Lay-off occurs where an employer is temporarily unable to provide an employee with the work for which they were employed. Short-time occurs where an employee’s hours of work or pay are reduced to less than 50% of normal weekly working hours or normal weekly pay.

In both cases the employer must believe that the situation will not be permanent and must give employees notice to this effect. There is no stipulated minimum period of notice. Exceptional circumstances, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, are likely to justify a short notice period.

The employer’s belief regarding the temporary nature of the period of lay-off or short-time will be considered with the circumstances prevailing when the decision is made. In other words, the decision will be viewed based on the circumstances at the time of the decision.

A period of lay-off should not be confused with sick leave or a period of self-isolation in accordance with current HSE guidelines. Different guidelines apply and clients should contact us in these scenarios.

Employers should be careful when selecting employees for lay-off or short-time. They should apply objective selection criteria and be careful not to discriminate, directly or indirectly, against employees on any of the nine grounds prohibited by the Employment Equality Acts 1998-2015.


Firstly please note that the guidance to employers on how to manage staff with with or exposed to COVID-10 in the UK is slightly different to that given here in Ireland.  The most notable difference is that in the UK, if you live with someone who has symptoms you are asked to stay at home, whereas here in Ireland we have not yet done this.

Please see the NHS website (link below) for full guidance relevant for the UK.

Employees and Statutory Sick Pay (SSP)

If you do have staff who are sick due to COVID-19 the UK has extended its existing Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) Scheme to be available from day 1 of the confirmed illness.  As with any system there are certain qualifications and rules that apply so each situation will have to be assessed individually. Notably, in the UK, those who follow advice to stay at home and who cannot work as a result will be eligible for statutory sick pay (SSP), even if they are not themselves sick.  If employees are not eligible for sick pay there is a Universal Credit available, again rules apply. Also note that in the UK there already is a system of self-certification with regard to the early days of illness and this has been extended to COVID-19, employees can self-certify their illness and if the employer wants or requests a certificate the employee can get this online through the NHS website.

Other family leave options that you as a business offer can also be considered such as Force Majeure to care for a dependent, commencing maternity leave early if it applies, parental leave etc.

Short-term working / temporary lay-offs

With regard to layoffs and short-time working – as always, the existing contract of employment will dictate the options open to you.  If you have a clause in the employee’s contract that allows for layoff without pay then that is an option however if you don’t then you can only lay-off staff with full pay. 

The UK are recommending where you believe the lay-off will be a temporary measure to avail of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme or ‘furlough’ the staff instead.  Where companies do furlough their employees, HMRC have stated that they will reimburse 80% of furloughed workers wage cost, up to a cap of 2.5k per month. The employee remains employed and retains the links to the employer and the employer has the option of ‘topping up’ the salary to full pay but does not have to do so.  However, a bit like our employers refund of the COVID-19 Unemployment Payment here in Ireland, HMRC have not yet worked out a system for this reimbursement but are working on it.

For employers, HRMC are also putting in place supports like deferring VAT etc – more details can be found by following the link below:

A very helpful guide for employees can be found by following this link which includes information about the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (an option to keep employees on payroll rather than laying them off).

Many of our clients have been left with no option but to place employees on lay-off due to the unprecedented circumstance arising out of the measures being taken to stem the spread of Coronavirus (COVID-19).

These decisions are incredibly difficult and our hearts go out to the employees that are being laid-off.

Employers should note that as the employees are being laid off temporarily, without pay, due to a reduction in business activity, they can apply for a jobseeker’s payment using one of the following methods:

  1. Online at if they have a verified MyGovID account. Individuals must have a Public Services Card to register for a verified MyGov account
  2. Alternatively, employees can complete the COVID Pandemic Unemployment Benefit form. Employees should post the completed application form, along with the Form RP-9 which you as Employer should give to affected employees and which details the terms of the layoff for your records and any associated social welfare claim to your local Intreo office.

For further information or advise please see the Employers Information section on

Your business is big enough now to need HR support but hiring an HR manager is absolutely the wrong decision.

A Familiar Scenario

Your business is growing fast and you have ambitious plans for the future. To facilitate this and effectively deal with the increasing pressures placed on you and your management team, you need to scale up various aspects of the business.

This potentially includes everything from the physical space you have available to your core business departments whether that is sales, service delivery, manufacturing, etc.

You also need to scale up your capacity in business support functions like accounting, marketing, and, yes, HR.

Does this sound familiar?

The problem with HR is its complexity.

The HR Specialists Your Business Needs

As a fast-growing and ambitious business, you need specialists in multiple HR areas. This includes:

  • Recruitment
  • Onboarding new staff, contracts, new employee support, etc
  • Performance management and performance issues
  • Handling grievances
  • Handling claims of harassment, bullying or discrimination
  • Disciplinary issues
  • Staff retention strategies
  • Employee wellbeing programmes
  • Benefits packages

These are all individual skills that need specific expertise. Plus, the list above isn’t even definitive.

The HR Reality

There is no single individual with all the necessary skills who is capable of delivering on all the requirements outlined above.

This is why large companies have HR departments staffed by multiple people. These teams are required to handle the HR workload of the business, but the individuals on those teams don’t all do the same thing. Instead, each will specialise in specific aspects of the HR function.

The requirements don’t stop there either. This is because the HR function in your business needs to deal with situations that exist today while also resolving issues that occurred in the past. It also needs to plan for the future to ensure your HR strategy aligns with the goals of your business.

Your HR function should support your managers. It should give them confidence so they can make better decisions and help deliver better business results.

You need the same solution in your business, i.e. specialists that can support your business in every aspect of HR. However, the size of your company can’t justify the expense of hiring the team you really need.

Many fast-growing businesses in the same position as yours often compromise when faced with this situation.

Don’t Compromise

In most cases, this is an unconscious compromise. Most business owners don’t realise that HR has so many elements and specialisms. Unlike, say, accountancy, where they know they need a bookkeeper and a financial controller. As they grow, they know they will need to appoint a financial director or CFO too.

Yep, it sounds counter-intuitive, but in the vast majority of growth-driven SMEs, hiring a HR manager is a compromise – a compromise you don’t need to make.

In terms of HR, business owners know they need help, and the default position is to hire a HR Manager.

However the business owner comes to this decision, the solution typically involves finding the best-darned HR professional they can and then paying them well to attract and hopefully retain them for the long-term.

However, this story often then follows a similar script.

This starts with the workload on the HR manager becoming too much. The array of HR challenges is too broad and many are outside the HR manager’s competence.  Also, the pace of progress is often not as fast as the owners of the business want.

A decision is then often made to recruit a support person for the HR manager, usually in a junior position. Or maybe to employ external consultants to resolve more serious issues.

As a result, the business owner now has a HR team and high HR costs but is still in a compromise situation in relation to the skills and capacity available to the business.

This is why not compromising is a better business decision. You need an alternative solution instead.

The Alternative to Hiring a HR Manager

The alternative is to hire your own HR department. One that is there when you need it, on demand, and with the specialists that are required. A department to take care of all the day-to-day HR activities your business needs in addition to the more challenging issues that crop up from time to time. 

Recording holidays, storing key information securely and in compliance with GDPR, keeping an eye on probation dates, issuing contracts to new employees, and everything else – just pass it to your HR department.

Hang on though – we’ve already mentioned above that the size of your business doesn’t justify hiring a HR team.

The answer is to hire a HR department as a service (hint: HR Duo can help here). 

With a HR as a service, you get all the specialists you need without having to directly appoint anyone, plus you can scale up and down according to the requirements of your business. It’s the holistic and effective HR solution your business needs.

Download your free guide to HR Operational Risk

In any business, but especially in startups beginning to scale and growing SME and , recruiting has always been a challenge.  The hires you make will help to define the future success of the organisation.  Choose the wrong person and that one moment of decision could take months or years to unpick.  

In our constant pursuit of excellence, we have again sought an understanding of the challenges facing our clients.  Are the difficulties in recruiting the same as always? Or, are they more difficult in an increasingly digital world that favours the gig economy?  As we began this year, we sought to understand if the challenges facing small and medium-sized enterprises are significantly different from those of large enterprises and multinationals. Over 78% of our respondents came from small to medium businesses, and almost 22% were from large enterprises. 

At HR Duo, we offer a complete HR Department, providing HR software and support and advice when you need it.  Therefore, we are continually striving to understand the recruitment sector. Consequently, we recently spoke to Business Owners about hiring practices.  We asked about the current state of recruitment and sought to understand the challenges they faced.

Of all those asked, 59.4% of Business Owners said they found it challenging to recruit staff.  This is 10% less than the 69% of CEOs and managers asked in 2017, a significant improvement. It suggests that new recruitment approaches are having an impact. However, it still represents a considerable concern about the state of the job market and the capacity to find the right candidate.

The biggest challenges when recruiting

There are two takeaways from the results that interested us the most.  First, the lack of required skills and experience still factored as the most significant challenge facing SMEs and Startups.  While this is down by 15% from when we asked the CEOs and managers three years ago, it still represents the highest level of concern.  Second is the impact of salary expectations. People expect to be paid more and consequently, it is difficult to hire the best team and maintain a reasonable salary budget.

Other concerns included a lack of applicants (38.3%), competition over applicants (11.7%), promoting the vacancy (10%) and office location (6.7%)

These results suggest there is still a need for solutions to closing the skills gap and seeking the right talent at the right price.

Managing the skills gap

Research suggests that the use of fluid working practices and a reward system are the best ways of addressing the skills gap.  Business looking to the future recognise that the working relationship with talented staff needs to be more flexible. There needs to be employee-centric approaches to development and reward.

Technology might feel like an existential threat, disempowering and disengaging those recruited.  However, it is also a way of engaging those with talent in varied and meaningful work. This tech allows employees the flexibility to work in a way that suits the lifestyle to which they aspire.

In this new model of working, Business owners and Founders need to look beyond the standard list of criteria and expectations of candidates.  The hard skills of the past, and even the softer skills that are more difficult to measure and evidence, are becoming irrelevant. Instead, companies need to be looking at the qualities that the candidates offer – including, crucially, the capacity to self-manage, to continue to learn, to work with honesty and integrity, following an internal code of ethics and a vision for a better future for the company.  

As we advised in our survey from 2017 and again, we suggest today, you need to go beyond that black and white list of qualifications to hire your new staff.  Finding the perfect candidate who comes ready-made to fulfil your position in your way is a rarity. If you find them, they are going to cost you more to hire because they have highly desirable CVs – and your competitors want them too.

So, the answer is a more liquid model of skills required by your business.  You need to recognise that the relationship with your employees is reciprocal and based on mutual respect and trust – Positive Employee Relations as we like to say. there are also opportunities to be flexible around working hours and locations. Companies that prioritise the wellbeing of staff will find they will become much more desirable to the best applicants.

This change in focus will require you to change your mindset when recruiting.  Rather than look at the skills list the candidate offers, look for the attitude they project.  You could take someone raw, straight out of university but who has a recent history of involvement in societies and charity events.  You get someone who needs your training for the skills you need but comes ready packaged with the right qualities to learn above and beyond your expectations. Of course this approach requires a significant investment in time and potentially, resources.

Managing your staffing costs

The apparent solution to recruitment issues might be to throw larger salaries at the applicants you can find.  The survey suggests that higher salary expectations are a significant challenge as it is. Consequently, the idea of going above and beyond this to hire the talent you require feels unrealistic and unsustainable.

The solution to the skills gap and the possible answer to staffing costs could well be the same.  Your performance management programme and training and rewards package could be integrated into your recruitment practices.  In a GETI survey for the oil and gas sector in 2019, the findings suggested that workers are looking for a package. Therefore, it might not be a matter of the highest salary.  You might not be able to keep up with this staffing cost. However, you could still attract talent by putting together a cohesive package that offers development. The same survey noted that applicants were not only looking at the opportunities today but the chance to travel, learn new technology and shape a career with your company.

You could easily reap the rewards by offering more than just a high salary.  Your pitch, when competing for the best talent, should include how you will value this applicant as an individual and look to add to their skills and abilities.  You want a workforce skilled enough to go it alone and succeed in their own right, but they don’t want to because it is so good working for you.  

As a small business, you can’t hope to out- pay larger enterprises.  However, you could look to outsmart them with a people-orientated recruitment policy.  The offer of a more substantial salary should be the last resort. If there is someone out there that you cannot do without – and who you do not want to be employed by your competitors, then offer a highly competitive salary might be in order.  However, in reality, you cannot use this as a policy with every hire you make. It is, therefore, a short-term perspective on trends that will likely continue far into the future.

Don’t ignore the issues with applicants

Although the headlines are salary and skills, a sheer lack of numbers when advertising a job cannot be ignored.  Almost 40% of Business Owners stated this was one of their top two concerns. If this is you, then you need to consider your relationship with the marketplace for talent and manage your expectations.  

What does this mean? It means you need to be required to put some effort into walking towards the candidates – rather than having these applicants walk towards you.  For instance, do you have a graduate scheme? Having links to universities and encouraging interns and graduate employees will show your willingness to seek out the best people straight out of university.  Although the biggest companies are very active here, there is is still scope for SMEs to compete. You need to play to your strengths though. Graduates joining you will get far more responsibility and a wider experience. Again, this means you need to invest in training as these workers will come raw and without specific skill and experience.  However, if you seek them out and draw them into your company out of university, you will earn staff loyalty. Where there is a lack of applicants, retaining the current employees must be a significant priority. Therefore, graduate hires offer this win: win for companies.

According to the Harvard Business Review (May-June 2019), much recruitment is done without a job being advertised. Most companies are recruiting people through social media, such as LinkedIn, bringing in people who were not necessarily looking to change roles. A lot of recruitment is now outsourced, and the subcontractor actively seeks the candidates to fill the position – persuading them to apply.  Whether this virtual approach to hiring is right or not is questionable. However, what it proves is that companies are recognising they need to go out and seek applicants and should not remain passive in this search.

To the future

Probably most significant in all these challenges is the fast-moving nature of the recruitment sector.  Not long after happening upon the best strategy to hire the best talent, the world moves on, and your approach no longer works.  You may have a method that nets a lot of applicants of whom a handful meet your hopes. You may have strict standards, keeping the bar high but are willing to put your money where your mouth is – supporting this strategy with a high staffing budget.

However, changing technologies – both in recruitment software and those that allow people to work in a way that suits a lifestyle they choose – may make these strategies redundant.  Therefore, using keyword searches on CVs, using AI on applications, allowing flexible working remote from the office and putting together a benefits package that makes people feel valued – these are the solutions that could move your recruitment forward.

There’s an election on, so we need a political reference.

Albert Reynolds pic The late Albert Reynolds, former Taoiseach and leader of Fianna Fáil famously said: “It’s the little things that trip you up”.  This certainly resonates with really interesting cases from the Decisions section of the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) website.

Both cases draw upon the Organisation of Working Time Act which is actually a piece of Health and Safety legislation. The Act sets out that: –

  1. The employer is responsible for ensuring that the standards for working time and rest set out in the legislation are provided to the employee
  2. The employer is responsible for keeping leave, rest and working time records (prescribed in the legislation) to demonstrate that this has been done.

Most employers are (at least vaguely) aware of the requirement to keep records. In contrast, most are less well informed about the form and type of records to be kept.

We meet with many prospective clients that rely on payslips, pay analysis sheets, records from EPOS system logins and a variety of other types of record. It is very clear from the primary regulations that these are not, in fact, suitable and do not fulfil the Working Time Act record-keeping obligations. Recent case law has supported this view. For example, the case of Stablefield v Lacramiora, the Labour Court upheld a decision by the WRC adjudicator.

The key elements in the decision were that the Employer could not demonstrate that the requirements of the Working Time Act had been complied with as appropriate records were not maintained.

The employer relied on payslips and the pay analysis records but these were not accepted as evidence.

A similar problem arose for the employer in a different case – Betting Assistant v Bookmaker. In this case, the adjudication officer was very clear – and stated that it is not appropriate for the employer to attempt to put the onus on the employee to take their breaks and that there is an onus on the employer to provide evidence showing that the employee has taken breaks. The adjudicator went on to say that without records, there is no way in which the employer can refute the assertions of the employee. This position was endorsed by the Labour Court. The Employer, in this case, tried to rely upon EPOS records but the judgement was unequivocal in relation to these records:

“However, it is clear from the evidence adduced, that the EPOS system was not primarily designed to manage time and attendance and does not provide the functionality to record the time and duration of employees’ breaks.”

Both mentioned cases resulted in significant fines/compensation being paid by the employers.

What Working Time records are required to be kept by employers?

Employers must keep records of an employee’s hours worked on a Form OWT1 or in a substantially similar way. There is a specific exemption from the OWT 1 requirement for employers that use an electronic system of record keeping by clocking in and out.

There are a number of other exemptions for keeping records of rest breaks based around providing information and retaining records of the communications with employees. (See the WRC site for full details – or just talk to us).

The bottom line is that Employers need to approach their working time record-keeping obligations in a systematic and thorough fashion. Of course, HR Duo’s HR software fulfils all the requirements to comply with legislation and demonstrate compliance. The software also has the facility to record the communications records that are required should employers wish to utilise those exemptions.

Are you concerned about your own business’s compliance with the Working Time Act? Our free checklist is a good way to assess your status and identify areas that need attention. You can download it by clicking on the image below.

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In our recent survey, we learned that 69% of businesses find recruitment difficult and therefore, the loss of a member of staff can have serious implications. Conflict in the workplace is all too common and if left unchecked, increases turnover.

Statistics show that the average person spends 92,120 hours at work in their lifetime. For many of us, this will mean we spend more time with colleagues throughout the week than with family and friends, so if conflicts arise they need to be quashed before they have an impact on the wider business.

To help you navigate the hows and whys of tackling conflict and finding a swift resolution in the workplace, we have collated advice from HR professionals and Business leaders in the UK and further afield.


Put Yourself In Their Shoes

In the workplace individuals often come together in teams with a variety of levels of power, values, attitudes, and social factors. As these are often significant they can easily instigate conflict. For that reason, when dealing with conflict, clearing your lens from all other distractions and focusing solely on the perspective of the individual in question is essential as a skill to resolve issues. You will never get to truly understand the motive behind the conflict – no matter how many questions you ask –  if you’re not able to put yourself in their shoes.

Understand The Underlying Cause

When attempting to resolve conflict, invite the person causing it to sit down and attempt to discover the underlying issues behind it – what’s going on? Is the problem based on differing values or is it a simple misunderstanding? how would they like to resolve it to both their and your satisfaction? This involves asking great questions to diagnose the situation. At the end of the day, conflict often arises from differences in values, what’s important to one person may not be important to another.

Then Find The Middle Ground

Finally, knowing how to find a compromise is key. Don’t resolve the conflict to satisfy just your own agenda because it’ll only bring about more conflict. Think about it: from the moment you mention your concern to the individual your concern turns also into theirs. Imagine one of your co-workers being late to work every day. It’s tempting to resolve the situation quickly by telling them to be on time from now on. This might solve your problem, but because you haven’t taken time to understand their point of view it might not solve theirs. Compromise – which involves giving and taking on both sides – usually ends up with both parties walking away equally satisfied and being able to follow through on commitments to action.

Shaun Bradley is the Director of People at Perkbox.


#1 Lead by example

It’s important for the leadership team within any business to lead by example, especially when it comes to behaviour and attitudes towards conflicts. Consider investing in training programmes for your senior staff and managers to learn about how to handle difficult conversations and challenging team members.

The development courses will encourage your senior team to listen to people speak, take on board points of view and address employee worries calmly and effectively. Conflicts can occur when there is a clash of viewpoints, values or morals within the workplace so it’s important to listen before you react in any difficult situation to minimise the conflict further.

#2 Clear communication

A lack of clear communication in the workplace can lead to uncertainty, a sense of misdirection and an increase in stress – all factors that, when combined, are likely to result in conflict. By clearly defining roles and levels of responsibility, you’ll avoid any conflict arising as a result of decision-making and delegation of work. Plus, staff will be able to be more productive and at ease in their roles.

Healthy relationships at work are the key to a successful and rewarding organisation so, if disputes are occurring, considers using companies such as ACAS and CIPD to help with the creation of disciplinary procedures.

#3 Finding a resolve

Mediating between both parties involved in the dispute is a quick way to get to the root of the problem; not only will this allow employees to be vocal about their concerns, it will also enable you as an employer to highlight any arising issues you have in the company.

Having an impartial person that can understand both parties arguments and make a fair judgment on the outcome of a conflict has a number of benefits including restoring relationships in the long run.

Gavin White is the Managing Director at Autotech Recruit.


The following are my top tips for restoring harmony and defusing potential conflict issues:

  • Plan things in advance; think about the goal of the conversation and the words you will use. What does the other person need?
  • Is it the right time for this conversation? If you’re both too angry, pause and delay the conversation until you’re both calmer and able to think more rationally.
  • Stay calm and be open to the other person’s point of view.
  • Share perspectives on what the issue is. What are the facts, what are the feelings and perceptions of all people involved?
  • Express yourself without assigning blame. Listen to the other person without trying to defend yourself and criticising them.
  • Work together to problem-solve. Ask questions like “What do you think we should do about this?” and “What will make this easier for both of us?”

Anna Shields is co-founder and director at mediation and conflict resolution specialists Consensio.


To keep morale high and avoid conflicts, Bain and Gray have installed a buddy system in the office to encourage teamwork and to avoid issues escalating.  Each consultant has a buddy who assists with personal development and deals with any issues that are thrown up as well as areas for improvement. They also believe in a ‘praise and train’ approach which co-founder Emily Bain says is tried and tested:

‘We have found that staff always benefit from regular praise and updates on how they are performing.  It’s the little things that matter.  We also give the team achievable incentives to meet group targets as these pull them together and reward them for working together effectively.  Regular ‘events’ also boost morale, these range from days out, group training and activities that bring everyone together and focus them on key areas of development.  We also run an incredibly successful annual ‘wellness week’ where staff enjoy a company-funded health benefit each day; sessions with a nutritionist, a doctor, a masseuse, and a group yoga session amongst other things.’

Emily is a founding Director of recruiters Bain and Gray.


Workplace conflict can come in a number of forms, including outright bullying, constant arguing, clashes of opinion and incivility — a silent disease that can spread through an organisation and cause a huge amount of disruption. However, with the right performance management processes in place and the right training, conflicts can be reduced and dealt with swiftly, to avoid damage to your company culture and morale.

  1. Don’t avoid workplace conflict

According to a UK study of more than 1,500 employees, 91% of workers thought their organisations didn’t adequately deal with workplace bullying. Many managers and HR executives turn a blind eye to internal conflicts, believing that as the individuals involved are adults, they can be left to resolve the conflict on their own. This is a dangerous and short-sighted approach that essentially equates to conflict avoidance — and workplace avoidance is a calling card of a terrible manager.

Conflict is a performance management issue that should be recognised and addressed head-on before it has the opportunity to escalate and become toxic. Conflict needs to be approached in a structured way and employees need to feel that their opinions and thoughts are being heard and respected.

  1. Managers should be given appropriate training to deal with workplace conflict

Just because a manager has been appointed or elevated to a particular position, this doesn’t mean they have the necessary skills and training to address and resolve workplace conflict. As such, HR should always provide training to managers so they know what processes and protocols to follow, should a conflict arise. People management isn’t just a HR responsibility — managers play an integral role, but they need the necessary building blocks to be able to combat it.

  1. Let employees know that they will be listened to and their opinions will be respected

Communication is key in relation to workplace conflict resolution. Employees need to know they are going to be heard and have their opinions respected. They also need to feel able to approach their managers, without fear of being brushed off.

To keep the lines of communication open and honest, managers and employees should have regular one-on-one meetings and performance discussions. During these meetings, managers should encourage employees to open up about conflicts and grievances that might be affecting performance, engagement or morale. Managers should also provide private spaces where all the necessary parties can get together and, in an informal environment, discuss points of agreement and disagreement. Discussion should always focus on facts, rather than veering off into personal attacks.

  1. Set clear behavioural expectations and make them part of your company culture

Company culture, morals and values will filter through an organisation and impact employees at every level. Make it clear that outright unhelpful and destructive conflict will not be condoned in your business. Show employees how you deal with conflict in a healthy way and, in time, conflict will become less of an issue within your company.

Stuart Hearn is CEO and Founder of Clear Review, a performance management software company. Stuart can be found on LinkedIn and Twitter.


The key role of the leadership of a company is to create clarity and understanding about what are the values of the business and how these translate into actions. These need to be understood and shared by everyone so that when the leader is not there, which is most of the time, they are still are applied.

The values of an organisation set the rules by which it lives and defines the corporate personality and the culture. If the values are unclear there will be conflict and anxiety because people will not be sure what makes them a villain and what makes them a hero in the organisation.

If everyone lives by the same rules, the same values then people trust each other. If there are not shared values then at the extreme there is anarchy and generally, people do not feel part of a coherent whole. Shared positive values also allow people to feel a pride in the organisation that they work for.

Not only do there need to be clear values but they need to be ranked in order of priority so that when there is a conflict between, for example, being on time versus doing a really great job everyone agrees what is most important. This avoids conflict because people will have a shared understanding of how they should behave. In our Responsible Organisation Charter© having values that translate into behaviour and systems across the organisation is the first principle as it is fundamental to creating a harmonious organisation.

Sarah Brown is a Corporate Values Strategist and co-founder of inspire2aspire.


Teams now can be extremely diverse; you could, for example, have multiple generations working together in one team. That there will sometimes be disagreement and conflict is inescapable. There are, however, ways to manage conflict effectively.

In a conflict, there are three things. Interdependence between those in conflict, the perception in how each party sees the conflict and their part in it and resources that usually start the conflict off in the first place, like money, power or prestige. When attempting to deal with conflict your ultimate objective is to minimise harm and encourage positive outcomes, and the skills you will need are communication, negotiation, mediation and decision-making.

From a communications perspective, consider that it is your role to listen and attempt to understand the conflict as perceived by the different parties involved. It is important to encourage those involved to not apportion blame but instead focus upon facts as much as possible.  Mediation skills allow to you to encourage different parties to hear each other without expressing your own personal standpoint, and negotiation allows you to find a mutually acceptable outcome. Where a mutually acceptable outcome isn’t possible, making a decision that is grounded in fairness and understanding is the next best thing.

Try to prevent conflict arising by creating an environment that encourages positive communication. Be clear about job roles and responsibilities, have systems in place that allow employee feedback and ensure managers have the skills that they need to lead effectively.

Paul Russell is co-founder and director of Luxury Academy London, a multinational private training company.


Conflict in the workplace is all too common. Here are 3 tips that will help you handle them.

Have an Escape Plan

We want to prevent any outbreak of fire, but in case it happens, it’s good to have a plan. Similarly, we want to prevent an outburst of conflicts, but in case it happens (and we know it does), it’s good to have a plan for handling it. It gives us information about the steps we need to follow.

TIP: create a step-by-step guide for co-workers on what to do in case of a conflict. Let them know about it or even involve them in the process of preparing it.


By having a plan to handle conflicts a company acknowledges the conflicts are part of their work, which is normal. it shows a company is serious to address conflicts effectively and does not ignore them until they escalate. By being informed in advance, employees know what to expect when they face a conflict.

Cool Down the Heat

In the heat of the conflict, it’s easy to get carried away by strong emotions, saying things you might later regret. The chemical reactions in the body make it difficult to clearly articulate or listen with attention when under such strong emotions. This is the crucial moment to prevent the hidden danger – namely escalation of the conflict, where things get out of control.

If the emotions are not cooled down on time, the conflict can escalate like a wildfire.


By staying calm and giving the opportunity to all involved in a conflict to be heard without judgment acknowledging you see they are hurt by what happened reassuring them you trust they will be able to sort this out- alone or with a help of a neutral mediator offering them to talk with a mediator or person qualified in conflict resolution.

Focus on the Lesson

A big trap in conflicts is talking about what happened for too long. Why? Because everybody has their own story on what happened (assuming they’re right and the other one is wrong) it creates bigger frustration, emotions and passionate opposition (calling in the blame game). It stays in the past- and nobody can change the past.

TIP: Instead of talking about the spilt milk bring focus on what would you do differently next time, so you would prevent such situation from happening.


Each conflict is an opportunity to see what is not working or who is hurt but also to find out what do we really want, if we have goals in common and how can we reach them together. Focusing on the lesson from this specific conflict, we get one step closer to not repeating the same mistake again. This approach enables personal growth, team evolution and expansion of a company.

Simona Frumen is a Conflict Resolution Expert + Mediator


A less obvious, but more impactful way to handle workplace conflict is to manage your own emotional state. Conflict is normally stressful and puts us in a reactive, defensive state, which can make the situation worse.

If the conflict is on-going it can affect our sleep, which in turn can sap energy and clarity. This is a dangerous cycle and it’s important to break it. By doing so you are more likely to gain a clearer, more balanced view of the situation and respond in a more productive way. When you prioritise your sleep, you will be better able to cope with the conflict or even resolve it.

Here are some things you can do to create a better emotional state:

  1. Take time out. Consciously remove yourself from the environment for a day or two and do something you are likely to enjoy.
  2. Appreciate what is going well in your life, or the good relationships you have with friends and family. Studies show that daily mindful gratitude reflections can build resilience to stress.
  3. Recognise that you have coping skills and character strengths that might be useful at this time e.g. humour, determination, optimism.
  4. Listen to your favourite music or watch a funny movie. It can change your mood and improve your capacity to deal with challenging work situations.
  5. Reflect on some happy memories and savour them until you feel your mood lifting.
  6. Don’t skip meals. Missing out on breakfast or lunch can cause blood sugar levels to drop resulting in a state of being ‘hangry’ (hungry + angry). Avoid difficult conversations or colleagues if you are likely to be in this state – your reactions may be more extreme than you intend.
  7. Remember that this too shall pass.

Noel Clerkin is the Founder of Wiser Working, a resilience and stress management training company.


Most companies will have a benchmark of sensing the workplace climate by how many formal grievances have been raised. My view on this one is to inquire how much time are managers spending on dealing with conflict either between individuals or across dysfunctional teams. The best way of dealing with any disagreement or conflict is to nip it in the bud. Conflict is an opportunity it usually stems from the need to change.

Most would agree, we don’t enjoy dealing with conflict. Having those difficult conversations very often feels extremely uncomfortable – unfortunately, the longer it goes on, the worse it becomes. Once it has reached a point where an individual feels they need to escalate their complaint to raising a formal grievance, the relationship is then very difficult to restore and is usually finished.

Leaders and Managers need to be able to spot the signs quickly. Raising their Emotional intelligence, taking time to get to know their teams and solve issues quickly is important. Having great conversations with employees and really listening to what is being said is important. Asking the right questions at the right time get to understand what may be driving an individual to take a stance or to understand their view of the world. Whenever I am meditating I can guarantee you that it is never what has been presented as the issue entirely it is always something that may have happened years before which sits at the heart of it.

There are generally said to be five conflict resolving approaches:

  • Avoidance
  • Accommodation
  • Compromise
  • Competition

Managers need to be able to:

  • Build relationships – get to know your team individually make time
  • Actively listen – be in the moment
  • Have emotional intelligence – raise your self-awareness
  • Having great conversations with employees – open questions
  • Give regular feedback on the behavioural element of people’s roles
  • Share your observations

Pamela Whitehead is a Chartered FCIPD and Director of PJW HR Consultancy.


“Only three things happen naturally in organisations – friction, confusion and underperformance. Everything else requires Leadership.” – Peter Drucker

How should people be managed at work? How can employees improve the competitiveness and efficiency of your organisation? How should conflicts of interest be resolved?   

The quality of workforce relationships impacts organisational performance and how employees experience their work environment.  A central tenet of ‘Positive Employee Relations’ is that employees’ terms and conditions include both the contractual arrangements and the managerial relationships to which they are subjected.

Employee relations occurs wherever people work. ER problems top the HR agenda in most organisations. It’s not just about the utilisation of human resources but the workplace experiences and expectations of both management and employees. ER operates in the space between conflicts of interest and cooperation.

It’s been found that Positive Employee Relations can be an intangible and enduring asset, a source of sustained competitive advantage.

How do you Achieve Positive Employee Relations?

  1. Ensure that your managers and supervisors know the law and are trained to spot issues and resolve conflicts.
  2. Treat all employees with both dignity and respect.
  3. Be upfront in dealing with employee sharing as much information as possible.
  4. Listen carefully when employees raise issues or come to you to discuss problems – give them your full and undivided attention.
  5. Establish fair systems and make consistent decisions based on your policies and rules – resolve issues as quickly as possible.
  6. Most importantly, be fair. Consider how you would want to be treated in a similar situation and make your decisions accordingly.

    Building positive relationships with employees can be done with relative ease. But knowing what to do is different from actually doing it day in day out. 

Click here to watch Jerome’s 3-Step Program video for resolving conflict in the workplace.

Jerome founded Forde HR Cloud, a HRIT platform that uses the most advanced cloud technology to bring a virtual HR office to start-ups and SMEs.

First impressions are everything and your Job Description will be the first time many of your employees will encounter your fledgling business. A basic Job Description usually contains the job title, duties, skills and competencies, a bit about the company and a salary. However, you’ll probably agree that ‘basic’ isn’t quite in line with your company vision.

Your workforce is one of your most important assets and you want to attract the best.

With this in mind, it’s worth investing considerable time to ensure your outbound communications are effective. In the long run, this will save you time and resources (after all,  recruitment is a time-hungry animal).

In our recent survey, we learned that 69% of business find recruitment difficult. As many as 3 in 4 SMEs struggle due to lack of applicants, or getting applicants at their intended level.

We are committed to helping small businesses with their HR challenges and providing easy to find, expert-advice online. So, we called upon our friends in the industry who kindly shared their wisdom and sound advice.

We asked them:

How Do You Write A Perfect Job Description?

Making the role stand out

There’s a deficit of attention in our information-rich world.  So cut to the chase: What is special about working in your SME? Avoid meaningless buzzwords and instead create a short story based on one of your existing employees. Here’s an example:

Nina was looking for work where she could stretch her imagination and learn whilst doing creative projects.  Nina found that because at SME Ltd, we thrive on flexible, adaptable and highly self-directed people.

Pitch at the right level

Describing the impact a role has can be of more value than a list of competencies, and a range of accountabilities.

Mihai wasn’t looking for another Head of Accounting role.  He wanted to be close to the people who needed sound economic advice, forecasting and investment management.  He found that with us because we understand our customers’ world and what’s the best out there to help them succeed in tough financial markets.

Get the right candidates

It’s often how it feels rather than what precisely you’ll do that will attract the right candidate.

Marsha knew she wanted to be in a place where you were given a tough assignment but all the support and opportunities to succeed.  We don’t interfere with how you want to work, we provide the conditions that help people flourish and keep our clients happy.

Ensure that who you hire, stays

Commitment and belonging mean more than entrapped by contract or stuck doing “just enough”.

Josh has been with us for 2 years and was our first hire into a customer liaison role.  Now leading our entire Customer Experience division, Josh is an example of how we’ve grown with our people. Creating opportunities is as much how we work as generating new business and increasing our impact in the marketplace.

Perry Timms is a Chartered MCIPD, Founder & Chief Energy Officer at PTHR and author of the newly published “Transformational HR”. In 2017, he was awarded “HR Most Influential Thinker”, following his high revered TEDx talk: The Future of Work.

Follow Perry on Linkedin here.

Adverts are as much about raising awareness about the company as they are about actually attracting people to work at an organisation. In fact, the return on adverts is typically quite low, especially if the company has a negative brand image elsewhere (e.g. people might research what it’s like to work at that company before actually applying) so it’s important to get your entire company message consistent and positive.

Get them excited

Your ad is about attracting people to want to talk to you so it should get someone excited. The key thing to get across in an ad is what the person applying stands to gain by getting this job (e.g. will they get specific training, will they work directly with clients/the business leaders etc). To get this right, you need to know your audience and what will appeal to them. You need to show some ‘upside’ to the candidate for applying to the ad.

Go beyond skills

It’s becoming increasingly important to convey how someone would feel doing the job they apply for. A list of skills that they must have doesn’t tell them what’s in it for them as an applicant, it just includes or excludes them. Absolutely include what skills are required but that should just be a part of the advert.

Make sure the advert is detailed

People often think that if they keep the advert light on details, they will attract a broader and larger population of people. An ad isn’t successful because of the number of applicants but because of the accuracy of the candidates on what you are looking for. Better off getting 10 relevant candidates than 100 of which only 5 match what you are looking for. People are more likely to apply for an ad if they know some detail about the environment they are signing up to, some detail on the job they will do and what they stand to gain. They are less likely to apply if there is little detail.

Keywords are your friend

Most job boards will place ads based on how many times you use the keywords in the ad (i.e. the title of the job and key skills required). People are more likely to apply for the first three jobs that match their search criteria so make sure your ad shows up in their searches by smartly using keywords throughout the ad.

Make the title simple

People don’t search for ‘fantastic opportunity’ when they are job searching. They search for e.g. ‘Marketing executive’. Have the job seeker in mind when writing the title. Think about what they would search for.-

Kunjal Tanna is the Director of LT Harper, a recruitment firm set up in response to a global skills shortage in the Cybersecurity sector. With 15 years experience working in the technology space, she specialises in placing highly sought after professionals with IT Security skills.

Follow Kunjal on Linkedin here.

Know exactly what you’re after

Be very clear in your own mind exactly what the role is and what it is you want the person to do, before even attempting to write a description. Asking for someone who is “good with customers”, or “can generate business leads” is not specific enough.

If you’re not 100% clear on your expectations, it can lead to moving goalposts or evolving the role once the hire has started. This leads to a decline in professional trust. Also, candidates can sense when an employer doesn’t really know what they want, and anyone with experience will know to avoid. The benefit of role clarity is that the description will be more appealing to the right people.

Make sure the JD honestly reflects the role

If a company is struggling to recruit, or the company needs to recruit with a sense of urgency, it might be tempting to exaggerate the positives of the role and/or gloss over some of more mundane expectations.

Whilst this may increase the number of applications, it may also increase your turnover rates if new staff feel the role hasn’t met expectations. This ultimately leads to a waste of time and resources. So, make sure you’re job description accurately reflects what the person will be doing day to day.

Set the scene

Build a future into the role, let the candidate see the opportunity to progress, grow and develop.

Be clear on the hierarchy and where the role sits within the company structure.

Bring desirable qualities to life by including both enablers to success, such as ‘Have a great personal and professional integrity and inspire this in others’ and barriers such as ‘Not fully ‘buying in’ to our company culture’ to let candidates know if they will be a good fit.

Use the department’s targets, company values and behaviours and hierarchy to cascade and bring alignment to roles, if the department head’s role is ‘Accountable for providing reporting and feedback to monthly management meeting’. It should follow that their direct report’s role may read ‘Responsible for providing insights and contributing towards department reporting’.

Rebecca Clough is the Managing Director of In Car Safety Centre, the UK and Ireland’s leading car seats specialists. She joined the company after 13 years in finance and procurement with Diageo.

Follow Rebecca on Linkedin here.

Writing a job description may feel like a chore but it’s one of the first pieces of literature a potential employee is going to read about your company and first impressions count.

You may think the ball is in your court with candidates wanting your job opening, but for the excellent people that your organisation really needs, you have to give an excellent impression at every step of the hiring process.

With all your employee communications you need to start with your vision. Where is your company going and why? This is important to get candidates who are motivated by your purpose and who will support it.

At Countingup we talk about creating a really simple way to run a business by giving every small business accounting and banking in one place. That’s our vision.

An employee wants to know where they stand in an organisation. At Countingup we refer to this as roles and goals.

  • Roles are what you do
  • Goals are the outcome of what you do

It’s important to let candidates know in a job description what their roles and goals are as this gives clarity of accountability and sets mutual expectations.

You could list loads of values and behaviours that you would like a candidate to have and they would probably all be worthy attributes, but we prefer to focus on just two that are key for us:

  • Are you committed to getting things done quickly and with excellence?
  • Do you speak the truth and listen with an open mind to improving?

The next step at the interview stage is of course ensuring that a candidate actually measures up to the template you’ve set out in the job description.

Tim Fouracre is the founder & CEO of Countingup, the new finance solution for SMEs offering accounting and banking in one place. Previously, Tim founded Clear Books plc., which provides small businesses with clear & simple cloud accounting and payroll software. 

Follow Tim on Linkedin here.

Writing a Technical Job Description

Writing a technical job description can throw up a number of challenges. This is commonly observed in specialist fields such as IT. If the prospective candidate can poke holes in the job description, it can be very off-putting. To the prospect, this is usually a sign that the company doesn’t really know what they want and anyone with skills and experience will know to avoid.

Therefore, whenever creating a technical job description, it is vitally important to avoid these common pitfalls:

Too broad

While we’d all wish to recruit that one person who can do everything, it’s not very practical to expect it. Try not to expect skills across multiple domains that have no relationship. For example, asking for an expert graphic designer who is also an expert software developer. People will be one or the other, but not both.

Too specific

Don’t fill your job descriptions with obscure minor skills, nor list them as must-have requirements. Again, this can occur when a non-specialist recruiter is handing a job and there is the potential to fixate on small details.

For example, competent web developers and coders can quickly pick up specific nuances between common code resources that are based on standard programming patterns. It shouldn’t really matter if they have hands-on experience with an exact resource if they have knowledge that is directly transferable from similar projects with minimal effort.

Too advanced

While you want to make sure the description covers all bases, try not to add requirements that aren’t essential, or ask for skills that rarely get used. This risks reducing the amount and quality of applications for the role. Unnecessary requirements deter people who are genuinely competent with the job’s main requirements, leaving the applicant list with a higher percentage of people who exaggerate their capabilities. It also pushes up the salary expectation while alienating junior applicants who are capable of doing the job.

Working with recruiters

Finally, make sure the person handling recruitment has a fair understanding of the role they are recruiting for. Seems obvious enough, but is often overlooked. This is particularly relevant to those in SMEs, whose businesses are often niche and specialist in nature.

For example, a classic mistake is when recruiters attempt to recruit JavaScript developers for a Java role. JavaScript is a completely different technology to Java; in the same way that English is different to French – both are European languages, but you can’t pass one off as the other.

Leon Brown is an award-winning education content developer & technology writer. He owns and operates, offering a no-nonsense and jargon-free approach to learning maths and programming skills through interactive software, content and training programmes.

Follow Leon on Linkedin here.

Recruiting talented individuals into your business is difficult enough, but did you realise that without a proper induction program for new employees, the struggle and cost could go to waste?

The induction is the chance to explain more about the company structure and it gives you the opportunity to make sure the new employee is familiar with their new surroundings. There is no underestimating the importance of proper induction in making the new employee feel comfortable and most importantly, welcome into the organisation.

Although implementing new hire induction program may seem like a time consuming and perhaps pointless task, it is actually far from it. Companies who implement new hire induction programs can actually improve their retention levels. Statistics show that 69% of employees will remain with the company for 3 years or more if they have a good experience with their induction. The rate of retention is double for those companies who have an onboarding process in place, than those without.

What is the purpose of onboarding?

Onboarding is not just good for retention levels, it also offers a number of other benefits. Productivity is also 50% higher for organisations with an onboarding process. If employees get the chance to learn about the role, have proper training and are made to feel welcome, they will be able to work more productively. If they are left to their own devices, have insufficient training and are feeling uncomfortable from day one, they won’t be productive and will not stick around for long.

This all comes down to the onboarding process.

What should be in the induction?

The induction process may seem long and arduous, but if you take it step by step, it won’t seem as complex. This step by step guide should give you a good idea of how to tick all the boxes during the induction program.

  1. Prepare for the new start

There is nothing worse than turning up on your first day to be told that IT haven’t set up your login or you don’t have a proper seat or desk. This creates a negative first impression and is likely to be highly frustrating for the new start. The only excuse for this is leaving it to the last minute, so make sure you are prepared for your new employee starting. Ensure you have all the relevant equipment and technology arranged and let any relevant personnel know about the new start. It is also important to speak to the new start and arrange the date and time with them and to welcome them. They will appreciate the contact and it will make them feel excited about joining the company.

  1. Complete paperwork

The new employee’s first day should start with them completing all the relevant paperwork, including their employment contract, bank details, P60 etc.

  1. Organisation information

As part of the induction process, you should explain the company policies and procedures to the new start. It is also important to show them around the building and introduce them to any relevant colleagues. It is also a good idea to give them a buddy, someone to show them the job and perhaps to spend breaks with for the first week. Starting a new job can be very intimidating, so any steps you take to make the new employee feel welcome will encourage them to stick around.

  1. The role

The induction process is a chance to explain what the job entails and what the expectations are. It can be a good time to set goals and to let the new start know the structure and who they will be dealing with.  Make sure you explain the culture to the employee, so they know how the company operates.

It’s worth circling back on this after the first few weeks to make sure that the role requirements have been fully understood. It’s easy for new starters to get overwhelmed with all the new information, so reiteration can mitigate any misunderstandings early on.

  1. Ongoing support

The induction and onboarding strategy should not just be one day or even one-month process, it should be ongoing until the new employee is fully up to speed with the job and the processes. Many companies make the mistake of only introducing a one-day induction and this is not enough if you want to retain your new employees.

The main aspects of the induction process are to ensure the new employee knows what the role is and where they fit into the organisation. It is also important that they understand what the expectations are and that they are not left on their own to wander around aimlessly on their first days at the organisation.

Any extras?

In addition to taking these steps, there are other ways to make your onboarding process more effective. You may wish to consider implementing tracking progress so that any mistakes can be dealt with straight away before they spiral out of control. It may also be worth setting your new employee up with a mentor who can train and support them.

For a host of additional thoughts and ideas to improve your onboarding process, read this expert round-up.

Effective Onboarding Strategies

Through structure and support, we will take care of integrating a new employee. More effective onboarding directly contributes to improvements in productivity and compliance, both for new hires and their managers. We provide support for the complete employee lifecycle from recruitment or expansion to exit. Get in touch for more information today.