be available even when you aren’t.

We at The Office Genie offer telephone call handling support, meaning that we can take your calls, book your appointments and take your payments all whilst you focus on the job in front of you. We grant the wishes of business owners by giving them more time whilst increasing their customer acquisition and retention rates. Our Genies are experienced, professional receptionists and PA’s that provide first class customer service to all of our clients for just a fraction of the cost of a full-time employee.

It’s time to seize the moment!

Time Out!

What HR terms can be found in the word search?

D F W H S I C K P A Y C G Y N N U P L A Q Advert
A P O I U Y T R E W Q A B N W R H Y H N E Application
A D V E R T G J O B D E S C R I P T I O N Assessment
A S D F G H J J K L M B B F R X Z C S W F Employee
Q U A L I F I C A T I O N S A L A R R G B Experience
Z C X V B M N L K K J H G F T F D T F C D Interview
A S C F H J Y T B G T G B T E S T I N G F Job Description
S K I L L S F G T H T G H J K Y T R G B E Psychometric
A E M P L O Y E E D F F C G Z X U W B C X Pay
B L H Y Q Y L H B A U G J L K H F C B A P Qualifications
S D I N T E R V I E W T E S Y B G C V S E Roleplay
T A S C W A B S Y T G V R O L E P L A Y R Salary
N U H B E Y P A Y I J L K G Y F C F D V I Skills
E F G V I D F L S D C V B T A T L D C M E Sick Pay
M M Y C V A P A Y M Q T N L Y L G T F D N Testing

Answers can be sent to us at

Answer to last months’ Time Out!

The answer to last months’ time out, yes, you got it!



This new section of our newsletter is designed to help you think about the people you have in your workforce, plan for absences, be sensitive to their causes & beliefs and facilitate conversations around some of the issues raised and how they might impact on your employees and as a consequence, your workplace.

This month, you need to be aware of the Easter Weekend and ensure that you correctly calculate, deduct or pay for your bank holidays in line with your company policies and procedures.

March is:

  • Awareness Month for:
    • Prostate Cancer
    • Ovarian Cancer
    • Cerebral Palsy Awareness
  • Save Your Vision Month
  • Women’s History Month
1st Zero Discrimination Day Secular
Saint David’s Day
Intercalary Days (end) Baha’i
2nd Nineteen Day Fast (start) Baha’i
3rd World Book Day UK
5th Saint Piran’s Day Christian
6th Mothering Sunday UK
Orthodox Sunday Orthodox Christian
Meatfare Sunday Orthodox Christian
7th Maha Shivaratri Hindu
8th International Women’s Day
13th Cheesefare Sunday Orthodox Christian
L. Ron Hubbard Birthday Scientology
14th Clean Monday Orthodox Christian
17th Saint Patrick’s Day
Bank Holiday Northern Ireland / ROI
19th Saint Joseph’s Day
20th Palm Sunday Christian
Spring Equinox
Ostara Wicca / Pagan – Northern Hemisphere
Mabon Wicca / Pagan – Southern Hemisphere
21st Naw-Rúz (New Year) Baha’i
Norooz (New Year) Persian / Soroastrian
International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination Secular
World Down Syndrome Day
22nd World Water Day
23rd Magha Puji (Sangha Day) Buddist
Holi Hindu
Purim begins at sundown Judaism
Lord’s Evening Meal Jehovah’s Witness Christian
24th Maundy Thursday Christian
Hola Mohalla Sikh
25th Good Friday Christian
Annunciation to the Theotokos Orthodox Christian
Bank Holiday England, Wales, Northern Ireland & ROI
26th Holy Saturday Christian
27th Easter Sunday Christian
British Summer Time Begins
28th Easter Monday Christian
Bank Holiday England, Wales, Northern Ireland & ROI
Khordad Sal (Birth of Prophet Zaranthushtra) Zoroastrian

Welcome to New Readers:

Lee Bradburne

Simon Hutchings

Chris Schemilt

Matt Hardy

Snezana Knowles

PeopleTalk January / February 2016

01 Feb
by Donna Obstfeld, posted in Newsletter   |  No Comments

From  Donna’s Desk140915_6860 - edited

With Christmas and the New Year now almost a distant memory and work life back in full flow, this month’s newsletter is full of useful business ? and HR hints and tips to make 2016 your best year yet. How will you know if it’s your best year? Well, you need to set targets, have plans to achieve those targets and measure your success against those targets. Easy enough to say, but just like New Year resolutions, the best intentions are often in the waste paper basket by the end of January (if not sooner).

This month (and year), we are going to help you to focus on your business, your people and your success. As anyone who has heard me speak at conferences will know, balancing the needs of your customer and their businesses with the needs of your business, your staff and your own desires is like walking a tight-rope: two steps forward, wobble, a slight step backwards, get your balance …. And then begin the process again! It takes practice, slow patient steps, feedback, adjustment and balance all in just the right proportions. Running a business is not something which people are instantly good at and making sure you have the right knowledge and feedback, in a timely manner is just as important as goal setting, decision making and leadership if you are going to have a truly successful business.

As always, we would love to hear from you. If there is anything you would like us to do more off, less of or differently …… just let us know.

140428_7577Ask the Expert!

I want my employee out but don’t want to follow any lengthy procedures or offer any money for my employee to leave. When can a Settlement Agreement be used and will the company then walk away scot free?

The use of Settlement Agreements can be massively advantageous, not just for employers but for employees too, if used correctly. Settlement Agreements are essentially a formal, legally binding agreement made between an employer and employee (or ex-employee) in which the employee agrees not to pursue particular claims that they believe they have, in return for a financial payment.

If an employee has more than two years’ service, there is always the risk that a claim could be brought especially if the company have failed to follow the correct procedures in terminating the employment. Even if the employee has less than two years’ service there are a number of other claims an employee could bring if applicable, for example, discrimination or breach of contract.

Issuing a Settlement Agreement is often an effective way of ending the employment relationship and has many advantages, especially:

  • If there has been a disagreement/relationship breakdown between employee and employer
  • Cost of preparing a tribunal response outweighs the cost of a Settlement Agreement
  • Avoids risk of reputational damage/bad publicity
  • Employment Tribunal claims that have a strong chance of succeeding
  • The company may have been at fault in its treatment towards an employee
  • Redundancy situations
  • Employee grievances with colleagues
  • Underperformance, disciplinary or misconduct issues
  • Sickness absence

The Settlement Agreement usually contains a number of important clauses whereby:

  • Both parties agree to keep the details of the Agreement confidential and not to make detrimental statements about one another.
  • The employee agrees to return company property, including any documents or computer hardware and software.
  • The employee agrees to resign as director or company secretary and transfer any shares it may hold.
  • The employee may want provision of an agreed reference from the employer.
  • What amounts the employee will receive on termination including any notice pay, holiday pay, wages and any non-contractual (ex gratia) sums paid as compensation for loss of employment under the terms of the Agreement.
  • The employer agrees to contribute towards the employee’s legal costs. In most cases, this could be a sum in the region of £200 to £400.
  • A tax indemnity from the employee.
  • Confirmation that the employee has not knowingly committed any breach of their employment contract or breach of duty owed to the employer.

In order for a Settlement Agreement to be legally binding, a number of important conditions must all be fulfilled, such as:

  • The agreement must be in writing.
  • It must relate to the particular complaints.
  • The employee must have received independent legal advice as to the terms and effect of the proposed Agreement and there must be relevant insurances in place.
  • Both the employee and their advisor must sign the Agreement.

Only once the Agreement has been signed by both parties will it become a legally binding document.

Settlement agreements are complex legal documents and it is not possible to adopt a ‘one size fits all’ approach to drafting them. They must be specifically drafted and tailored according to the facts and circumstances of each particular case.

Michael Leigh Talks ResilienceMike Leigh

There can hardly be a less stressful job in the glare of publicity than that of a football manager!! Barely a week goes by without pundits and fans clamouring for the replacement of the manager – often by someone who is only available because he has recently been relieved elsewhere. Just ask Louis Van Gaal! As Business Owners can we learn something from their ability to rebound from tough times – even to be stronger than before?

We are all hit by challenges – but it is how we meet them that makes a difference. In my experience, it is possible to develop an emotional toughness to overcome the inevitable “bumps” in the road. I would like to share some crucial tips which have proved to help Business Owners overcome a significant setback such as the loss of a major contract or even liquidation.

  • Set a successful outcome – frame a clear sense of direction of what you really want making sure it is stretching but not an impossible dream. We all know that committing on paper a set of goals has a magical effect of achieving what we set out.
  • Take control of the situation by seeing the situation in perspective – Seldom do I find footballers say anything profound – but I like Carlo Ancelloti’s self-awareness when he stated “Football is the most important of the LEAST important things in life.” It is vital that we place the business obstacle in context of our overall life. Our health or the health of loved ones, is of more importance than the loss of a customer. We can rebuild the company fortunes if we are optimistic – but dealing with health issues are much more difficult.
  • Manage your anxiety to channel this to make better decisions – it is natural that as the Owner of your business you have developed self-doubts through the setback, so take measures to boost your self-esteem. Do not focus on beating yourself up – look to your support group to help reinforce your strengths and stimulate confidence in your own abilities. Above all, reframe your attitude to business opportunities to that of “pragmatic optimism” to evaluate the risk and TAKE a decision. We all know people who prevaricate to the point that events make their decisions – not them!
  • Improve yourself – evaluating some of the possible causes of the setback, commit to continuous education by reading or joining webinars or attending a seminar. It is important to incorporate that learning in everyday business life – or you will have wasted the time and money!

However, above all be authentic to your true character. I have met people who have consumed the “Dale Carnegie” lessons assiduously – but it comes through that this is not their natural persona!

I also encourage business owners to develop their physical side as well as their emotional dimension. We all know how endorphins can boost your behaviour – so any form of activity will be useful to boosting resilience.

2016 promises to be every bit as volatile as 2015 – we all need to know how to bounce back from seemingly 10 foot high hurdles. I hope employing some of my tips will allow you to scale them with confidence!!!!

Quotes of the Month

This month, seeing as we are in the month of January, I have based the quotes of the month around goal setting. A lot of people set goals and make resolutions for the New Year. So read these quotes for inspiration and encouragement to keep up the good work!

  • “Setting goals is the first step in turning the invisible into the visible.” – Tony Robbins
  • “Make each day count by setting specific goals to succeed, then putting forth every effort to exceed your own expectations.”Les Brown
  • “Put 100 percent into what you’re doing. Set goals for yourself, know where you want to be and take small steps toward those goals.” – Kristi Yamaguchi

2016 employment law changesEmployment Law – What to Expect in 2016

A number of employment law changes are on their way this year.  Here are a few things to look out for:


Zero Hours Contracts:  Changes to the law in 2015 made exclusivity clauses in zero hours contracts unenforceable.  New regulations come into force on 11th January 2016 to provide some remedies for zero hours workers.  The Regulations give zero hours workers the right not to be unfairly dismissed (with no requirement for any qualifying period), and the right not to be subjected to a detriment for failing to comply with an exclusivity clause by working elsewhere.


National Living Wage:  The National Living Wage will be introduced for workers aged 25 and over on 6th April 2016.  A 50p premium will be added to the current minimum wage rate, setting the first National Living Wage at £7.20.   Statutory Payments: The Government has said that there will be no increases to statutory rates this year. Statutory Maternity, Paternity, Adoption or Shared Parental Pay, Maternity Allowance and Statutory Sick Pay all remain unchanged for the 2016 / 2017 tax year and will remain at £139.58 or 90% of the employee’s average weekly earnings if this figure is less than the statutory rate for family related rates and £88.45 for sickness.  Changes usually come into force in April.


National Minimum Wage increases will take place as usual on 1st October, but the new rates have not yet been announced.

Date to be Confirmed

Public Sector Exit Payments:  Changes to public sector exit payments are expected this year.  It is envisioned that a cap of £95,000 will be imposed on the pre-tax value of exit payments made to most public sector workers. In addition, it is expected that claw back provisions will be introduced, requiring employees who leave the public sector to repay some or all of their exit payments if they return to the public sector within 12 months of their departure.

Gender Pay Gap Reporting: The introduction of regulations that will require public and private sector employers with 250 or more employees to publish information showing differences in the pay (and bonuses) of male and female employees are expected sometime in the early part of this year.  The aim is to increase transparency and to reduce the gender pay gap.

Case law to watch

A number of important court decisions are also expected this year. These will come from both the UK and European courts and may result in necessary changes to your policies and procedures. If you are a retained client, we will be in touch if changes are required. If you are an ad hoc client and would like us to make changes to your contract of employment or handbook, just get in touch.

  1. Holiday pay – The ongoing issue as to whether commission should be included in holiday pay – Locke vs British Gas –
  2. Religious and racial discrimination –
    1. The wearing of an Islamic headscarf and whether there is a genuine occupational requirement not to wear it – Bougnaoui vs Micropole Univers SA and Achbita vs G4S Secure Solutions NV
    2. A Core Skills Assessment test discriminated against older BME candidates – The Home Office vs Essop,
  3. TUPE service provision changes – The treatment of an employee on permanent long term absence – BT Managed Services vs Edwards
  4. Collective Redundancy Consultation – How to define the term ‘in good time’ when commencing consultations – USA vs Nolan
  5. Whistleblowing – The interpretation of when an employee reasonably believes  a disclosure is being made in the “public interest” – Chesterton Global vs Nurmohamed
  6. Tribunal Fees – The challenge to the introduction of tribunal fees on grounds of indirect discrimination – Unison vs Lord Chancellor

Team News

As businesses evolve, changes take place and this month we have lost Lorraine Petken from our team. Lorraine had been with us for 16 months and we wish her all the best for the future. On a short term basis, Brenda is increasing her days so she will now be working Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday 9am – 5pm. If you are affected by this change, we will have been in contact with you directly to let you know who your new primary advisor is. As always, if your primary HR advisor is not available, another member of the team will be able to assist and they will bring your advisor up to speed as soon as possible.

Time Out!

What HR term can be found in the anagram – Teenager Melts Me Tent

Answers should be sent to us at

Answers to last month’s Time Out!

Irma Macs Mari Mira Rica
Sims Thai acts ahis aims
airs airt aits amir amis
arch arcs arms arts asci
cams cars cart cash cast
cats chai cham char chat
chia chis chit cist cram
cris hair hams harm hart
hast hats hiss hist hits
ichs isms itch mach macs
mair marc mars mart mash
mass mast math mats mica
mirs mish miss mist rais
rami rams rash rath rats
rias rich rims sacs sari
sash sati scam scar scat
sham shat shim shit shri
sics sima sims sirs sith
sits smit sris star stir
tach tahr tams tars tass
thir this tics tram trim

Welcome to New Readers:

Amanda Barnett

Daniel Martin

Newsletter December 2015

04 Jan
by Donna Obstfeld, posted in Newsletter   |  No Comments

From  Donna’s Desk140915_6860 - edited

What a month it has been. The day I got the final proof for last month’s newsletter, I had to pull the front page. It had contained our big announcement – we had found a new home, just one year after taking our first offices, we were moving onwards and upwards to bigger and better things due to our continued growth and success.

However, as I said, I needed to rewrite the front page – just four days before taking up residence I took one of the most bizarre calls I had ever taken. Now, I am a fairly good judge of character and I can usually tell if someone isn’t being completely straight with me and this call left me with the distinct feeling I was being lied to. What emerged over the following 24 hours is that I had had a lucky escape.

The call was from the legal director of the company I was renting from. He told me I could no longer have the offices. He couldn’t tell me if this was a short term or permanent situation. No indication if we were talking a week, a few months or ever. Did I feel a bit paranoid, you bet I did. Did I feel even more paranoid when the estate agent wouldn’t take my call…. Oh yes. Did I panic? No, surprisingly not. I made two phone calls and then decided to go bury my nose in a good novel and not to do anything else until the morning. My two calls…. One to my current landlord to see if I could keep my office – nope! He had taken a deposit that morning. Fortunately I had given two months notice, so I had until 18th December to find us a new home. Call two was to the Broadband provider to stop BT going and installing my broadband line.

That night I went to bed and figured I would start dealing with the problem the following day when I was less emotional.

The outcome is, that a couple of weeks down the line, I am very relieved not to have had that particular company as my landlord and I am spending A LOT of time finding us the right new home. We will be moving into temporary offices mid December, but we want our permanent home to be the right new home and we will of course keep you posted.

So many lessons from this little experience, even down to asking estate agents who the landlord is when I look at office space.

That’s it from me for this year. All that remains is for me to wish you a very happy, successful, prosperous and healthy new year.

Charlotte introduces herself

Charlotte w. JktHi. I’m Charlotte Mitchell DOHR’s brand new apprentice. I joined the business in October and have thoroughly enjoyed my first two months at DOHR! I will be assisting Donna and the team with DOHR’s social media, marketing and of course the business administration. Previously I have worked as a customer service assistant at Homebase. This role helped me to perfect my communication skills and enabled me to gain experience working within a commercial business.

I have studied media for the past 6 years and is I’m a bit of a wiz (if I do say so myself) when it comes to all things media and marketing! As a subject, media instantly captured my attention as I found it relevant yet challenging and a real outlet for my creativity. Every project I completed as part of Media Studies has broadened my knowledge and understanding of media and marketing as a whole. One project I particularly enjoyed was creating my own promotional package for a horror film. This involved: developing an idea for a horror film, writing a script, selecting actors and suitable locations, filming and editing the horror film trailer. I also created a magazine front cover and poster which was part of the promotional campaign. My other A-levels gave me the opportunity to consider the influence of media and marketing on wider society. For example, Psychology has encouraged me to consider how the media impacts on human behaviours such as eating patterns, aggression and addiction. English Literature allowed me to develop and broaden my writing skills. I have always been a keen writer and I won a poetry competition and had my own version of Martin Luther King’s poem ‘I Have a Dream’ published in the book ‘I Have a Dream 2009 – Words to Change the World.’ Winning such a competition was a source of great pride for me and I look forward to future opportunities to have work printed.

I am extremely excited to get involved and contribute to DOHR by updating the Facebook and Twitter accounts and editing the website. I am looking forward to creating recruitment and marketing campaigns and attending exhibitions and networking events. I have already attended a BNI morning, The Business Show Exhibition at Olympia, the Entrepreneurs Circle Success Summit in Birmingham and the Get Connected Expo in Watford.

Ask the Expert

We employ several employees of foreign origin. Is it acceptable to ask them to communicate in English while at work?

It is fine to ask employees to speak in English so long as you are able to objectively justify140428_7577 it. Failure to justify it could amount to indirect discrimination against a worker. Objective justifications could include the need to avoid misunderstandings, whether legal, financial or health and safety related and would include the need to create a cohesive workforce.

While employers may be able to justify a rule requiring communication to be carried out in English, a blanket rule requiring all communication to be in English is unlikely to be justifiable. For example, there may be no business reason why employees should have to speak in English during their work breaks or otherwise outside working hours. Even during working hours, a prohibition on informal, casual conversation in a language other than English is likely to be unjustified, particularly if the role is not customer focused and some workers have problems with the English language or speak very little of it.

The Equality Act provides that where a workforce includes workers who have difficulties speaking English, the employer should consider taking reasonable steps to improve communication. Such steps might include providing training in language and communication skills, or providing interpreting and translation facilities, such as multilingual safety notices to ensure that all workers understand health and safety requirements. The code can be used in evidence in legal proceedings and courts and tribunals must take account of any part of it that might be relevant to a question arising during those proceedings.

The Immigration Bill, which is currently before Parliament, includes a provision aimed at ensuring that every public sector worker operating in a customer-facing role must speak fluent English (or Welsh in Wales) in the workplace. Whether this will be extended to non-public sector workers remains to be seen.

Quotes of the month

This month I share with you some of the learnings from the great Michael Gerber who atthINLQ7UOV the age of 79 is an inspiration to many of today’s entrepreneurs and business owners. He has written over 20 books mostly around his E-myth concept. He also has another book coming out in 2016.

“Most entrepreneurs are merely technicians with an entrepreneurial seizure. Most entrepreneurs fail because you are working IN your business rather than ON your business.”

“The greatest business people I’ve met are determined to get it right no matter what the cost.”

“My experience has shown me that the people who are exceptionally good in business aren’t so because of what they know but because of their insatiable need to know more.”

Answers to last months Time Out!

How many of the 43 4 letter words could you find in the word INTERVIEW? The answers are below:

erne even ever ewer
inti iter neve nevi
newt nite rein rent
rete rite rive teen
tern tier tine tire
tree twee twin veer
vein vent vert vier
view vine ween weer
weet weir went were
wert wine wire wite
wive wren writ

This month we ask how many words can you make from the word Christmas. Remember, we are not playing Scrabble here! Prize for the person who sends us the most words. Your entries can be sent to

Welcome to new readers:

Gemma Lang

Adam  Joseph

David  Hall

Chris   Voss

James Caplan

Georgina Foreman

Craig   Bell

PeopleTalk – May 2014

02 May
by Donna Obstfeld, posted in Newsletter   |  No Comments

Managing Director, DOHR LimitedWelcome to this edition of PeopleTalk. Spring is now well and truly here, the new tax year has started and employees are starting to look forward to their summer holidays. Next thing we will know, Christmas will be around the corner! In this edition we look at the new statutory rates applicable this year, the use of e-cigarettes in the workplace and the steps you need to take to ensure your compliance with the immigration regulations when employing non EU nationals.


Are you paying them right?

There are statutory rates which apply to several aspects of employment from sickness to maternity and from National Minimum Wage (NMW) to Redundancy. In the past some rates have increased in February, some in April and the NMW in October. This year most rates changed in April and only the NMW changes in October.

From 1st April 2014, Maternity, Paternity and Adoption pay increased to £138.18 per week (or 90% of pay if less than the statutory amount). Statutory sick pay increased to £87.55 per week and the amount used when calculating a maximum week’s pay for the purposes of statutory redundancy pay will be £464 per week, an increase of £14 per week.

The NMW adult rate will increase to £6.50 per hour, giving a full time employee working 40 hours an annual salary of £13,520. Employers paying below this level need to start planning for the increase now. To see a full breakdown of rates, take a look at our free downloads page.


We have often been asked how best practice, case law and legislation differ and e-cigarettes may be one such area which moves through these stages, eventually being subject to employment legislation.

Since 2007, people have not been permitted to smoke in an enclosed public space and therefore smoking in the workplace, including in Company vehicles, was banned. However, e-cigarettes were not around then and therefore the definitions do not appear to extend to the use of e-cigarettes.

Employers need to decide if they will allow employees to ‘smoke’ at their desk or to provide somewhere (not the smoking area) for them to take ‘e-cigarette breaks’.

To date there is no relevant case law, but this looks set to change as a dispute between a driver of a waste-disposal vehicle and his employer looks set to go to the employment tribunal.

The driver was summarily dismissed for, allegedly, smoking while operating a company vehicle. He is defence is that he was using an e-cigarette and therefore not ‘smoking’ and that he was not aware the smoking rules extended to e-cigarettes. He was disciplined and the employer found against him at both the disciplinary and appeal.

The driver appears to be fighting his case and will take his employers to an employment tribunal and his legal fees are reportedly being met by his e-cigarette manufacturer.

Case law is sure to follow and potentially employment legislation after that. At this stage, employers need to take a decision about their policy towards e-cigarettes, document it, communicate it and follow their procedures to ensure they meet the needs of the employees without exposing the business to the risk of a claim.

To get an e-cigarette policy written for your business, call us now on 01923 504100 or email us at


Top Tips for protecting your business when hiring non EU workers.

The Immigration Bill was announced on 10th October last year and has caused much debate since. Ultimately the Government is aiming to reduce immigration, employers need to be aware of the affect the key proposals will have on their business and how it will change their responsibilities when employing foreign nationals.

The following 10 points outline key changes to consider.

1. Right-to-work checks

As part of the recruitment process, right-to-work checks must be carried out to ensure that only those who are legally entitled to work in the UK are employed. The checks will be simpler and reduce the number of acceptable documents.

2. Higher civil penalties

Currently, if employers are found to be employing an illegal migrant without undertaking the necessary checks, they may be subject to a civil penalty of up to £10,000 per worker. The new law increases the maximum penalty to up to £20,000 per illegal worker, with a starting point of £15,000 for a first-time offence.

3. Director and Partner liability

The Government has supported the proposal that directors and partners of limited-liability businesses should be held jointly liable for penalties, and action will be taken against businesses that fail to pay the civil penalties imposed for employing illegal workers.

4. Warning letters abolished

At present, a warning letter is issued to businesses for a first-time breach of the right to work, under the new law this will no longer happen. The Government believes that businesses should be aware of their responsibilities and take appropriate action up-front.

5. Annual checks removed

At present employers must carry out an annual check where migrant workers have time-limited visas. This check is being removed and employers will simply be required to undertake a follow-up check at the expiry of the migrant worker’s permission to stay in the UK.

6. Reliance on the Biometric Residence Permit (BRP)

The BRP replaces the visa stamp in a migrant’s passport. The Immigration Bill will place a greater reliance on the BRP and should make it easier for employers to undertake right-to-work checks, which will reduce business costs.

7. TUPE transfer changes

The new law will extend the period from 28 days to 60 days from the date of transfer, in which the new employer has to complete right-to-work checks. In TUPE transfers, the transferee employer must be licensed by the UK Border Agency to sponsor migrant workers in the UK.

8. Students’ right to work

Foreign students can work part time during their study term and full time during their holidays, this can be problematic for an employer. The Bill will require that migrant students provide evidence of their term dates as part of the right-to-work checks to prevent students breaching their visa conditions.

9. NHS charges

Although the Government has not yet agreed the amount of any fee, foreign nationals coming to the UK on a temporary basis for more than six months will be charged a non-refundable fee that may be paid as part of the visa application fee. Employers should take into account any potential additional costs this will entail when considering recruiting a migrant worker.

10. Restrictions on appeal

The Immigration Bill will remove the right of appeal for the majority of immigration applications, reducing 17 rights of appeal to only 4. This may result in some migrants not being able to appeal against unfair immigration decisions. Employers should be aware of the risk of continuing to employ a worker who no longer has a legal right to stay in the UK in circumstances where an employee cannot provide right-to-work documents because of a pending appeal. Employers should consult employment law advisers for guidance on the course of action to take to guard against potential penalties in such circumstances.


Employing workers from overseas has always opened up the proverbial ‘can of worms’, but by adhering to the law and following procedures correctly, it can prove to be fruitful and rewarding for both the employer and the new employee.

DOHR can help you to follow all the correct procedures to guarantee you have the correct internal processes and records to ensure immigration law compliance and to protect your company from a range of risks. These risks include civil penalties, the revocation of a sponsor licence to employ migrant workers or, in severe circumstances even closure of your business. Call us today on 01923 504100 to ensure that your practices are compliant or email us on

Interns / work experience

We are often approached by both schools and individuals looking for work experience. This is an essential tool for enabling youngsters to make informed career decisions and to gain invaluable experience in the workplace. So many of our clients complain about the lack of practical hands on experience school leavers and graduates and find it hard to recruit people with suitable skills.

We would love to hear from companies who are able to offer a week or a month of meaningful work experience. We can then contact our schools and individuals and help to make a suitable match.




As always, if you want any more information about any of the issues raised in this newsletter, give us a ring on 01923 504100, email us at or visit our website

PeopleTalk – January 2014

17 Jan
by Donna Obstfeld, posted in Newsletter   |  No Comments

DOHR LimitedWelcome to our first newsletter of 2014. The DOHR team wishes you a happy, healthy and successful year in which your business not only survives, but thrives.

This month we focus on employers’ obligations in the areas of pay and we take a look at issues around time off. We update you on our recent blogging activity  and offer you a special little something.




Many employers like to think what they pay their staff is up to them, but although partly true, there are several regulations which employers must comply with and failure to comply can lead to fines.

National Minimum Wage

The National Minimum Wage was first introduced in 1999 when the Low Pay commission was set up. The rate for employees over the age of 21 was £3.60. It was believed that just under 2 million employees were earning less than this. The rate is revised every spring and an annual increase takes effect in October each year. The current rate for employees over 21 is £6.31 (a full list of age related rates together with annual salaries can be found on our resources page). There are currently calls for the next increase to be more substantial as a result of the improving economy and the increased cost of living. While broadly accepted, there is significant concern among small employers who may be forced to reduce headcount or hours to ensure affordability.

All employers must comply with these rates and failure to do so leads to financial penalties. Employers who are found guilty of under payment may have to pay each employee what they are owed, plus a fine of an equal amount up to £20,000 for each underpaid employee. If approved by Parliament, these new fines could come into force in February. The key to making this work is rigorous enforcement and there is a suggestion that employers who fail to comply will be named and shamed.

Equal Pay

Equal pay legislation has been on the statue books since 1970, but still causes employers significant problems today and only last month, the latest figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) showed a gender pay gap of 10% an increase of 0.5% on the previous year. Birmingham City Council have announced that they may need to sell off Council property such as the NEC to meet their Equal Pay claims.

When setting salaries, it is essential that employers ensure a fair, transparent and non discriminatory pay and grading structure is in place. Employers of all sizes can find themselves with an equal pay claim.

Part time workers

Legislation protecting part time workers came into force in 2000 and is designed to ensure that part time works are treated equally to comparable full time employees. Their rates of pay, bonuses and access to benefits should all be equal to full time colleagues albeit on a pro rata basis where practical – cars, healthcare, life assurance etc are all full benefits regardless of the hours worked, but pay and pension contributions should be pro rated, but at the same rate i.e. £10 per hour or 5% of gross salary respectively.

If found to be in breach of this legislation by an employment tribunal, compensation will be awarded to the employee at a level set by the tribunal.

Time off

Apart from annual leave and bank holidays, there are many reasons why an employee may take time off from work. Typical reasons for leave are sickness, child or elder care responsibilities, jury service, reservist duties, marriage, house moving or bereavement.

It is essential that all organisations, both large and small, have clear documented policies on time off entitlements and corresponding pay entitlements. It is also really important that policies are applied consistently across the business to ensure fairness and avoid the risk of discrimination or excessive costs to the business.

There has recently been a lot of debate about time off as a result of bereavement. Everyone reacts differently to death and there is an argument for a more flexible, individual approach to leave and pay in the event of bereavement.  Common practice is that an employee would be given five days unpaid leave in the event of the death of a close relative – parent, spouse, sibling or child. Common grey areas are best friends, grandparents and in-laws. There is also often issues raised about the days leading up to a death and the time between the death and the funeral as this can vary significantly between different cultures and traditions.

There is a call for statutory paid time off in the event of a bereavement and a need for employers to demonstrate compassion and understanding when dealing with bereaved employees. Bringing a grieving employee back to work after just a few days can have a significantly detrimental impact on the employees, their colleagues and their work. While some people will want to get back to work as quickly as possible, for some (especially in the case of sudden, unexpected deaths), there is a real need to come to terms with their loss. Employers could loose excellent staff permanently if they don’t support them appropriately in their time of need.

Clear policies and procedures are essential and these should be written with compassion and a desire to support and retain employees over the long term.

HR Blogs

While not prolific bloggers, we do try to keep our readership engaged with relevant HR issues. Recently blogs have included “Pupils and Abusive Relationships: How can HR help?” and “How well does your school promote equality” for our educational sector clients and “Who gets the money” and “Interesting Interview Techniques” for our commercial clients.

Do take a look and join the conversation, leaving us your thoughts, comments and questions on our blogs. If you have a topic you would like us to cover, do let us know.

Thank you

Our business grows on referrals and therefore for the first three months of this year, we are offering a referral ‘Thank You’. If you refer a new client to us who is invoiced between January and March 2014, you will earn yourself (or your business) a £25 Marks and Spencer voucher as a Thank You from us, to you.



PeopleTalk – December 2013

12 Dec
by Donna Obstfeld, posted in Newsletter   |  No Comments


DOHR LimitedWelcome to December’s PeopleTalk. The end of the year is in sight and 2014 is looming. The new year is always an opportunity to make changes, either to yourself, your business or both. Take a step back and take time to reflect: What is important to you? What does your business need from you in the next 12 months? What do your staff need from you? What do you need from them? Set goals: Personal ones, Business ones and goals for your employees to achieve. Document the goals and find someone to hold you accountable for progress towards achieving those goals. Think about what you want your business to look like 12 months from now and work out (with help if necessary) how you are going to achieve that vision.


It is with great sadness that we bid farewell to Deidré Hattingh. Deidré has been with DOHR for 18 months in a hybrid role of PA, HR Administrator and Recruitment Advisor. Deidré and her husband have decided to move to Australia and we wish them all the best in their new ventures. Deidré will be sorely missed, but we are recruiting and hope to be able to announce a new member of the team shortly.



HR for Schools

DOHR are delighted to announce their new specialised HR support for schools service. School teacherWhile we have supported a number of schools and nurseries in the past, we are now actively targeting independent schools, Free Schools and Academies from Early Years to Further Education. Ideal referrals for us are Head Teachers, Bursars, Business Managers and Finance Managers. If you know of a school which would benefit from our pragmatic approach to HR, please do pass on our details.

Annual Leave

Check your annual leave policies and ensure staff know what they have left and by when Holidaythey have to use it. Many of our clients only offer the statutory minimum (28 days including public and bank holidays) and therefore employees can not carry annual leave forward. If in doubt, check your contracts and handbook or give us a ring.

Health and Safety

In October, the regulations previously known as the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations (RIDDOR) 1995 were amended and are now known as RIDDOR 2013.

Apart from the change in name, the following changes have been made in order to make the requirements for reporting as simple as possible:

  • Major injuries, which must be reported immediately are now classified under eight headings of specified injuries to workers.
  • Industrial diseases, of which there was previously a list of 47, has now been replaced with a list of eight categories of work-related illness.
  • The categories of dangerous occurrence that require reporting have been reduced to just three categories.

Anyone who would be considered to be the “responsible person” within their organisation should familiarise themselves with the revised regulations, which can be found at

If you require any assistance with your Health and Safety, get in touch with us at H&


Discrimination comes in many guises and allegations of discrimination may only arise once an employee becomes disgruntled about something else. It is essential that even if you think you are doing the right thing to help one employee out, you consider the implications for everyone else. You must be consistent, follow documented policies and procedures and only deviate from those procedures if you understand the risks of doing so.

We have made the CIPD Diversity Calendar available on our website, so for over 240 key calendar dates, make sure you take a look at this essential guide.


Recent and Forthcoming Legislation

1st September 2013

  • Employee shareholders – employees can receive between £2,000 and £50,000 worth of shares, exempt from capital gains tax. In return, employee shareholders will give up their right to claim:
    • unfair dismissal (apart from automatically unfair dismissal)
    • redundancy pay
    • the right to request flexible working (except within four weeks of their return from parental leave)
    • time off for training.

They will also have to give 16 weeks’ notice of their return from maternity leave instead of the usual eight.

Prospective employee shareholders will be entitled to legal advice, paid for by the employer, before taking up a job offered on the new terms.

1 October 2013

  • 3rd party harassment – employers’ liability for the harassment of their employees by third parties (such as customers) has been removed from legislation as the government believes these provisions are unworkable.

6 April 2014

  • Early conciliation – in the future all employment tribunal claims will have to be filed with Acas first, and only proceed to a tribunal if no settlement has been reached after a month.
  • Discrimination questionnaires – used by employees to establish whether there is the basis for a discrimination claim against their employer will be removed from legislation

Spring 2014

  • Flexible working – the right to request flexible working (currently only available to parents and carers) is to be extended to all employees with at least 26 weeks’ continuity of service. There will be a duty on employers to consider all requests in a reasonable manner. Organisations will be able to refuse requests on business grounds.


  • Shared parental leave – employed mothers with partners, both of whom meet the qualifying criteria, will be able to end the mother’s maternity leave and pay and share the balance as flexible parental leave and pay. Existing rights to maternity and paternity leave and pay are unaffected. Mothers will still have two weeks’ compulsory maternity leave, but they can then share the remaining 50 weeks’ leave and 37 weeks’ pay.
  • Adoption – the same rights to maternity leave and pay, and shared parental leave, will be available to adoptive and surrogate parents. One prospective adoptive parent can have five occasions of paid time off, and the other can have two occasions of unpaid time off, for pre-adoption contact visits.
  • Ante natal care – fathers will be given the right to take unpaid leave to attend two antenatal appointments.
  • Surrogacy – Arrangements similar to those above will be made in circumstances of surrogacy.

Christmas holidaysOffice Closure

The DOHR offices will be closed for the festive season from 5pm on Friday 20th December 2013 until 9am on Monday 6th January 2014. For assistance with urgent HR issues during this time, please text 07710 546381.

We would like to take this opportunity to wish you, your team and your families all the best for the festive season and a happy, healthy and successful 2014. Donna, Brenda, Fiona and Sonal.

PeopleTalk – October 2013

01 Oct
by Donna Obstfeld, posted in Newsletter   |  Comments Off on PeopleTalk – October 2013

DOHR LimitedWelcome

Well Autumn is here, the kids are back at school, Halloween, Bonfires night and even Christmas are all approaching fast. Before we know it we will be welcoming in a new year. But before I wish our lives away, this month’s PeopleTalk is full of useful and interesting items for you and your business. We are delighted to update you on a new project for the team here at DOHR, we will be out on the road during the next month and look forward to seeing many of you on our travels and, with the New National Minimum Wage coming into effect on 1st October, we give you all a final reminder in your preparations.

HR Support for Schools

DOHR are delighted to announce a new specialist HR support service for schools. Working with the leadership teams primarily within Free Schools and Academies, DOHR will be ensuring appropriate support is in place for all compliance and HR support issues for both teaching and support staff. We are also one of the sponsors at this years Education Business Awards.


To support our growth, we are also recruiting for a Senior HR administrator. Ideally we are looking for someone who has experience within an LEA environment. If you or someone you know is interested in applying for this role, please contact us at

National Minimum Wage

The new National Minimum Wage came into effect on 1st October 2013. For full details, take a look at our free download, but in summary the new rates are as follows:



16 – 17 years


18 – 20 years


21 years +


DOHR on the Road

DOHR Managing Director Donna, will be speaking at the Best Business Expo on 10th October. To join the HR seminar entitled “Walking the Tightrope”, book your tickets for a day full of networking and business ideas.

Donna will also be talking at The Business Show at Olympia on 28th November. In her talk “Getting it right, getting it wrong” current and potential employers will explore the pitfalls associated with employing staff and how to avoid them.


Our blog is regularly updated and often contains useful information on topical HR issues. Make sure you check in regularly and we do encourage you to share your experiences on the issues we blog about.

Trusted suppliers

Our business grows through word of mouth recommendations. We work with a lot of useful business to business providers and if you are looking for a service such as a payroll provider, solicitor or plumber, please feel free to pick up the phone and ask for a recommendation, we are far safer than flicking through the yellow pages.

HR in the news

We have a new page on our website called HR in the news. It is not being updated on a daily basis, but when there are specific HR related issues in the UK press, take a look at our page and we will give you a view and point you at an article which can give you further information.

PeopleTalk – September 2013

03 Sep
by Donna Obstfeld, posted in Newsletter   |  No Comments

DOHR LimitedWelcome to the September newsletter for DOHR. We have lots of information for you this month and are delighted to introduce you to our two lovely new team members.  Also this month we provide you with a brief legal update, a reminder about the need for risk assessments and details of a first aid course. As the new school year starts, we are also asking you if you are willing and able to take on a student and provide essential work experience.

DOHR is Expanding

I am delighted to be able to introduce you to two very capable new members of the DOHR team. Sonal Ruparelia joined us on 15th July and is already very involved in supporting our clients and has proved a capable pair of hands while I have been away. Sonal’s bio can be found here.

Adding further capability and expertise to our team, Fiona Mendel joined us on 12th August. Fiona is an employment lawyer who has specialised in working with small businesses. Fiona has joined us as Senior HR advisor and will have her own portfolio of clients as well as supporting the rest of the team and our clients with the ever increasing employment legislation. Here profile is available here.


As many of you are aware, we are active bloggers, but not obsessive! We try to get at least one article a month onto our blog. Topics are usually topical, often based on real client issues and always aimed at small businesses. Our latest blog on Doctors signing staff off with depression can be read here and has sparked interesting debate on some of the LinkedIn groups. If you have had experience either as an employer or as an employee, please do share your thoughts here.

If you have topics you would like us to cover, please let us know. If you want to add your views to our blogs we would love to get some discussions going on line, just press the comments link for the relevant blog.

Employment law updates

July has seen the introduction of a highly controversial piece of employment law which is certainly aimed at helping employers. Its place on our statute books is not yet confirmed as there is a challenge going thought the courts, but at the present time, anyone wishing to bring an employment tribunal against their employers is going to have to pay a fee to do so. Full details will be available in a blog shortly, so do check back regularly.

In addition, the compromise agreement used by some employers to remove employees from the organisation in a low risk way, has been renamed ‘settlement agreements’.

First Aid Training Course

One of our clients has some spaces on an emergency first aid course on Saturday 12th October. The course will take place in Watford and cost £120 per person. Please contact us for further details.

Risk Assessments

It is essential that you have up to date risk assessments for your business. If you need help with these, please get in touch. It is a legal requirement to keep these up to date. If you have staff working from home, they need to complete home worker risk assessments.

Annual Leave

HolidayWith the summer holidays drawing to close, it is time to review how much holiday staff have left until the end of the year. It is important that staff spread their annual leave fairly evenly throughout the year and don’t save it all until the end of the year when there may not be time for them to take it. If you don’t give anything above statutory, annual leave can not be carried forward. If you are going to close over Christmas, now is the time to let staff know. If they need to save holiday days for this period, make sure you communicate it now, clearly and in writing.

Work Experience

Are there projects you just don’t have time to get to? Does your website need updating or your social media require some tender loving care? Are there client databases which need some cleansing? If so, a student on a 1, 2 or 3 week work experience placement may provide your business with a cost effective solution while giving a young person some essential exposure to the world of work. We have a number of schools with a wide variety of students seeking different career experiences. If you are able to help and give a young person some vital work experience, please do get in touch with us at or on 01923 504100 to discuss the options further.

PeopleTalk – June 2013

13 Jun
by Donna Obstfeld, posted in Newsletter   |  No Comments

Welcome to June’s edition of PeopleTalk. This month has already seen us exhibiting at the Great British Business Show at London’s ExCel on Thursday 6th and Friday 7th June. With an estimated 47,000 visitors through the door it was a really exciting two days for us. Donna ran a seminar entitled “HR for SMEs” and despite the noise from surrounding seminar rooms and the exhibition itself, we had some great interaction with the delegates.

This month, we also look at the changes to the employment tribunal system and the introduction of Employee Shareholders. As always, if you need any help with your HR / people management, we are here to support you, by phone, email or in person.

Changes to the Employment Tribunal

Upsetting employees to the extent that they take a claim against you in an Employment Tribunal is not recommended! At DOHR we work really hard to keep all of our clients out of the tribunals, but sometimes you come across an employee who thinks they will take a chance. They find a solicitor willing to tell them what they want to hear and the next thing you the employer knows, you have a claim against you – sometimes fair, but so often completely unfair. However, some changes are being made to introduce fees in the employment tribunals and the employment appeals tribunal (EAT). It is hoped that these fees will put off the speculative litigant / chancer, freeing up the tribunals to deal with genuine cases. These fees are being set at £250 to raise an issue with the tribunal and £950 if it goes to a hearing. These fees will apply for most types of claim including unfair dismissal, discrimination and whistleblowing. Where the case is simpler i.e. a clear breach in employment legislation such as unlawful deductions from wages or errors in statutory redundancy payments, the fees are being discounted to £160 for raising an issue and £230 for the hearing. There will be some financial support available and the exact nature of this is still being discussed but is likely to be means tested based on disposable capital and monthly income.

Employee Shareholders

We are not at all convinced by this legislation, and nor are any of the business owners or lawyers we have spoken to. The essence is that ‘employees’ will be able to negotiate away many of their statutory rights in exchange for shares in the company. These rights apply to both during employment i.e. flexible working and post employment i.e. the right to bring a claim for unfair dismissal. Should the employee leave the business for any reason, their shares would be paid out.

The Growth and Infrastructure Bill which introduces employee shareholder status received Royal Assent at the end of April with implementation this autumn. The Bill was rejected several times by the House of Lords and in order to get the Bill passed the a number of concessions were agreed. The employee entering to the agreement must get independent legal advice, without this the contract is invalid. As with compromise agreements, the employer needs to pay for this advice. Employers must provide a written statement detailing the number of shares being given and the rights they carry. A minimum of £2000 worth of shares must be provided and they will be exempt from Capital Gains Tax up to £50,000. In addition, a ‘cooling off’ period of seven days will apply.


RecruitmentWe are increasingly asked to support our clients with their recruitment needs. While we are not a recruitment agency and do not hold a database of job seekers, we have a number of tools and processes available to enable us to work as part of your team to find you the right staff. From social media to job boards and telephone interviews to assessment centres, we make the job of filling vacancies, quicker, easier and cheaper. Not having a person in role can cost you more than hiring. Hiring the wrong person can be disastrous for your business as well as your bottom line. If you have a vacancy to fill, please do speak to us about how we can help you.

PeopleTalk – May 2013

02 May
by Donna Obstfeld, posted in Newsletter   |  No Comments


Welcome to May 2013 and our 6th Birthday celebrations. As we enter our 7th year, we have taken the opportunity to look back over our first 6 and reflect at how far we have come and how exciting the future is for DOHR.

Over the years we have supported approximately 140 different clients, from individuals and companies with only one employee to multi-nationals with over 30,000 staff. We continue to support a number of clients on an on-going basis with our retained HR support service, as well as providing a one stop shop HR consultancy service for clients requiring ad hoc advice and help with their employees.

The business has also grown from just our founder Donna, to a team of 3 now able to offer recruitment, training and reward as well as employee relations – we really are a one stop shop.  As well as our HR services, we regularly blog, write for business publications and you often can find Donna guest appearing on BBC 3 Counties Radio.

At DOHR we are increasing the number of clients we are supporting on a regular basis and increasing the services we offer. So, if you or people you know need help with any aspect of their Human Resources Management, do get in touch.

Annual Leave

We know …… spring is barely here and we are already talking about the summer holidays, but as the warmer months approach, it is essential that we turn our heads to summer and start thinking about the leave that our staff will inevitably want to take off at some point. Employees are always taking days off here and there, but it is the two or three week blocks that everyone wants, and often at the same time during the school holidays, that causes problems, especially for small businesses.Holiday

So, what can employers do to protect themselves, their sanity and their business during the holiday season?

The first thing is to plan. Make sure your staff know what entitlement they have and any rules around taking leave are clearly documented and communicated.  A holiday policy may include a cap on the number of days that can be taken in one go, a cap on the number of people allowed off at the same time, a minimum notice requirement i.e. at least a month if you want a week and two months for two weeks.

Secondly, ensure that any black out periods are clearly communicated well in advance. Examples of a black out period may be two weeks during an end of season sale or tax year end for an accountancy practice.

In addition, it is important to ensure that staff do get a proper break, not just a series of 1 and 2 days at a time. This is essential for motivation, recharging the batteries and the good health of the employee. Ideally, managers should try to ensure that holiday is spread evenly throughout the year and that an employee does not get to the end of the year with three weeks left to take.

Get planning now, the holiday season will be here before you know it.

Discrimination at work

It seems like discrimination cases are never far from the news whether it is older ladies not being allowed to read the news for the BBC, BA employees wearing a cross or Registrars being forced to marry gay couples.

As an employer, it is essential that you are continuously aware of the risks of discrimination, but don’t become obsessed by them. Recruitment, training, promotion, dress code and disciplinary are all areas which regularly come under the spotlight as they differentiate one person from another or seek to treat everyone the same, thereby ignoring individual differences.

The best ways to avoid the risks of discrimination are to have clear policies, properly communicated and easy to understand. Managers and staff should be trained properly (if appropriate) and policies and procedures should be followed at all times. Even for small companies, there is the risk of a claim as the law applies equally to everyone regardless of size. The difference is; if as a small employer you end up in a tribunal with a case against you, the fines and costs are likely to sink your business.

The key is to be aware, be cautious and be prepared, but don’t become paranoid. 

DOHR on tour

At DOHR, we recognise that small businesses don’t usually put their HR in place proactively – we would love you to, but we are also realistic! Many of our clients only come to us when they have a problem and sometimes this makes our job slightly harder and a little more protracted, but we always work with employers to resolve their HR issues.

So that our future clients can find us, we are very active on social media (and I urge you to connect with us online in the usual ways) and regularly exhibit at local business shows.

On 16th May, we will be exhibiting at the Best Business Expo at The Riverside Centre in Luton. We will also be offering mini consultations at the event and encourage you to book your slot now by emailing us on As a special show offer, we are offering a 10% discount on an annual subscription to any new client signing up as a result of their consultation at the show.

June 6th and 7th sees us attending The Business Show at Excel. This is a massive show with some amazing business names. We will send out separate booking information for this show, so do keep an eye out for more details. Donna will be holding one of the business seminars at the show 3:30 on Friday afternoon, so do make sure you join us there.

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