The Polar plunge

Of all the things I expected to spot in Antarctica, ice swimmers were not one of them.

But I’ve just returned from ticking pretty much my number one item off the list, and there they were, among the penguins, orcas and icebergs.

They weren’t wild, you understand. As it turns out, there’s a global organisation that organises cold water swims, and several of them were on board the ship with a 1km swim planned.

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Telephone no longer answered

I was trying to get hold of a potential client this week, as he had said that they would discuss HR support at the board meeting end of last week.

I rang his mobile – went to voicemail. Fair enough, might not be answering because he’s in a meeting.

I went through the telephone system options – chose his extension – went to voicemail (American female voice, not even his)

I rang again and chose “sales” – went to voicemail, again the American female voice, no personalisation for the business.

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Employment law changes due in 2024

The government has decided to make a lot of employment law changes this year, so please make sure you are aware of them!

From 1 April 2024:

National minimum wage

The new hourly rates, applicable from 1 April 2024, are as follows:

National living wage (21yrs + ): £11.44 per hour (from £10.42)
18- to 20-year-olds’ rate: £8.60 per hour (from £7.49)
16- to 17-year-olds’ rate: £6.40 per hour (from £5.28)
Apprentice rate: £6.40 per hour (from £5.28)

Rolled-up holiday pay for part-year workers and irregular-hours workers

For those of you that have been around long enough, it will feel like déjà vu. Back before October 2019, we were allowed to pay out zero hours/casual and part year workers their holiday every month. The way we did that was by multiplying the hours worked that month by 12.07% to get the holiday hours to be paid at their normal rate of pay. For leave years from 1 April 2024, we will have gone in a huge circle, and you can now legally go back to using 12.07%.

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How to write an ignorable job ad

I was scrolling through job ads on LinkedIn the other day.

No, I’m not “looking for a new role”.  Perfectly happy where I am, thank you!

Instead, I was checking out an advert one of our clients put up, to advertise their new position of mechanic.

And my word it was dull.

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I save the day (AGAIN)

I’m ticking a seriously big item off my bucket list next week – Antarctica via Buenos Aires; two continents in one fell swoop, and hopefully a (safe) encounter with some killer whales!

As a small business owner, I don’t go anywhere without my laptop, even Antarctica.

I always do my best not to turn it on though, and over the years, I’ve become more and more successful at achieving that aim.

I won’t have much of a choice next week though – during the nine-day Antarctica cruise, there’s NO access to data or WiFi.

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Blacksmith meet cute

I met a blacksmith at a Christmas party the other day.

Not the usual meet cute, I grant you.

His name was Tom, and he’s not just any old blacksmith – he makes customised armour for battle re-enactments.

I’d assumed the armour used for such purposes was plastic, but no, it’s actual armour, manufactured from steel, and making it and selling it is quite the endeavour.

It takes 2-3 months to prepare most orders (with their biggest order taking 18 months to complete).

There’s more demand than supply in the UK, so they get plenty of work, but I wondered whether there might be competition from overseas.

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The magical 2-year line

The magical 2 year line

Unsurprisingly, we’re still SUPER busy here at Gap HR.

It’s usually when we’re in the middle of discussing staff member issues and that “they need to go”, that the manager pipes up with something along the lines of:

“I don’t need this person anymore. They aren’t performing, their attitude is bad, and frankly, they have been trouble since their first day of employment. Let’s get rid of them now!”.

“How long have they worked for you?”

“2 years and 2 months”

Laying aside the fact that part of a manager’s job is to “manage” poor performance, the most irritating part of this statement is the fact that despite believing that their employee “needs to go”, they’ve allowed them to drag their employment on over the magical 2-year line.

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Must be true

Must be true

A haulage company owner got in touch this week.

I’d say he was calling for advice, but actually, he just wanted the green light on his plans!

He had an employee with three years of service, and he wanted to get rid.

And because “it says it on the internet”, he believed that as he’d never given him an employment contract, he could just give him his marching orders.

I must admit to being a little taken aback by this, which may explain my blunt response:

“No, it does not say that on the internet”.

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Braving the bauble

Braving the bauble

Sure, ‘it’s the most wonderful time of the year’, but in 2023, the festive season now seems beset with danger, with plenty of employers concerned about the repercussions of celebrating Christmas in any way, shape or form.

So if you’re wondering whether you can brave the bauble, here’s the common-sense guide to decking the halls without ending up in tribunal.

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Burning business health

Burning business health

I look forward to Christmas every year.

For all the normal reasons, but also because of a massive indulgence I allow myself.

Before the children graced me with their presence (!), I could go out and buy pretty stuff, for me, for the house, and occasionally for others.

And it was in that period that I discovered Crabtree & Evelyn’s Noël range.

Which smells exactly like Christmas.  It’s perfection.

Since that moment several years ago, I’ve been as loyal as possible, buying products from the range when I could, and in recent years, I’ve taken to splashing out on candles to burn throughout the entire month of December.

And this year’s been another good one for the business, so I was looking forward to my usual ‘splashing out’ celebration.

Sadly, I was disappointed.

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Flabbergasted by Formula 1

Flabbergasted by Formula 1

I’m no Formula 1 super fan – I was dragged to the Dutch Grand Prix a couple of times as a child, and my only abiding memories?

  • The cars – too loud
  • Free cigarettes being handed out in the pit lane; those were the days!

Despite my lack of fandom, I sat down to watch some GP highlights earlier this week.


My daughter is doing ‘Formula Student’ this year at university, where she’s tasked with designing and building a single-seat racing car, and she wanted to get some tips, so I tagged along on the sofa.

I was immediately blown away.

Not by the cars.  Or the graphics.  Or the colours, noise, cheers from the crowd, or anything like that.

The thing that bowled me over?

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Sky Man, Will

Sky Man Will

A year ago, I finally got the dining room sorted.

It had been in my sights for a while, but there were all sorts of other things that needed time and attention first.

Eventually, though, it was the dining room’s turn, and the decorator came over to transform it.

One thing that was definitely on the list was getting rid of as many ugly cables as possible – Sky box, TV, sound system, they all add up.

During the process, a white TV cable with a connector at the end came apart.

Bizarrely, the TV still worked without it – BBC, ITV, and C4 were all there, meaning the white cable was superfluous, a hangover from the original installation.

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Carry them for 3 months?

Carry them for 3 months?

We started working with a new client this week – a private sector company with nine employees.

They had an employee that’d been there a year who just wasn’t performing despite being spoken to, offered training and so on and so forth.

We asked the critical questions, checked that the employee had no protected characteristics, and then let them know they could dismiss them.

Turns out we weren’t the only HR provider they’d spoken to about this issue.

They were in contract with Bright HR (a budget online HR service with an advice line attached), and they’d given them very different advice:

3-month performance review, and then make a decision.

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Feeling strangely fine

Feeling strangely fine Don’t worry, I’m not going to launch into a song from the 90s band Semisonic (remember them?!). Instead, I’ve got something far less exciting (but no less excruciating) to share with you: What you can and can’t do regarding Covid. We’ve had a lot of questions on the topic again, so I … Read more

Mosquito mistake

Mosquito mistake

I went to Venice last week.

I’d been once before, so I had great expectations.

The City of Water didn’t let me down: sun, wonderful streets, great architecture, boat rides, Italian gelato (three times a day) and wine without compare.

There was one drawback of having been there before, though – I went into the whole affair with an air of complacency and completely forgot something critical:

Canals = mosquitos.

Rabid mosquitos.

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The silent business killer threatening us all

The silent business killer threatening us all I was in Northern Ireland a few weeks ago, giving a presentation. Now, given that Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom, you might assume that employment law is the same as it is in Great Britain. You’d be dead wrong. Employment law is different in Northern … Read more

Pool car perk

Pool car perk

Got a “pool vehicle”?

Well, it depends on how it’s being used.

I was chatting to a club last week about one of their new employees – a course manager.

He’d decided that the pool vehicle should live at his house during evenings and weekends but charitably agreed that when he was on holiday, he’d leave it at work.

Here’s the problem – through HMRC’s eyes, that transforms the “pool vehicle” into a company car, which the course manager will have to pay tax on, just as if he were the only one using it.

If pool vehicles are taken home and used for anything other than specific work travel, they immediately become a taxable benefit.

Sucks for the course manager, but rules are rules.

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My exorbitant date with Taylor

My exorbitant date with Taylor

Everyone knows that a key part of sales and marketing is making the sales process as easy and frictionless as possible.

Look at Amazon – three buttons, and you can buy anything you want.  No friction, no hoops to jump through equals lots of sales and lots of profits.

But with all that said, there’s something to be said for a sales strategy at precisely the other end of the spectrum.

I experienced exactly this when my daughter asked me to join her at a Taylor Swift concert next year.

(If you’re a parent of a late-stage teenager, you’ll understand why I grabbed this opportunity with both hands!)

Getting the tickets was no mean feat.

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ED (&I)?!

You’ve likely had plenty of emails about “ED” over the years.

Most of them probably ending up in your spam box, thanks to their spurious claims to improve virility.

But what about ED&I?

Thanks to my fascinating career, I’ve no choice but to keep up to date with what’s going on in the world of HR, and recently this “new” acronym has popped up.

I haven’t paid too much attention to it as we’ve been rather busy solving client issues, but a couple of weeks back, I quickly found the time when our competitors started pinging emails at our clients, saying that they all needed an ED&I policy.

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Something unbelievable happened when I placed this advert

Something unbelievable happened when I placed this advert

I placed an advert the other day.

It was in my local newsletter, and the idea was that we’d make the local community around our office a little bit more aware of who we are and what we do.

So I emailed the guys at the local newsletter, explained that I did HR and employment law and asked what space they had in the next issue.

They replied saying, “No problem”, but they had a quick question first:

“Carolyne, what is HR, and what is employment law? What do you actually do?”

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Is GDPR the death of email marketing?

If you’ve been in business for a while, you’ll be familiar with the trends coming round and round again. And often in small business marketing, with marketers trying to sell new initiatives all the time, methods die and then rise from the ashes like a phoenix, only to be pronounced dead again when the marketer … Read more

Do I have to give employees redundancy pay?

Yes! If you employ anyone, be it a receptionist, sales person or nanny means that you have responsibilities under employment law. As is usual in law, ignorance is not a defence and will not protect you! You don’t need to pay redundancy to staff who have worked less than two years for you. You will … Read more

Can I make them work their notice?

Short answer to this is no (sorry, know you didn’t want to hear that!). They may have stormed out after a row. They may have calmly handed in their notice once their pay was on their bank account. But as far as they’re concerned, it’s over. You could try and get them to stay with … Read more

Tales of an HR Services Consultant – Day 26: Christmas Decorations are religious discrimination!

Are Christmas decorations religious discrimination? No! Don’t worry, it’s not political correctness gone mad! Religious belief is protected by the Equality Act 2010. It doesn’t stop the display of Christmas decorations in the workplace. In fact, it doesn’t stop any traditional customs under religious discrimination. In any case, the vast majority of Christmas decorations, e.g. … Read more

Tales of an HR Consultancy Expert – Day 25: Check the DBS number!

When you employ a new person, it is important to check references. All you are looking for is confirmation that they really did work for that company as stated on their CV. More than that is unrealistic to expect nowadays. But what else do you need to have? In addition to the usual references, sometimes … Read more

Tales of an HR Services Expert – Day 24: Professional negligence?!

Professional negligence?! I do tribunal audits on employment contracts and handbooks so that the company knows what needs to be updated, how much risk they are at, and whether the documents are really “fit for purpose”. Once they have that knowledge, they can make an informed decision about whether they will be updating their paperwork … Read more

Tales of an HR Services Expert – Day 22: Employment tribunals

Big change! From 29 July 2013 disgruntled employees had to pay fees to start a tribunal claim. The minimum fee is £160 for a Type A case (e.g. unlawful deductions from earnings, i.e. you haven’t paid them what they are owed; unfair dismissal). Individuals can pay as much as £950 if they take a Type … Read more

Tales of an HR Services Expert – Day 21: Another happy client!

KCC Basildon is a Korean-owned manufacturer of silicone compounds, antifoams and emulsions. I started working with them on my HR Navigator package. Their line managers were good on the soft skills of managing, but unsure on the details of employment law. So we spent the next 12 months tightening up on exactly how to deal … Read more

Tales of an HR Services Expert – Day 20: Overtime doesn’t earn holiday!

Overtime doesn’t count towards holiday entitlement – or does it? The Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) decided on 4 November 2014 that any overtime worked does count towards an employee’s holiday entitlement. Yikes! What does that actually mean? It means that if you have in their contracts that they work 20 hours a week, and they … Read more

Tales of an HR Services Expert – Day 18: Not ugly enough!

Not ugly enough! Conventional wisdom says attractive people are more likely to be hired. But it’s a bit more complicated than that. Two Israeli researchers send out CVs with pictures – rated according to attractiveness – for 2,500 different jobs. They found that handsome men were marginally more likely to get an interview, but that … Read more

Disciplinaries and solicitors

When can they bring a solicitor to a disciplinary meeting? When the consequences of them being dismissed would mean that they could never work in their profession again. Ever. The best example of this is a real case where a secondary school teacher was being investigated for inappropriate behavior with a pupil. If the teacher … Read more

Tales of an HR Services Expert – Day 14: Minimum Wage

Doing employees a favour doesn’t always work I was approached by a company to help with a situation that was baffling them. They had employed someone who wasn’t really as experienced as they would have liked, but they liked him and created a job for him. However what they also did was pay him less … Read more

Verbal warnings

When can you give verbal warnings to an employee?

Never! Verbal warnings were abolished in 2009.

At a recent talk I was asked “but can’t we keep using them, if they are part of our policies and procedures?”.

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Tales of an HR Services Expert – Day 11: Discrimination costs!

How much would you have to pay if you lost a discrimination case at tribunal – what is it capped at? Bad news – it is unlimited! Which is why all those female city bankers can claim millions of pounds in compensation. What irritates me more is when the NHS, who should know better, do … Read more

Tales of an HR Services Expert – Day 9: Avoiding expensive mistakes

So. You’re a small business with just a few employees, and managing them is one job you have to do yourself. And do it well. Learn from the costly traps that other employers have fallen into, with this free guide on the pitfalls you simply must avoid. Remember these are the seven biggest mistakes that … Read more

Tales of an HR Services Expert – Day 8: Autobankruptcy!

Auto-enrolment? No! Auto-bankruptcy! The Government is really serious about auto-enrolment happening and you can tell because they are willing to make companies go bankrupt rather than avoid doing it! Well okay, that isn’t their stated intention, but look at the fines for not doing it. If you thought H&S fines of £20K for infringements were … Read more

Tales of an HR Services Expert – Day 7: He’s pregnant?!

Right to time off for antenatal appointments Under the new shared parental leave it is proposed to allow the husband, civil partner or partner of the pregnant women the right to unpaid time off to attend up to 2 ante-natal appointments. Action: don’t laugh when a man asks for time to go to an antenatal … Read more

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