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When Stress Becomes A ‘Problem’ – And How Employers Should Deal With It

Stress is a typical response to an increase in the demands and pressures in our lives. And a small amount of stress isn’t actually a bad thing. It’s good for instilling a sense of urgency, keeping you on your toes and primed for action. But too much stress is counterproductive – and extreme stress can tip us over into very dangerous territory indeed. It can threaten our mental, emotional and physical wellbeing; damage our performance and erode our relationships. Stress is something we all need to understand and watch out for…

The Psychological & Physical Signs Of Stress

Prolonged and/or excessive stress can have significant consequences on a person’s psychological as well as their physical wellbeing. Psychological consequences of stress include irritability, anxiety, low self esteem, and feeling overwhelmed. Physical signs of stress include chest pain, dizziness/feeling faint, hair loss, excessive sweating and insomnia. Experts believe these physical responses to stress are due to the body’s automatic release of cortisol and adrenaline in response to perceived danger (the fight or flight response). Producing high amounts of these hormones can make a person feel physically unwell and affect their long term physical health.

Behavioural Signs Of Stress

These psychological and physical consequences of stress can lead to behavioural changes, some of which may be noticeable in the workplace such as reduced concentration and motivation, shirking responsibility and poor performance.

So When Does Stress Become A Problem?

Stress becomes a problem when it significantly affects the emotional well-being of the individual and/or their ability to function at home, work, or in personal relationships.

What To Do If An Employee Is Suffering From Stress

Whilst there is no specific law in relation to an employer’s obligations to managing stress levels at work, under the Health & Safety at Work Act, employers have a responsibility to ensure the health, safety and wellbeing of staff.

As such, we would recommend the following approach:

1. Keep Your Eyes Open

Despite the increased coverage of stress and mental health issues in the media recently, for many people it’s a very difficult subject to bring up. But, as a responsible employer you should keep an eye out for employees displaying any of the psychological, physical or behavioural signs of stress mentioned above. And if you see someone struggling, you have a responsibility to address it.

2. Have Open Dialogue

Whether you bring it up or they come to you, the best thing you can do when talking with someone about their stress or mental health is to listen to what they have to say and validate how they feel. Having their symptoms acknowledged and taken seriously can make all the difference.

3. Bring In Practical Steps to Reduce Work Stress

If you both feel that work is a contributing factor to an individuals’ stress levels consider practical steps such as

  • flexible working
  • clarifying roles and responsibilities
  • training or support to help manage their workload
  • introducing new channels of communication or an alternative line management structure

4. Consider Getting External Help

Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) are a great way to offer support to your staff. They will often come in the form of a telephone helpline and/or website with the option of telephone and face-to-face counselling. There are companies that provide these services and they often aren’t too expensive. And as a bonus, some schemes will offer you additional services such as employment law or tax advice. If someone is seriously affected and taking time off, work you can also look at setting up occupational health referrals, whereby you will pay a health professional to meet with the employee and make an assessment about how best to deal with the employee. Health insurers like BUPA and other employee wellbeing companies can help set these up for a fee. Importantly with both of these suggestions, if you end up further down the road with a dismissal or resignation related to mental health issues, getting and expert medical opinion and offering staff an EAP will also show to a tribunal that you have supported your team and that you have gone a fair way to meet your ‘duty of care’ as an employer.

For many, pressures associated with work can increase over the summer holidays and make it a particularly difficult time of year for those with mental health issues or who suffer from stress. Whether this is due to an increased workload for those covering for colleagues on holiday or the stress of juggling work and child care when the kids are off school – things may get too much for some. So keep a watchful eye over your team over the next few weeks and make sure no one’s suffering in silence.


For further advice and support on any other HR issues contact theHRhub today on 0203 627 7048 or drop us a line at


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Do You Need To Send Your Staff Home If It’s Too Hot?

Here in the UK there’s no telling how long warm weather is likely to last. In fact, you often can’t even rely on the weathermen to give you an accurate outlook, so it’s just a case of enjoying it while you can, or if you’re very typically British, hoping and praying that it ends soon.

But there are a couple of things that you CAN guarantee when the temperatures start to soar….

Beer gardens will be packed full of punters. You won’t be able to find any burgers in the supermarkets for love nor money. You’ll be bombarded with leaflets from your local barbecue equipment supplier. And up and down the country, clammy office workers will be throwing open the windows and counting down the minutes until 5pm.

No one wants to be at work when the weather’s glorious outside, but as an employer, what are your responsibilities when it comes to maintaining a comfortable working environment?

Currently, no concrete legislation exists on temperatures at work

The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 state that the temperature in the workplace must be “reasonable”. There is, however, no maximum temperature. What constitutes as reasonable is open to interpretation, but you should consider the nature of your workplace, and the kind of work that is being carried out. It goes without saying that if the temperatures hit the 30s, then workers carrying out manual jobs outside are going to experience discomfort, and you need to consider their general health and wellbeing, as well as reconsidering any performance targets that they might have.

Workplace polices in the UK don’t tend to cover this either

Worrying about warmer weather and the impact that it might have on your workforce is something that we rarely experience in the UK. We’re more likely to have to think about how our staff will get into work if a snowstorm brings the roads to a standstill, or what will happen if the heating packs in during the darkest depths of winter.

But you do need to take the health and comfort of your employees seriously….

The bottom line? Exercise some common sense. Keep the best interests of your staff at the front of your mind. In practical terms, this might mean: 

  • Introducing air conditioning – although you’ll need to make sure it doesn’t get too cold!
  • Turning off lights/electrical appliance when not in use – these can contribute to the heat levels in the office
  • Amending the dress code – with a focus on lightweight, breathable clothing
  • Supplying desk fans – but make sure they are properly tested and always turned off outside office hours
  • Keeping the water cooler topped up – staying hydrated is more crucial then ever when the mercury rises
  • And lastly, try and enjoy it while it lasts! – it’s almost definitely not going to last long…

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Companies With Women Executives Perform Better – So Why Has Representation Stagnated?

The results of the recent Pipeline’s Women Count survey have been published, and they raise some pretty interesting and important questions about female leadership, and the progress we’re making towards ensuring that women are given the opportunity to thrive in senior roles.

Companies With No Women In Leadership Roles Performed Worst

It was found that FTSE 350 companies with no women on the leadership committees performed the worst out of all groups that were surveyed, whilst those which had at least 25% of their executive boards as women had almost twice the profit margin as those with none.

It’s safe to assume a link here. Forward thinking businesses who ensure that women are given the support and opportunity they need to create successful careers as leaders are the ones which will reap the benefits.

But Female Representation at Board Level Has Still Stagnated  

Not all businesses are stepping up – far from it. The percentage of women on executive committees remains at 16%, and the number of companies without any women has increased since last year’s survey.

Whilst The BBC Comes Under Fire For Gender Pay Inequality

Of course, the findings from the report came at the same time as the BBC revealed some pretty shocking information on how it pays its presenters. Only a third of those earning more than £150,000 per year are women. It’s interesting to wonder whether the new Dr. Who star will be paid the same as her previous male counterparts.

Is All This Because Companies Have ‘Bigger Fish’ To Fry Right Now?

Lorna Fitzsimons, co-founder of Pipeline, told the Financial Times, ‘With agendas dominated by Brexit, the focus on gender diversity at senior levels has been slipping. In this climate of low growth, companies cannot miss out on this profit margin advantage’. She raises a pretty good point. It would be a stretch of the imagination to say that big business leaders are sitting around actively looking for ways to stop women breaking through the glass ceiling.

The real problem is likely to be that with other priorities rising to the top of the list, issues like diversity and equality are pushed aside – and of course, the impact is tangible. Looking at this year’s survey results, it’s would be fair to say that companies are taking their eye off the ball.

What Could Be More Important Than The Future Of Your Business & The Quality Of The Team That Runs It?

We understand that you’re busy. We get that you have a never-ending list of tasks that need your attention, from the changes that are developing as a result of Brexit, to the general day-to-day management of your workforce.

But if you want to cement your reputation as the cream of the employer crop, then it might be time to take a step back and reassess what you’re doing to go the extra mile. Of course, it’s easy to get stuck in firefighting mode. In truth however, that isn’t what builds exceptional businesses.

If you know that you’re being reactive instead of actively striving to be the best leader that you can be, then let’s talk. Getting some strategic HR help can take your business from average, to truly exemplary. Call us on 0203 627 7048 or drop us a line at

The Taylor Review: Key Take-Outs For Employers

The Taylor Review was hotly anticipated, and the findings were finally published this month. Commissioned by the Prime Minister back in October, the intention of the report was to take a look at how employment practices need to change in order to keep up with modern business models. It intended to address, amongst other things, employment rights in the gig economy, which is something that hasn’t been far from newspaper headlines over the past few years.

But since its publication, it’s come under some pretty heavy criticism. Jason Moyer-Lee, general secretary of the IWBG union said that it’s ‘wishy washy and full of fluff’. He raised issues with the panel involved in the compilation of the report, which is hardly surprising when you consider that a former Deliveroo investor played a role in its creation. He also picked holes in its legal accuracy, claiming that it’s full of errors.

But politically charged commentary aside, what are the key take-outs of the Taylor Review for employers?

Workers Should be Seen ‘Dependent Contractors’ With Associated Rights

A key suggestion is that ‘workers’ – a label that sits in between employees and self-employed contractors – are reclassified as ‘dependent contractors’. This group does already have rights such as entitlement to sick pay, but the main issue has been around enforcement of those rights. Uber tried to classify their drivers as self-employed, but this was successfully challenged in court.

Potential Comeback For ‘Piece Rates’ Put Forward

The report also suggests a revival of piece rates, which could essentially mean that if an Uber or Deliveroo driver gets stuck in traffic – something which is inevitable in a big city – then they could be paid less for not completing their set list of tasks. Some have commented that this is a big step backwards for employee rights.

No Obligation For Self-Employed Workers To Pay Themselves Minimum Wage

Just weeks before the review was published, think-tank Resolution Foundation submitted the idea that certain self-employed workers should be paid the minimum wage. It’s estimated that around half of the UK’s 4.8 million self-employed people earn less than £310 a week. The suggestion wasn’t addressed in the final publication.  

How and if these recommendations will be rolled out remains to be seen. But at the moment, many are questioning whether the suggestions made in the Taylor Review constitute real progress for gig economy workers at all.


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Brexit Update: Repeal Bill Confirms No Immediate Changes To Workers’ Rights

The Repeal Bill, otherwise known as the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill was published earlier this month, and the 66-page document confirmed that EU-derived legislation including the Working Time Directive, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), and TUPE will continue to apply once the UK leaves the EU.

Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, David Davis, said:

‘It is one of the most significant pieces of legislation that has ever passed through Parliament and is a major milestone in the process of our withdrawal from the European Union.

By working together, in the national interest, we can ensure we have a fully functioning legal system on the day we leave the European Union’.

Until now, there has been confusion particularly around the GDPR. Though it was already expected that existing pieces of legislation would continue to apply, the GDPR is a work in progress and won’t commence until 25th May 2018. So the new developments mean that companies need to consider how they’ll manage employee data in compliance with the new rules and provisions.

Moving forward though, things are expected to be slightly different. UK courts won’t be bound by any decisions made by the European Court of Justice post-Brexit, which means that they could potentially choose to ignore key employment rights decisions made in EU countries in the future.

Of course, this is a move that has come under scrutiny, with many speculating about what this could potentially mean for workers’ rights here in the UK. Frances O’Grady, general secretary of the TUC, said the move was a ‘Downing Street power grab that puts workers’ rights at risk’. She went on to comment, ‘There is nothing in this Bill to stop politicians shredding or watering down our rights in the future. Nobody voted for Brexit to make life harder for working people. That’s why any deal with the EU must ensure that workers’ rights in Britain don’t fall behind the rest of Europe’.

There are still more questions than answers when it comes to how the world of employment will look once the Brexit process is finalised, but the pieces of the puzzle are starting to come together. We’ll bring you more details as soon as they become available.

In the meantime, if you have queries or concerns about how to ensure that you’re compliant with GDPR, or you’re worried about how to handle the changes that result from Brexit, get in touch today to arrange your initial no-obligation consultation. Having an HR consultant on your side can take away the stress of getting ready for the future.

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