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New Toolkit Encourages Businesses To Promote Healthy Eating And Exercise To Employees

New Toolkit Encourages Businesses To Promote Healthy Eating And Exercise To Employees

Public Health England and Business in the Community have published a toolkit in an effort to encourage employers to promote healthier eating and exercising to their employees. Keen to stress the business benefits, the toolkit explains that such initiatives can boost productivity, slash absence rates, and play a key role in facilitating a happy workforce.

And while this might fall into the yet-another-thing-I’ve-got-to-do category (quite far down for many if I’m honest) of what to look at whilst running a business, what is becoming increasingly clear is that the health of the nation is a ticking time bomb. According to the NHS, the number of people being diagnosed with diabetes has more than doubled in the past 20 years, and rising obesity levels continue to grab headlines. As an employer, you have the ability to make a positive impact in your staff’s lives, as well as strengthen your business for the future, so it might be worth having a gander…..

Occupational health isn’t just about ensuring your staff have comfortable chairs to sit on (although yes, that is one of thing basics…) as the real benefits will be gained by those who are more proactive with their responsibilities as employers, tapping into the opportunities that exist for all of us to have a much more holistic impact on our team’s lives.

The toolkit includes:

  • Suggestions that healthier food and drink options should be available within the workplace, including at meetings and events
  • Ideas around organising ‘family days’, so staff can get their loved ones onboard with healthier habits
  • Advice for managing shift workers and remote workers: two groups of staff that will experience unique difficulties when it comes to maintaining their health and wellbeing
  • Guidance for handling sensitive mental health issues in the workplace

Though the suggestions are comprehensive and provide a lot of food for thought for employers, it’s also stressed that there’s rarely a one-size-fits-all approach. Businesses are encouraged to involve their staff in any initiatives from the very earliest stages, giving them a voice and the opportunity to hone a way forward that’s really going to work for them. After all, if your staff aren’t engaged and onboard, then your efforts are going to fall on deaf ears and fail to meet their objectives.

We recognise that employers have a lot on their plates. You may well think that you simply don’t have the time to consider promoting better levels of health and wellbeing to your staff. You’ve got performance reviews to handle, back to work meetings to schedule, and a whole load of paperwork that seems to mount up on your desk on an hourly basis. 

But there are benefits to be had by adopting some of the suggestions here ( others we’ve seen and shared previously), so if you can find the time, you should definitely give some careful consideration to how you can ‘borrow’ a couple of the ideas in order to boost the long-term prospects of your business.

Not got the time but like the idea? Drop us a line at for a quick chat on how we might be able to help or call 0203 627 7048.

Image: Unsplash

Boom In Use Of Agency Workers Is Set To Continue

Boom In Use Of Agency Workers Is Set To Continue

Recently published research by the Resolution Foundation shows a boom in the use of agency workers by businesses looking to fill their skills gap, and the findings suggest that it’s a pattern that’s set to continue. Almost half (43%) of respondents said that they’d increased their reliance on agency staff during the past five years, and 25% planned to increase their usage even further in the next five years.

It’s thought that the trend is being fuelled by uncertainty surrounding Brexit, and of course the cost pressures that plenty of businesses are facing on a daily basis. Today, it’s estimated that there are around 800,000 agency workers in roles all across the UK.

So if you’re looking to expand your team during 2018, you might want to take a little step back and consider whether working with an agency could be the solution that gives you exactly what you need. Recruiting and selecting the right people is a tricky process, and it can place a real strain on your resources. Outsourcing to the experts is an option that clearly appeals to many.

There is a very important issue at play here though, that plagues the reputation of businesses looking to tap into more flexible ways of finding and working with talent. The gig economy and all the pitfalls associated with it is constantly being debated in the media, and it’s clear that not all business owners are giving proper consideration to workers’ rights. There’s a clear crossover here between issues associated with the gig economy and the use of agency workers, and employers absolutely must proceed with a reasonable level of caution.

The Resolution Foundation offered some practical suggestions for ethically leveraging agency talent, at both a business and government level. The Swedish Derogation, for example, is a controversial piece of regulation that the Foundation would like to see removed. It permits businesses to pay agency workers less than directly comparable employees, and a repeal is currently under consultation, in response to the Taylor Review.

What happens from this point onwards will definitely be interesting from an employment perspective. The pressure on the government is mounting when it comes to workers’ rights, whilst businesses still face cuts and need to look towards less conventional ways of hitting their goals and meeting operational requirements.

If you’re planning to use agency workers, what steps will you be taking to protect your employer brand and maintain a happy and productive workplace?

TheHRhub is the ultimate online HR support service for Startups and SMEs – providing expert advice  and up to date news and views, straight to your mobile or tablet. It’s like having an HR director in your pocket – but without the price tag!

Call us on 0203 627 7048 or drop us a line at for a no-strings chat about your HR needs.

Managing the practicalities of the Christmas workplace (without being a Grinch)

Managing the practicalities of the Christmas workplace (without being a Grinch)

Tis the season to be jolly…. but as a small business owner the idea of Christmas can understandably bring with it a slight feeling of dread. All that time off, the great wind down, the slow down from clients, lack of productivity and the season for winter bugs, it is a lot to contend with.

You are not on your own, every year at around this time, we receive a ton of questions about workplace issues at Christmas. From parties to time off and everything in between, is your business really ready for the festive period?  Don’t panic you are not a Scrooge to your office of Bob Cratchets, all of these are perfectly normal and practical questions to ask and we hear all of them, a lot, at this time of year.

Do I have to host a workplace party?

Unless a party is agreed to in the contract of employment, you don’t have to offer one. It’s worth noting here too though that if you’ve always held an event previously, it may be the case that it’s now expected. It’s true that parties can often throw up a range of HR headaches, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t celebrate with your employees and take the opportunity to thank them for their good work throughout the year. You don’t have to break the bank, and it could be a great morale booster. Remember New Year is around the corner with tempting new opportunities for your talent to eye up other options – so hosting a party, lunch or drinks is a nice touch to remind them that this is a great place to work.

What do I do if I suspect someone is throwing a sicky the day after the Christmas Party?

Unfortunately not a lot! Suspecting faking illness is incredibly hard to prove and a very sensitive subject.  You are much better off taking preventative action up front to discourage this behaviour.  Make your expectations clear, you are throwing this party for everyone to enjoy and celebrate the end of the year together, you expect everyone to be in the office the next day even if you are all feeling a little worse for wear.  If you are feeling generous, you could offer a slightly later start time to pre-empt any late excuses – or lay on some bacon butties to get them all back into action.

Do I have to grant all requests for time off?

No. It’s not always going to be possible to give all members of staff the exact leave that they request, and it goes without saying that you have operational requirements that you need to fulfill. What’s most important here is that your policy around leave requests is very clearly communicated, and that you take a fair approach.

Can I make employees take annual leave if I close down the place of work?

Yes. If you will be closing the workplace for a period of time over Christmas, you can require staff to take that time out of their leave allocation, as long as there is no agreement to the contrary. You do need to give appropriate notice though – you’ll find the festive spirit might be lacking if you only inform them right at the last minute! – and the arrangements should be covered in your relevant people policies.

What can I do to avoid any issues arising?

Communicate well with your team: understand what people are doing and when they have time planned off. Your role is to continue to motivate the team and being proactive could save you a load of time, money, and hassle. Take the opportunity now to ensure that your expectations over what needs delivering by year end are made crystal clear, ensure  any relevant policies are up to date, that your managers are onboard, and that you’ve pinpointed how to minimise any risk. You may even want to consider issuing a statement to staff about acceptable codes of behaviour ahead of any functions or events. 

If you know that you need to do some work to ensure that the festive season passes by without any hiccups, get in touch. We can help you to make any necessary changes, and provide you with the practical guidance you need.  TheHRhub is the ultimate online HR support service for Startups and SMEs – providing software, templates, expert advice, whitepapers and up to date news and views, straight to your mobile or tablet. It’s like having an HR director in your pocket but without the price tag!

Call us on 0203 627 7048 or drop us a line at for a no-strings chat about your HR needs.


Parental Bereavement Leave Bill – What Employers Need To Know

Parental Bereavement Leave Bill – What Employers Need To Know

It is hard to know what to do or say to someone who has suffered the unimaginable nightmare of losing a baby or child. The immediate and subsequent days, weeks and months following the death of a child are a time of great pain and confusion for a bereaved parent. These times are also a source of tremendous uncertainty for those around them as they grapple with a sense of helplessness watching their friend and colleague navigate this painful experience.

The government have now recognised that taking paid time off work under these circumstances should be a key employee right and published the Parental Bereavement (Pay & Leave) Bill on 13th October, it is expected to come into force in 2020. Introduced by Kevin Hollinrake MP, it will give employed parents with a minimum of 26 weeks of continuous service a day-one right to two weeks of paid parental bereavement leave if they lose a child under the age of 18. Employers will be able to reclaim some or all of the costs, and the proposals were first outlined in the Conservative manifesto, published earlier in the year.

You may be surprised that legislation doesn’t already exist in this area. Though many employers have their own policies for supporting bereaved members of staff, the Employment Rights Act only states that employees should have the right to take a ‘reasonable’ amount of unpaid time off work to deal with an emergency concerning a dependent, including making arrangements following a death.

Business minister, Margot James said, ‘We want parents to feel properly supported by their employer when they go through the deeply distressing ordeal of losing a child. That’s why Government is backing this bill which goes significantly further than most other countries in providing this kind of workplace right for employees’.

The proposed legislation has been warmly welcomed by charities that support those suffering from the bereavement of a child. Chief executive of Cruse Bereavement Care, Debbie Kerslake commented, ‘It is vital that at such a distressing time those who are bereaved can take time away from work’.

As a concerned and responsible employer if you find yourself with an employee in this situation, getting the first phone call right is critical.  Firstly you must acknowledge the child’s death and offer your support and understanding, be prepared to listen and of course offer complete reassurance that there is no workplace expectation or pressure and work is the last thing they need to concern themselves with.  How this is handled cannot be underestimated.  Let them know you and their colleagues are ready to help in whatever way they need. No matter how brief the contact, these thoughtful gestures will always be appreciated and remembered even if it doesn’t appear immediately obvious.

Some suggestions on how you can help them through those initial days:

  • Ask them if you can call them again in a few days to see how they are doing.
  • Send flowers and a card or a donation in lieu of flowers on behalf of your company. This may help them with the cost of the funeral
  • Ask if they would like you or colleagues to attend the funeral and offer your full support
  • Cover their workload – let them know not to worry about their job as the work will get done
  • Ask how and what they would like you to communicate to their workplace and colleagues

You may already have your own policies and procedures, but with the new legislation this is a good opportunity for exemplary employers to consider their approach, and establish whether they’re giving their staff the best level of support during such a difficult time.  For further information and advice acas has a good practice guide on managing bereavement in the workplace.

It goes without saying here that you need to consider the longer-term impact of bereavement, and how staff are supported after their two weeks of leave. There is no right or wrong way to grieve – nor is there a set timetable for grief.  It may be the case that you’ll roll out flexible working provisions to help the bereaved get back to work, or that you’ll offer counseling. As with all initiatives that impact that workforce, it’s not just a case of creating your policies. You need to make sure that your line managers are appropriately equipped to deal with sensitive situations and are confident in their roles.

A parental bereavement policy is something that everyone hopes that they’ll never have to consider, but now is the time to think about how you give your employees what they need during tough times. Will you be reviewing your approach in light of the proposed legislative changes?

TheHRhub is the ultimate online HR support service for Startups and SMEs – providing software, templates, expert advice, whitepapers and up to date news and views, straight to your mobile or tablet. It’s like having an HR director in your pocket but without the price tag!

Call us on 0203 627 7048 or drop us a line at for a no-strings chat about your HR needs.

Image : Unsplash

HR Horrors: What to do when your employees get shouty on social

There are definitely nights we all come home from work wanting to have a bit of a rant about the latest office politics. And for the vast majority of people, they recognise that this kind of chat is best reserved for their partner or BFF’s to discuss face to face rather than taking to the masses via Facebook or Twitter (not least because if you’ve ever done this and paid attention to those around you, you might have just noticed some eyes glazing over….).But if you’re connected with any of your team through social media as many of you might be (read more on our article ‘Is it ever a good idea to be Facebook Friends with your Employees‘ for our take on this…), you might occasionally have a sharp intake of breathe when you spot a post which is less-than-complimentary about your own workplace/ management style or one of your other colleagues. 

The obvious thing to say to avoid something like this happening, is to make it clear to everyone joining the business that it’s not acceptable (in any instance) to slag off the company and specify that action will be taken should they do so.  

But what if you’re too late?

These circumstances present a unique set of challenges. And if you find yourself in this situation, it’s really important that you know exactly what to do to address the problems and get things back on the right track.

Speed is everything and you should take the conversation offline

Take screenshots of the post you’ve recognised and request that the offending post be removed. Follow it up by scheduling a face to face chat as soon as you can, if this is not possible jump on a call however.   

Don’t jump to any assumptions before you’ve got all the information, listen to what they have to say and take action on the situation. Consider the nature of the comments made and their likely impact on your organisation. It would help if you can give examples of what might be classed as ‘defamation’ and the gravitas that their words could have on your business, staff, customers and clients, before going on to discuss the penalties that may need to be considered. You should also be clear in outlining what is regarded as confidential in the organisation, referring back to any initial employment contracts that may have detailed this.

Make sure you don’t just go through the motions, listen to what they have to say then act with integrity, do not let emotions overcome common sense, keep everything in perspective and do it all in a timely manner.  If the remarks have caused offence to other employees within your organisation treat them with respect and take the appropriate action to record their views, any disciplinary measures will need to take this into account and be documented.

Nobody wants to have difficult conversations, as a leader though, it’s your duty.

Send out a reminder to others

You want to get a grip on the situation quickly, treat it with severity but equally keep your cool and don’t blow things out of proportion. Just by being proactive and nipping it in the bud can help you get things back on the right track without any hassle or fuss – sometimes examples need to be made but no one wants to lose a good employee if it can be avoided. A simple guideline should be enough to avoid further scenarios cropping up.  For example, a company wide note to say, any issues regarding the below should be addressed to HR and not discussed on social media;

  • The employee’s own wages and benefits
  • Complaints or criticisms about management
  • Labor disputes
  • Working conditions
  • Safety concerns
  • Certain situations of harassment in the workplace
  • Sensitive political or racial views

Social networking can be an excuse for avoiding face-to-face conversations. Often a quiet word by a line manager can avoid issues that lead to disciplinary and grievance problems. Emails, texts and messaging systems can leave line managers reliant on communicating electronically lead by example, enjoy more face to face conversations or calls, where the correct tone of voice can be heard and miscommunication can be instantly corrected.

If you have concerns about how equipped you are to manage HR policies and procedures, then we can help. We’ll pinpoint any potential issues that are at play in your workplace, and give you practical advice around what you need to do next.  theHRhub is the ultimate online HR support service for Startups and SMEs – providing software, templates, expert advice, whitepapers and up to date news and views, straight to your mobile or tablet. It’s like having an HR director in your pocket but without the price tag!

Call us on 0203 627 7048 or drop us a line at for a no-strings chat about your HR needs.

Image : Twenty20