zero hours

Further consultation on Zero Hours Contracts

The Small Business, Enterprise & Employment Bill 2014 introduces (amongst other things) measures aimed at prohibiting the use of exclusivity clauses within ‘zero hours contracts’ – in other words, clauses which would prohibit zero hours employees from holding down more than one job. But the draft legislation does not prohibit other action intended to deter staff from seeking other work – for example, subjecting the worker to a detriment if they seek employment elsewhere. The proposed rules might therefore prove to be toothless in practice. The government has now recognised this problem. It has begun consultation on what anti-avoidance measures may be required.

Views are being sought on the following issues:

• the tactics employers are thought likely to adopt to circumvent a ban on exclusivity clauses;

• whether the government should do more to deal with potential avoidance, how that might be best achieved, and whether the government should legislate now or wait for evidence of whether avoidance is taking place;

• how potential avoidance could be dealt with;

• whether there should be consequences for an employer if they circumvent a ban on exclusivity clauses and, if so, what those consequences should be; and

• whether there are any potentially negative or unintended consequences as a result of the wording of the legislation.

If you would like assistance understanding zero hours contracts, please feel free to contact me at

(or them!)


I have shamelessly stolen this from the HP website as I thought it very pertinent –


Are bad email habits wasting your time? Are bad email habits distracting you, wasting your time, and causing miscommunications with clients, employees and others? Making a few simple changes to the way you handle email will help you improve focus, save time, and communicate more effectively.
[Cat Comment and quote – ‘bad habits are like a comfortable bed; easy to get into but hard to get out of’ – now’s the time to try]

Here are five (/six) bad email habits that could be holding you back and positive alternatives to get you moving forward.

Bad habit #1: Sending emails late at night, early in the morning, and on weekends. This sends clients the message that you’re on call 24/7, so they treat you that way—which ultimately stresses you out. It also sends employees the message that you expect them to be on call 24/7—which stresses them out.
Instead, try: Limiting the hours during which you and your employees send work-related emails. Prohibiting email from, say, 10 p.m. to 6 a.m., will give everyone time to unplug, rest, and recharge.
[Cat Comment – I personally would echo this strongly! I made the mistake of doing this in a past life only to be told off for not replying one night as they had expected me to!]

Bad habit #2: Using email to discuss topics best suited to other means of communication. Overly complicated emails lead to confusion, while scheduling meetings by email leads to endless chains of “reply all.”
Instead, try: Finding alternate ways to communicate complex or sensitive subjects. Use calendar tools to plan meetings, IM or chat to discuss simple topics, and phone or in-person conversations to deliver bad news or hash out complex issues.
[Cat Comment – come on – who’s guilty of emailing their colleague sat next to them!? hand ups! Come on be honest!!]

Bad habit #3: Setting alerts to be notified of every incoming email. Getting pinged every time you receive an email is distracting and makes you less efficient and productive.
Instead, try: Turning off alerts (unless you’re waiting for a very urgent email). Set specific times to check email, such as in the morning, before and after lunch and in the late afternoon.
[Cat Comment – classic time mismanagement advise – turn off the alerts as they distract you from the job at hand]

Bad habit #4: Using vague, unclear subject lines. Generic subject lines like “Hey” or “Meeting” or “Question” require recipients to open the email to see what it’s about and makes it harder to search for relevant emails later on.
Instead, try: Using specific, detailed subject lines to speed comprehension and save time.

Bad habit #5: Sending overly long and complex emails. With more users checking email on their mobile phones, an email that’s too long will likely never get read—it will just get ignored.
Instead, try: Limiting email length to five brief sentences, max. When more detail is necessary, use attachments.
[Cat Comment – don’t bore me, use bullets if there’s a lot needed to be shared or use paragraphs properly]

Also consider using email rules to automatically sort incoming messages so you can focus on the most important ones first, and un-subscribing to emails you no longer want to receive (instead of just deleting them every day) [Cat Comment – careful doing that as it often alerts the phishers that it’s a genuine email address].

[Cat Comment – Bad Habits #6 – read them before you press send, it saves time having to recall and resend when you realise you haven’t attached that attachment, you didn’t spell check it, or you xx’d at the end like your client was your mate!]

By changing your bad habits, you’ll gain control of your email, become more productive, and communicate more clearly with employees, partners, and customers.

What other bad business habits would you like to break? Let me know …

I just wanted to add my 10 pence worth of guidance to help my clients through these ‘interesting’ few days (can you tell from my tone I’m not the greatest football fan in the world!?)

With stats stating between 2.5 and 3 million working days being lost as a result of this global event we can’t ignore it (try as I might). So a few bullet points below

    • Flexible Approach?
      • Consider allowing shift swaps, short notice holidays or flexible working arrangements where they can make up their hours. Can you rota people to take turns?
    • Outfit & Behaviour Expectations?
      • Will you allow football shirts in customer facing roles? Remind your staff of the ‘being under the influence of drink or drugs at work’ rules, and remind them of what they can and can’t do on social media
    • Opportunity to treat staff?
      • Have you thought of treating this as an employee incentive? Giving them an extra couple of hours off if they do x, y or z?
    • Treatment?
      • Make sure you treat all requests for time off etc fairly and equally so you don’t fall foul of any of the ‘Protected Characteristics’ such as race (England vs Croatia games for instance) Sex (a man can have the time but you refuse a woman) or age (letting a younger man have the time to go to the pub with his footie team, but not an older man have time to go play golf) to give just a couple of (extreme) examples
    • Betting?
      • Will you allow sweepstakes, what are your rules about cash handling on site?
    • Absence policy?
      • Do your staff know what your policy is? Do they know to call in sick and by when, and the consequences if they do so? You should tell them that absences during World Cup will be closely monitored and any employee found to have flouted the rules could face disciplinary action. Manage it carefully
    • Live games?
      • Will you allow streaming through the computers, radios to be blaring out or even provide TVs in work areas? Your choice but think about it now and set the expectations
    • Last but not least – Enjoy!

At least most matches are after ‘normal working hours’ unlike in 2002, when games in Japan and South Korea were played in the morning before working hours, which might have added to poor attendance and lateness.  Yes it might encourage staff to disappear early or arrive late to work the next day after a heavy night, but with the help of the above you should be ready for it.

Now – who’s with me and cheering for Scotland? (She says hiding behind the sofa from her Scottish hubby who didn’t find that funny)

I think this is a timely reminder from Macroberts LLP regarding ours ability to express ourselves via the magic that is twitter. I am an avid tweeter, but have always managed to draw the line – here’s why


In a fresh warning to be careful what you post online, this week saw two individuals plead guilty to sending threatening tweets to feminist campaigner Caroline Criado-Perez. Isabella Sorley, 23 and John Nimmo, 25, from Newcastle and South Shields respectively, pled guilty in Westminster Magistrates Court to sending messages of a menacing character by a public electronic communications network, contrary to the Communications Act 2003. Sentencing will take place later this month with Sorley being remanded in custody until such time; Nimmo received bail.

Caroline Criado-Perez was subjected to the online abuse following her successful campaign to have Jane Austen appear on the new £10 bank notes. The campaign was prompted by the Bank of England’s announcement that Winston Churchill would be replacing Elizabeth Fry, the only female presence on bank notes, on the new £5 notes. The announcement of the campaign’s success was hailed “a brilliant day for women” by Criado-Perez, however others were less than impressed… Criado-Perez was subsequently subjected to a barrage of abusive tweets to her Twitter account including threats of rape and violence.

This week’s events follow previous similar instances which highlight that online abuse will not be taken lightly and could result in criminal action. Notably a 17 year old was arrested in summer 2012 following abusive tweets sent to Tom Daley after he failed to win a medal in the 10 metre synchronised diving event at the London Olympics. Abuse including claims Daley had let his late father down and threats of drowning resulted in the responsible tweeter receiving a harassment warning.

Under s127 of the Communications Act 2003, the sending by means of a public electronic communications network of a message or other matter which is offensive, indecent, obscene or menacing is an offence which could result in up to 6 months imprisonment or a fine of up to £5000. Clearly individuals should not presume that they can hide behind their computer should they choose to post abuse online…

MacRoberts offers comprehensive training on social media and the law.

© MacRoberts LLP 2014
The material contained in this e-update is of the nature of general comment only and does not give advice on any particular matter. Recipients should not act on the basis of the information in this e-update without taking appropriate professional advice upon their own particular circumstances.

Too busy working?


make a life

I left ‘corporate world’ to work for myself, to gain some control over who I work with and what I work on.  I did it to start to enjoy a subject that I actually love – yes I LOVE HUMAN RESOURCES! yes really.  A side effect was that I would get some more time at home, some time to focus on me and some time to, well, just be.

However the world of Threedom Solutions has gone a bit mad since I made the leap. I am on a client site pretty much every day between now and Christmas, whilst also supporting those clients that I am not with on an evening and from afar.

Hummm now what was I saying about ‘time’??

It’s a precious commodity and one I need to regain a focus on, and I fear this will strike a chord in many of you out their who work for themselves – it’s a fine balance between making hay while the sun shines and actually enjoying the scenery whilst you’re in the sunshine.

Pause for thought…

1st impressions

I had cause to revisit this this week listening to my business partner who had suffered at the hands of a series of ineffectual hotel receptionists in Harrogate, who’s customer service was the very last thing on their minds.

On being presented with a key that would not open the door she had hoped for some more assistance than just repeatedly being told to come down to reception – the further point from her room, and get a new key, rather than send someone to help. On top of that there were the chocolates laid out on the table to ‘Ralf’ wishing him a good night sleep from Stuart! had she been given the wrong room in the first place? Well the receptionist were quick enough to come and collect those and find Ralf – maybe they liked him more than her!?  The refusal to acknowledge that the issue was actually theirs, and that her key would not work just staggered her, and me on the retelling, even more so as it was a 4* establishment #sigh

We all know first impressions count so much when competition is so great, it’s these little things that can put you off doing further business or going back again. Selecting the right person for each position within your company is imperative, but the receptionist is probably one of the most crucial. When current or potential customers/guests come to you the first person to greet them is that receptionist.

They create the first impression of your business, whether it’s good or bad, so it’s important to choose the right receptionist for your company’s image. So what do we suggest to help you ensure your reception team creates that crucial first impression?

1.​Brand awareness – make sure they know what image you wish them to portray and ensure they remain ‘on message’.

2.​Clarify their role – Do they know what their duties actually are, not what they might have become? The receptionist’s duties include acting as an ambassador by welcoming people, screening phone calls, setting appointments, and directing client traffic throughout the work day, changing keys!

3.​Keep them busy – Give them the tools to do their job and keep them busy, but not so busy the customer service is lost.  If they have nothing to do they should be aware they need to get something to do! You should ensure they see if other co-workers need assistance etc. In ‘corporate world’ I discovered one of our receptionists doing a cross word under the desk during ‘down time’. If they genuinely have nothing to do maybe it’s time to re-engineer the role to add to it, or restructure the cover arrangements?

4.​Explain communication expectations – It’s about having diplomacy and proper etiquette. Not being overly familiar, but being polite and courteous. Telephones should be answered politely with a standard greeting such as “Good Morning, thank you for calling our company, how may I help you?’. As soon as someone enters they should direct their attention to them, immediately, and give them a pleasant greeting, and an expectation of when that customer will be dealt with if things are busy.

Often we forget just how important these roles are in the company, and how critical their impact is on the future of our business.

Is it time to assess the first impressions made by all your front line roles, be they reception staff, customer service operatives or your sales teams?  Maybe it’s time to consider some secret shopping of your own to evaluate their impact and implement development plans to give you that competitive edge?

Love this – struck a chord

Something Different HR

TheLadders has a great infographic on what it’s like to be a working mom: The infographic touches on what perks matter the most to moms, why those moms continue to work after having children, the impact having children has had on their relationships with co-workers, and the ongoing struggle to balance work and family.

…In the time it took you to read the above paragraph of me rambling about this great infographic you could have checked the whole thing out already; as such, if you haven’t done so yet please give it a view below (and drop by TheLadders blog here afterwards):

What its Like to be a Working Mom HR 11 7 2013

As always, please share your thoughts in the comments below.



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trust puzzle

WHEN it was on the news that the CEO of Yahoo had banned it every blog, article and journalist had an opinion on it – flexible and home working and the question of ‘to trust or not to trust’ employees who wish to utilize this way of working.

But let’s take a practical approach. Flexible or home working (for ease I will use the terms synonymously) is actually a really great method of working – for both the employee and the employer. I’m a staunch advocate for it, in the right place, with the right guidelines, for the right reasons and in the right roles.

My business partner stated in despair on reading the latest reported facts: “if home working is not effective then surely it is about the mind-set of the individual and how they apply themselves”. She agreed it may not be for everyone but wished as a nation we would “grow up and manage the individual, not manage and implement rules to the lowest common denominator”.  Blimey it’s not often I hear her that riled on an HR matter!

So, instead of banning it in its entirety, tarring everyone with the same brush, let’s put some things in place to help make it work.

Educate and train managers and employees alike. It’s not surprising that unsupportive managers are cited frequently in the research as a real blocker to creating a flexible environment. Coaching managers is therefore vital and will help to produce a consistent and fair approach across the entire organisation.

Communicate the aims and benefits of flexible work arrangements. It’s imperative to encourage better communication between employers, managers and employees so that employees and line managers are aware of organisational policies. But please avoid long lists of policies and processes. One key policy and one easy to follow request process will suffice.

Regularly evaluate what is and isn’t working and share success stories. Take time to review where flexible working is successful and compare that to where it isn’t to understand the differences and to identify what is preventing them from working elsewhere. By sharing any success stories you will engage the reticent managers and hopefully encourage more managers to try it.

Track performance. Implement a means to demonstrate the employee’s performance/work rate, be that working from home or working flexibly. There will be less concern and suspicion where sales targets are set, or daily/weekly to-do list statuses are shared, or status reports completed.  That way the organisation and the manager know and can monitor productivity.  One of the main reasons cited by Yahoo was that when they reviewed login times they were inconsistent with expectations – so be clear with the employee, tell them what is expected and advise that you can, and will check.

Introduce other means of communication to help. This is a chance to use new technology – Google Hangouts, Skype, FaceTime or other forms of videoconferencing – which can be used to reinforce the connections and to bring the team closer together.

Trial it. If nothing else, a trial will demonstrate whether it will work or not. Give the team a chance to see it in practice and the manager a chance to properly assess whether it’s realistic and practical. This can be as short as a month or as long as six months. Review it, tweak it and move on, accept it, or go back to a more ‘traditional’ way of working. ‘Nothing ventured, nothing gained’ is my motto here.

Now, I personally would expect some give and take too. When I was returning to work on a four day week I did expect to be available on that fifth day. I wanted people to realise that I did take my work seriously and that I could and would be flexible, but that’s just me. Let’s be clear – a company can ask for that and try and mandate for it but it needs to be right for the individual too.

So, let’s go back to the original thought. Should flexible and homeworking be banned as we are managing to the lowest denominator, or with these simple steps can it be successfully implemented, be a useful tool for engagement and in turn increase commitment and productivity?

I am about to head north of the border, make a dash for the freedom to empty open beaches and spend time in competition with my children searching for the largest crab in the rock pools. Why because its school half term and I need a break.

But holidays can strike fear in the very heart of many an employee and their boss as they have ‘so much to do before they go’ and they will have ‘so much to do to catch up when they get back’.

ScreenHunter_01 Oct. 23 08.27

So are they really worth it?


Because regardless of what you have to, or have not got to, do you need to take time and take a break to reflect, recharge and refocus. All things about becoming more resilient and being more able to cope.  So don’t put your holiday off – grab it and escape.

If you would like to find out more about resilience join us at our bitesize free seminar

Developing Resilience

November 6th 2013

Parkinson Room, 4th Floor, No1 Whitehall, Leeds
9am – 11.30am

Click here to book a place

Saw this and laughed out loud as I prep for our free ‘Developing Personal Resilience’ seminar on Wednesday 6th November in Leeds

ScreenHunter_01 Oct. 21 06.52

It sums up beautifully what some companies feel about the ‘P’ word – Pressure.

They often discard it and dismiss it, ignore it or misinterpret it and that leads to all sorts of other issues. But lets remember there are valid business reasons as to why we should actually do something about pressure before it leads to the ‘S’ word of Stress – here’s just a few

  • improved staff commitment, performance, productivity, recruitment and retention.
  • supporting the legal duty to be pro-active and to take the initiative rather than simply adopting a re-active approach.
  • improved morale and so reduced absence levels and employee turnover
  • Cash flow through less/zero claims

Join us at our seminar to discover the legal reasons why we should support our staff, some more HR assistance and suggestions and get some top personal tips on how to handle it

book here



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