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Based in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, Embrace HR helps businesses   without their own HR department to Embrace HR, because we believe that people make profit. We help take the hassle out of HR and provide you with an efficient and time-saving cloud based HR solution.

Contact us at hello@embracehr.co.uk or phone 07767 308 717

Disability in the workplace

Patrick Burke, Guest Writer

Patrick Burke, Guest Writer

I met Patrick Burke for the first time in December last year and we spent a couple of hours chatting, amongst other things, about his disability, his website, and life in the workplace for a disabled person. His perspective does much to educate and I thank him for this guest blog.

Patrick offers a consultancy service to organisations needing assistance with their corporate social responsibilities. He is disabled – he has multiple sclerosis – and he says “I do my utmost to stop it controlling my life”.

Number of disabled is increasing

Why are disabled people as a group much less likely to have a job than nondisabled people. It would appear that some employers in the United Kingdon appear to be reluctant to employ a disabled person. I can think of several reasons for this, I’m sure there are plenty more.

  • The employer can be wary of the changes to the workplace that will be necessary such as making the site fully accessible or providing a disabled toilet.
  • The disabled person is reluctant to go through an employment agency. There is widespread concern amongst the disabled that recruitment agencies fail to provide employers with their details if they meet the requirements.
  • Only too often the stated requirements for the position will make it difficult for a disabled person to apply for the post, such as a requirement to work a full week during normal working hours.
  • The assumption that disability means poor health.

Barriers need to be broken down

The number of disabled people in the United Kingdom capable of work is rising. At the moment there are about 7 million disabled people capable of work. That represents 18% of the working age population (http://businessdisabilityforum.org.uk/talent-recruitment) but a significant proportion are not working and are on benefits though they would prefer to be employed.

Thirty years ago very few people worked flexi-time or worked from home, or ‘hot-desked’. Almost everyone did a ‘nine-to-five’ job in the office. The concept of a job-for-life is beginning to end.

Today many disabled people are self employed. This allows them to arrange work around their disability.  Many cannot manage the travelling as well as working a standard 40 hour week but they could work say a four-day week. This principle works successfully in Holland where a person is recruited on ability then agreement is reached on hours worked per week.

Make it win-win

The disabled person who is employed wins because their net income should be greater than the money received from benefits. This person should now have a better quality of life and more independence. The country wins because it is paying less in benefits and the chances are that the disabled person will also pay income tax.

What needs to be done to make employment for a disabled person more attractive?

  • Ensure the recruitment process is not creating unnecessary barriers such as demanding the employee works a 40 hour week, or the door being too narrow for a wheelchair.
  • The job description needs to reflect the actual requirements.
  • Actively seek candidates who are prepared to work a 20 or 30 hour week.
  • Ensure the workplace is suitable for a disabled person.
  • The staff and managers need to be trained to work alongside a person with a disability.

Simplify the application process

There are many factors that can, directly or indirectly, cause unfair discrimination against disabled people, including:-

  • Insistence on handwritten covering letters for some roles. HR needs to be creative and find different ways to approach collating information.
  • Badly designed application forms, for example crowded pages, poor print, inadequate space for responses.
  • Unwillingness to make reasonable accommodation available.
  • The assumption that excessive costs would be incurred.
  • In recruiting the aim is to find the best person for the job. You are looking for ability – not at disability.

Employers have responsibilities to disabled employees as well as to disabled people who want to join their organisation.

The obstacles to employing a disabled person are frequently in the mind. Maybe this is because one is not used to seeing disabled people in the workforce or been given the opportunity to hire a disabled person. A disabled person is less inclined to move from job to job.

Next time a position needs to be filled then check that you are not excluding disabled people. By being ‘disablity smart’ you will start to make your organisation more effective. You will have stronger leadership, more productive employees, stronger customer relationships and a better overall reputation.

Please check out the following websites

Department for Work and Pensions

Business Disability Forum

Recruitment Protocol

By Patrick Burke


Contact Patrick at +44 (0)7947 024691, or visit his website www.aid4disabled.com.

 Thank you Patrick for a very interesting and educational piece of writing. There is a place for everyone in the workplace and for managers and business owners to understand how to embrace this talent. Your consultancy services will be useful to SMEs and corporates alike.

Cecily Lalloo of Embrace HR helps businesses without their own HR manager or department. As your HR manager we ensure that you have management practices to help you and your business. Our cloud-based HR management system takes the hassle out of the basic but important personnel record keeping; whilst the reporting function assists you to make decisions on managing and growing your business. Based in Aylesbury, we support businesses in the surrounding areas of Oxford, Thame, Berkhamsted, Princes Risborough, High Wycombe, and London.   

T : 07767 308 717

E : hr.support@embracehr.co.uk

A : Elsinore House | Buckingham Street | Aylesbury | HP20 2NQ

W: www.embracehr.co.uk

What’s up, What’s new? How are you?

What's upHave you asked your employees lately ‘What’s up? What’s new? How are you?’  

I’ve been watching episodes of “Undercover Boss” on TV – where the undercover boss asks these questions in a different way. The same messages come across no matter what country the programme is filmed in. The boss finds out more about their business and what can make a world of difference to their employees on a day-to-day basis.

As one boss put it after his undercover stint :

“… in the workplace people have private problems that we don’t always know about. We should try to support them more”.

The boss learns

Bosses learnt how a worker had cancer and hardly missed a day off work whilst undergoing treatment; how another couple had grandchildren with a debilitating and prolonged disorder; how another person built up a large collection of the company’s trucks over the years, working on them in his spare time, because he thought they were the best. The majority of bosses are humbled and hopefully make changes in the business having taken on board the views of their employees.

Going undercover in a large organisation is a great way for the boss to learn about what’s happening in the business and about what works and what doesn’t and, more importantly about the people who work there.

Some issues were :

  • how a simple team meeting is sorely missed
  • how an employee struggles to get to work due to illness in the family, or
  • how a suggestion to change a process could make an individual’s work more efficient, adding to the company’s profits, or
  • how an individual uses their initiative because they don’t have the proper tools for the job .

Most learnt :

  • that the people who work for them really want to make a difference for themselves, their families and the company
  • that the people have lives outside of work and that what happens on a personal basis affects their work
  • that given the chance, the people at the front of house will make suggestions to make their jobs more efficient, which in turn helps the company
  • that the best marketing and reputation-building comes from the people employed in the business.

Everyone is busy until there is a problem

In smaller businesses it is easier to have a more personal and closer relationship with the people you work with. But sometimes everyone is busy and communication can take a back seat – unless or until there is a problem that affects the work or others in the workplace. For instance, someone is off more often than normal with minor ailments, or they start arriving late for work, or performance begin to decline.

The proverbial molehill

Regular 1-2-1 meetings, even in smaller organisations, highlights issues before they become problems. 1-2-1 meetings offer dedicated time for managers to learn about events, incidents, issues that may affect your workers whether on a personal or work basis; and an opportunity to give feedback to the employee.  A 1-2-1 meeting does not have to be long – it can take place over a cup of coffee mid morning, a lunch time break. Wherever possible it should be a regular diary appointment.

You may find out that the employee who is coming in 15 minutes late each day has a childcare problem, or there is a pattern to the time taken off by the personwith minor ailments. It is amazing how a little dedicated time with someone – or even a team –  can sort out problems before the proverbial molehill becomes a mountain.

Away from daily work short but regular meetings can make a difference to finding out ‘what’s up, what’s new, or how they are’.


Embrace HR helps to manage HR in your business from helping set up your HR records, to dealing with performance, contact us. Based in Aylesbury, we also support businesses in the surrounding areas of Oxford, Thame, Berkhamsted, High Wycombe, and London.  We help businesses without their own HR department and those with an HR team who need help from time to time.  

T : 07767 308 717

E : hr.support@embracehr.co.uk

A : Elsinore House | Buckingham Street | Aylesbury | HP20 2NQ

W: www.embracehr.co.uk

At the Employment Tribunal

The judge said it is not unusual that an employee does not know who his employer is, or that an employer does not know what staff he has! Last week I went to an Employment Tribunal with my client.  It was a learning experience for both of us.  No! It wasn’t my client, nor me, who was the Respondent.

Attending the tribunal confirmed that HR is an investment to save you money, time and heartache in the long term. 

Caterer vs Care Home + Local Authority + possibly Employment Agency

The first case was brought by a woman who worked as a caterer at a care home for 16 years prior to dismissal.  Her claim was against the care home and the local authority.  But wait!  The judge decided that a third party (a well known employment agency)  might also be involved and because they weren’t present to defend themselves he felt it only right to adjourn.  As there is a very long waiting list of claims to be heard the next available date is April 2013.

The judge told those present that it is not unusual for a tribunal to find that a member of staff does not know who their employer is, or for an employer to find that he has staff he didn’t know he had.  He went on to say that Regulations governing transfers between organisations – the TUPE regulations [Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations] – are quite complex and it is not surprising that confusion arises.

Cleaner vs Cleaning Company

So, we left Tribunal Room 5 and headed to Tribunal Room 2.  Sitting at the top table were the judge and 2 lay people – at least he had company whereas the previous judge had to make decisions on his own.  As with the first hearing, the Claimant was not represented, and neither was the Respondent.

The ex-employee, a cleaner, was a non-English speaking woman.   This was the second day of a 2-day hearing.  An interpreter was needed to ensure that the judge and panel, the MD who was the Respondent, and the Claimant, knew what each was saying – quite tiring for the interpreter and the judge said she did a tremendous job.

After listening to the evidence there was a lengthy adjournment, and when we returned to the room the judge stated that the case was not straightforward.  Before the end of her maternity leave, the woman had sent a letter of resignation to her employer but phoned soon after to ask to rescind it and requested to return to work on a part-time basis before the end of her maternity leave. Her requests were refused.  There were other issues that were discussed and taking them all into account the judge and panel came to the conclusion that the reason for termination was indeed resignation, and therefore her claim of constructive unfair dismissal was dismissed.  However, the Claimant was awarded compensation in relation to her sex discrimination claim.  The award was £3,000 linked to the fact that Statutory Maternity Pay was late on two occasions, making this direct sex discrimination.  This is a brief summary of the case and it was very interesting to hear how the panel came to their conclusion.

 Judge gives us his time

At the end of the hearing the judge asked my colleagues and me to remain and we were treated to a question and answer session, although not to discuss the details of the case but rather the proceedings.

5 Top Tips to be prepared in case …

  1. Keep accurate HR records.  You don’t know when they’ll be needed.  Your contract of employment is always important but also evidence that you treat people consistently and fairly.  If you don’t know what and when things happen, how can you defend yourself?
  2. Use your disciplinary and grievance processes.  However, deal with issues before ‘a molehill becomes a mountain’.  Use the informal route first. I have seen many a member of staff turn-around their conduct or performance when an issue is brought to their attention informally.  But if improvements are not made you may need to use your formal processes just in case you find yourself in front of a judge at a tribunal.
  3. Document and communicate changes in the business.  If you are clear about the changes then your staff will be too.  It can avoid the issue as mentioned in the first case we heard where it isn’t clear who is the employer.  But having said that, it still may be unclear and it will take an employment tribunal to work it out!
  4. Pay people when pay is due, or explain the issues if it looks like pay may be late.  Your staff should be paid what they have been promised – it’s part of your contact.  Any deductions, non payment, late payments may be viewed as unlawful deductions of wages.  In the case I heard, it came down to sex discrimination because the payment was for Statutory Maternity Pay.  People are usually understanding if issues have been communicated to them and they know the reasons.  For any deductions that are not the norm, these should be notified prior to staff receiving their pay.
  5. Don’t wait for something to go wrong before putting into place good HR management practices. A big impact on a small business, besides the compensation payments that may be awarded by the tribunal, is the time taken to prepare and attend the hearings.  It may not only be the business owner or senior management who will attend the tribunal but other staff may be needed as witnesses.  The impact on productivity and morale in a business cannot be underestimated.  And, the hearing may be adjourned and continue on another day – more time away from the business!  The average unfair dismissal award is £9,000 (from employment tribunal figures for 2011-2012) and this can be a big expense for a small business.

Find out how we can help you to put in place practical HR management practices because prevention is better than cure.

We help to manage HR in your business from helping set up your HR records, to dealing with performance and absence, contact us. Based in Aylesbury, we also support businesses in the surrounding areas of Oxford, Thame, Berkhamsted, High Wycombe, and London.  We help businesses without their own HR department and those with an HR team who need help from time to time.  

T : 07767 308 717

E : hr.support@embracehr.co.uk

A : Elsinore House | Buckingham Street | Aylesbury | HP20 2NQ

W: www.embracehr.co.uk

Learning and Development contributes to the bottom line

Budgets tight for learning and development?

HR often finds that training and learning and development (L&D) functions feel the pinch in difficult times. But this should be the time that L&D is crucial because when business picks up it’s important to have the skills, knowledge and experience that is needed for the future. People have different learning styles and there are so many different methods of learning that don’t need to cost too much. And learning and development does contribute to your bottom line – “organisations that prioritise it in hard times are two and a half times more likely to survive a recession” (CIPD podcast click here to listen to the CIPD podcast on the subject) .

Align learning and development with business goals and objectives

To identify what learning is required in your business it’s best to align your L&D Plans with your company goals and objectives.  Its good to have your L&D Plans ready for the new year.

5 Top Tips for Meaningful Learning and Development

  1. Identify the skills, knowledge and experience your business needs to achieve its goals for the year (and beyond).
  2. Develop Learning and Development Plans for organisational, team and individual L&D and involve your staff in the development.
  3. Plan the learning over a period of time – preferably a year or more – but flexibility is important to take account of business needs.
  4. Evaluate the learning and development activities throughout the year as goals and objectives may change and so will your L&D requirements.
  5. Make use of 6-monthly or annual reviews, team meetings or staff meetings to involve your employees in evaluating and setting L&D Plans.

Where learning is aligned to your organisation’s goals and objectives it becomes part and parcel of the way things are done.  The learning will be focused and employees can see how they have achieved the businesses objectives and how they have helped to contribute to success. This is a cornerstone to building morale, motivation and meaningful learning and development which has a positive impact on your bottom line.

We have built a robust learning and development culture in SMEs and if you would like to discuss your plans in more detail please do contact us.

Rising National Minimum Wage

Each October the National Minimum Wage (NMW), amongst other statutory rates, is increased. Here is a quick reference of increases from 1 October 2012.  Detailed information on who should be paid the NMW and the records you need to keep can be found here.

  • £6.19 per hour for workers aged 21 years and over
  • £4.98 per hour for workers aged 18-20 years (this rate remains unchanged)
  • £3.68 per hour for workers aged 16-17 years
  • £2.65 per hour for Apprentices aged 19 years and under
  • £2.65 per hour for Apprentices aged 19 years and over in their 1st year of their apprenticeship (after they have completed their 1st year they are entitled to receive the National Minimum Wage depending on their age).

For help with employment contracts or advice on employing people contact Cecily Lalloo at Embrace HR.  Based in Aylesbury, we also support businesses in the surrounding areas of Oxford, Thame, Berkhamsted, High Wycombe, as well as London.  We help businesses without their own HR department and those with an HR team who need help from time to time.  

T : 07767 308 717

E : hr.support@embracehr.co.uk

A : Elsinore House | Buckingham Street | Aylesbury | HP20 2NQ

W: www.embracehr.co.uk


With my colleague and Associate, Ines Respini-Jones, I worked on a project to recruit a new member of staff for her client.  It’s great working with an associate – we bring different skills and knowledge to the table.

So what are we doing to help the client?

Following a briefing from her client, we started by writing the job advertisement and finish by introducing qualified candidates to the client on a shortlist – happy to say that the job was offered to one of our candidates, and accepted!  Our fee is for the effort we place in searching, selecting, carrying out the initial telephone interview and shortlisting candidates.  We saved the client the time and effort of sifting through countless CVs.  Unlike conventional recruitment agencies, we do not charge a percentage fee when a candidate is placed.

This is how we do it

  • Hold an initial meeting with the client to discuss their recruitment assignment
  • Write the job advertisement
  • Post the job on selected job boards, local listings and social media
  • Filter and manage CVs
  • Carry out initial telephone interviews to check eligibility and qualify candidates for the role
  • Shortlist
  • Brief the client on the shortlisted candidates
  • Provide details from the telephone interview
  • If required, arrange interviews and advise the candidates in writing of the detail for the interview
  • Keep in contact with the client.

Is the chemistry right?

Our client concentrates on the shortlist knowing that all the candidates will have the knowledge, skills, and experience for the role – all the client needs to do is check for c-h-e-m-i-s-t-r-y!

‘Fit for purpose’ is a phrase we hear time and again.  And it is so important to ensure that a future employee is a right fit for the business.  Each business has its own DNA, it’s own way of doing things.  Not everyone will agree with a particular culture or the values of the business.  Sometimes an employee may not agree with the way things are done, and very often they are the people who are hanging on in the business, often unhappy, waiting for something else to come along.

10 Tips for top selection

My 10 tips for top selection, after you have qualified your candidates are :

  1. Take time to plan the interview
  2. Don’t only rely on face-to-face interviews use other methods of assessment
  3. Involve members of staff in providing case studies for the interview assessment
  4. Introduce candidates to staff and allow them some time together
  5. Stick to interview times, allow more time rather than less between interviews
  6. Explain the terms of employment e.g. holiday and other benefits
  7. Make sure the candidate knows your expectations
  8. Take time to make a decision based not only on present skills and experience but the candidate’s potential to grow and develop and fit into the business
  9. Inform the candidate as soon as possible of the outcome
  10. At the beginning of employment, plan a very good induction over a number of months.

If you take the time to explain all the basics from the start, you will find an employee who is eager to join because they know that your business is the type of business they want to work with.  And if you ensure you have the right person, the right induction, the right development, the right rewards – you will be in a good place to retain the right talent for your business.

For more information about this service to our clients contact Cecily Lalloo at 07767 308 717 or email cecily.lalloo@embracehr.co.uk or Ines Respini Jones on 07977 409512.

HR Associates is a collaboration between

Embrace HR and Simply HR Consulting.

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