Bullying & Harassment

06 Mar
by Donna Obstfeld, posted in Blog, Bullying, Discrimination, employee rights, Equality Bill, Health and Safety, Video, Vlog, Wellness   |  No Comments


Employers are obliged to protect staff from bullying and harassment. Generally, this is in terms of discrimination, but may include anything from their favourite football team, what a person wears, their hobbies or their mannerisms.

Employers are obliged to ensure that the work environment is mentally safe for everyone and therefore free from bullying and harassment.

Prevention is better than cure and employers can be held vicariously liable if they don’t take adequate steps to prevent bullying and/or harassment taking place.


05 Mar
by Donna Obstfeld, posted in Blog, Discrimination, employee rights, Employees, employent law, Employment, gender, HR, Maternity, Part-time Workers Act, Policies and Procedures, Race Discrimination, Recruitment, RIsk, Sexual Orientation, Video, Vlog   |  No Comments


Well written policies and procedures which are communicated and applied consistently are the key to ensuring that the risk  of discrimination is reduced as much as possible.

Employees (as well as workers and job applicants) could bring claims for discrimination on the basis of Age, Gender, Race, Beliefs, Marital Status, Disability and Sexual Orientation.

Care must be taken not to over generalise i.e. “everyone must wear trousers” or “everyone must work on a specific day of the week” as this could have a disproportionate negative impact on a sub sect of your workforce. Therefore you end up discriminating against some, as a result of trying to treat everyone the same.

Too old for work?

30 Mar
by Donna Obstfeld, posted in Blog, Discrimination, gender   |  No Comments

I am absolutely useless at guessing a persons age.

Whether they are a child, a young adult, a mature adult or an octogenarian, I am just one of those people who can’t tell how old a person is.

I was once told that we needed to organise a gift for a fellow member of an organisation for his 100th birthday.

 “100, are you sure? Can we check that with someone? There is no way he is 100, I had him down for mid to late 70s!” Chess

This little old man was absolutely incredible. He loved chess and still taught it in schools and clubs. On tournament days, he loved nothing more than walking up and down the ranks of players, assessing their positions and providing feedback to them after the game. He would be on his feet from 9 am – 5 pm with a short break for lunch.

100? How?!

With the abolition of the default retirement age (DRA) in April 2011, business owners are increasingly struggling with effectively managing older workers.

The risk of an employment tribunal (ET) case against them for age discrimination looms large over the heads of many employers who are too scared to have a conversation about:

  • Poor performance
  • The employee no longer able to cope
  • The number of mistakes being made
  • The excessive time taken to complete simple tasks.

We are increasingly being asked to help manage older workers out of the business, but in many cases the older worker has been with the business for 20+ years, is part of the furniture and ‘as good as family’.

One client had a 75-year-old caretaker who still insisted climbing ladders to change lightbulbs and cycling home in the dark after locking up the hall following council meetings.

Another client has tried to have a conversation with a member of staff who is making far too many mistakes, only to be told that they will have to carry him out dead as he has no savings, this is his only income and he has no intention of retiring…. ever!

And I had to persuade my own grandma at 80+ to retire as her colleagues were having to redo all her work due to the number of mistakes she was making. How do you tell someone who had run her own businesses, been a highly efficient secretary / PA and had in her latter years been working for a family friend who had known her since he was 5 years old, that she could no longer do the job for which she was being paid?

I could go on.

The harsh reality is that with no DRA, if you want to go belt and braces to avoid the risk of an ET, you have to performance manage the older worker out and that means disciplinary and ultimately dismissal.

For most of our clients this is the least preferred option. They have respect for these workers, they like these employees, in many cases they have learnt a lot from these employees and yet ……..

There is no effective, watertight alternative.

70 womanA BBC article this week disclosed the statistic that the number of women retiring in their 70s has doubled in the last 4 years, from 5.6% to 11.3%. For men the number retiring in their 70’s is 15.6%.

There are lots of reasons for the increase including people living healthier for longer, pensions not being sufficient to support longer lives and people wanting to ‘have a purpose’ for longer.

While there are many advantages for business owners such as an experienced and committed workforce, the disadvantages are beginning to mount up.

Not only are some older workers no longer able to cope, but deteriorating health of themselves or their partners begin to lead to increased absences.  There is also a lack of vacancies for younger workers to join the business and progression is often blocked resulting in people leaving as more senior positions are filled with older workers.

When the older workers do leave, there is then a skills gap in the business as experienced people have left to progress their careers elsewhere.

So what are the options?

  • We have already mentioned performance management and capability disciplinaries leading to dismissals.
  • Redundancy is another option, but with an older worker who has been with the business for 20+ years, this can be expensive.
  • Another way to have a discussion with an older worker about their retirement plans is to have a without prejudice, protected conversation. If you go down this route, it will probably – although not always – result in a settlement agreement and a payment equal to or in excess of redundancy.
  • An alternative might be through a medical process. You would need to have a conversation with the employee and get permission to write to their GP. You would then hopefully receive a report from the GP that supported your concerns about the employee in the workplace. However, a GP is unlikely to tell the employee to retire and may make suggestions such as cutting down on hours or changing to lighter duties.


A great time to start a discussion about retirement might be as part of a goals and aspirations discussion as part of the appraisal process.

Asking all employees on an annual basis where they see themselves in 1, 3 and 5 years time can be very powerful. It enables you to support growth of your up and coming talent and it can facilitate a conversation about retirement with your older workers.

As a business owner, being able to gain an insight into the heads of your employees, understand what drives them and what you need to do to develop (or exit) staff is essential for the long-term health of your business.

As with many things in HR, there is no single golden solution, there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach. The route that you choose to go down will depend on you, your business culture, the employee concerned, your relationship with them and in some cases, your approach to risk.

There is no age-related need for an employee to retire; you can’t make them retire and any botched attempt to do so has the potential to end at the Employment Tribunal.

Extreme care should be taken and expert support sought at the earliest stages, before a friendly conversation is used against you.

Is this an issue that’s affecting your business at the moment?  If you’d benefit from a brief telephone call about it, give us a call now on 01923 504100 or hit reply and let us have your thoughts.


15 Dec
by Donna Obstfeld, posted in Blog, Discrimination, Video   |  No Comments

This is one you need to understand to ensure you protect your business!
Boring – Yes!
Essential – Yes!
Expensive if you get it wrong – Yes!

Special Needs

05 Dec
by Donna Obstfeld, posted in Blog, Disability Discrimination, Discrimination, HR, Interviewing, Recruitment, Video   |  No Comments

People don’t need to be employees to take an employment tribunal claim against you (although they usually are, or have been). Job applicants who feel they have missed out on a job due to discrimination can also lodge an employment tribunal claim and therefore taking any special needs into consideration at the recruitment and interview stage is really important.



If you need any support with recruitment or interviewing, give us a ring or take a look at our Interviewer’s Toolkit.



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 enquiries@dohr.co.uk 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.