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Managing Stress at Work


Stress is a serious condition that can impact many employees. It is vital that employers recognise and identify stress, before it escalates or exacerbates other serious mental or physical health problems.

The Health and Safety Executive estimates that over 13.4 million work days were lost to stress in 2001, costing approximately £3.7 billion each year.

This article helps to identify ways that stress can be recognised and managed, and how employers can help support employee wellbeing.

Consider the demands on the employee

Is the workload reasonable? Employers have a legal responsibility set out by the Health and Safety executive to assess the risk of work related stress and to take measures to control this. Ensuring that the work level is appropriate and time demands are achievable is one way to reduce the stress of an employee.

Giving employees unrealistic targets may increase their stress and increase the employee’s dissatisfaction at work. This in turn can lead to underperformance which ultimately costs businesses potential profit. 

Be aware, that acceptable levels of stress may be different for each employee.

Training and Support

Ensuring that employees are fully trained to perform their role is important. Employees who are uncertain of what they are doing or lack the capability to do the role will feel an increased stress level. Reviewing employees training and holding regular reviews will help employees feel more supported. This will be particularly important to jobs where the skills needed are in high demand in the labour market.

Training Managers

Ensuring that all managers have a consistent approach to managing stress within the workplace is important.

Training managers to listen and talk to their employees could reduce the likelihood of the employee going off sick.

Improving Team Relationships

Having a good support network doesn’t just mean having a good manager. A team of employees who support each other can help reduce stress as they have other staff members to help with workloads and to and bounce ideas off. They also have peers to turn to if they are struggling.

A team doesn’t always have to be peers who are working on the same job. They can be people in the same office or employees who carry out similar functions.

Having strong teams can also help improve knowledge sharing and reduce any key person dependencies that a business may have.

Consider an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP)

EAPs are intended to help employees deal with personal problems that could negatively impact their performance at work. Many also offer the support to people living within the employee’s household as the mental wellbeing of family can also impact on the employee’s mental wellbeing.

Employee Benefits

Employee benefits such as flexible working may make the employees feel more appreciated and thus reduce their stress levels.

Working flexibly can help employees manage pressures and demands in their personal life and balance that with the pressures of work. Giving staff more autonomy over their working day can increase productivity for the time the employee is in work.

Working flexibly can also reduce level stress as employees can avoid the stress of rush hour traffic and difficult commutes. Enabling staff to reduce stress outside of work can help them better cope with stress at work.


While many employees enjoy and are motivated by challenges, ensuring that these are achievable and reasonable will help ambitious employees achieve more. When setting targets, assess each employee and the workplace ensuring you get the right balance between motivation and overloading the employee.

Having a proactive policy in place to deal with stress will hopefully avoid employees going into ‘burnout’ and impacting on the performance of the business.

For further advice on the costs of EAP programmes or managing employee stress contact Opsium.

Posted by: Opsium Marketing
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Avoid being named and shamed for not paying National Minimum Wage (NMW)...


...Even if you think you are paying correctly!

Wagamama and TGI Fridays are the most recent companies that have been named and shamed for failing to pay their staff the National Minimum Wage (NMW). Both companies have been fined an undisclosed figure by the Government for failure to comply with the law.

The Government have the power to fine employers up to twice the total wage shortfall, subject to a maximum of £20,000 per worker, if they do not comply with the National Minimum Wage Regulations 1996.

But how can big companies get it so wrong?

This article aims to sum up the pitfalls that other companies have fallen into, and help employers avoid hefty fines from the Government.


Wagamama ask their front-of-house staff to wear casual black jeans or a black skirt with their Wagamama branded top which is supplied by Wagamama. It was considered that asking staff to wear black was a uniform. Wagamama wrongly assumed that because the jeans or skirt were considered casual wear, they would be exempt from their responsibility to provide this for their employees.

It was concluded by HMRC that asking staff to buy their own uniform pushed the employees below NMW in their first pay cheque.

TGI Fridays encountered similar claims from staff regarding their footwear. Employees were provided with a uniform, but advised that they must wear black shoes. Again, as this was a uniform that was dictated by the employer, the employee should not be expected to fall below NMW.

Again, the cost of the shoes pushed the employees below NMW in their first pay cheque, resulting in hefty fines for TGI Fridays.

For employers who have uniforms, asking staff to pay for their uniform is not itself illegal or wrong. However, if staff are on a low hourly rate more care needs to be given to ensure that the cost of their uniform doesn’t cause the first pay cheque to fall below NMW.

Working Hours

Sports Direct had a very strict security process for all employees at the end of their working day. Employees were not allowed to leave the premises until they had been searched by a senior staff member. Sports Direct argued that the employees had finished their shift and so were not entitled to be paid. However, as this time was dictated by the company it was considered to be working time and thus subject to NMW. Failure to pay employees for this extra working time pushed employee wages below NMW taking into consideration the time they had actually worked and the pay they received.

Consider that if you are dictating specific times for employees, this is more than likely going to be considered working time, and therefore subject to NMW.

Many employers dictate that employees should be at work 10 – 15 minutes before work starts. This again would be dictating working times.

To avoid employees being late, but not being stung for extra wages, Opsium advises that the contracts are constructed to emphasise to staff that they must be ready and available to work at the start of their shift, not that they merely arrive on the premises for this time.

Not Keeping up to Date with Regulations

The NMW is increased every year in line with inflation. Therefore, each year employers need to be aware of how much the NMW is, and increase employees’ wages accordingly.

Commission Pay

Some companies implement commission only contracts. These contracts can be an amazing way to incentivise their employees to earn money for their company, but they can also leave employers at risk of not abiding by the NMW regulations. In line with NMW, employees should be paid NMW for all hours worked, even if they are on commission only contracts. If the commission employees earn is more than NMW, this is fine. However, if they do not earn any commission, or commission falls below the current rate of NMW, then employees must be paid the current NMW rate.


Current legislation and Employment Law is moving to protect vulnerable low paid employees. It is worth considering any expense that you expect an employee to go to, to be able to complete their day to day work. If the employees are paid the NMW or close to it, then more emphasis will be placed on the employer to ensure that the business needs do not push the employee’s wages below NMW.

If you would like any further information or advice on NMW then please get in touch.

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GDPR – An introduction for employers


The EU wide General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) becomes law in the UK on 25 May 2018.  This has an impact on any employers in the UK that process personal data.

‘Personal data’ is any information that enables an individual to be identified.

‘Processing’ includes everyday use of that data to manage employees such as keeping their contact details and using their information to pay their wages.

This guide aims to provide awareness of the changes in the law and how this impacts upon how you use, store and retain data in respect to your employees.

Businesses are advised to also consider what other personal data they process and control.  They should conduct a data audit and have regard for the requirements of GDPR.  This document only covers how GDPR applies to the HR aspect of your business.

For employers the key issues to focus on are:

Privacy Notices

You must formally advise all employees (and applicants during the recruitment process) about how the personal data you hold about them is used, shared and retained. The notice needs to state what information you have, why you have it and what you use it for.

Where you share employee’s personal data with any other party, you must ensure it is made clear to the employee in the Privacy Notice.

You must have a legal reason for processing personal data and state what that is in the Privacy Notice.

The Privacy notice must be issued to all employees either individually or it can be included in your Employee Handbook.

New rights for employees

  • Subject Access Request – Employees have always had the right to request details of the personal data you have about them.  In future you must provide the information they want within 30 days.
  • Right to rectification – Employees can ask for errors in the personal data you have to be corrected.
  • Right to be forgotten – In some cases employees can ask for a personal data record to be removed. The employer needs to be able to evidence that the data has been removed.

In anticipation of these changes Opsium have prepared a template Privacy Notice document for our clients to use for this purpose and it has also been included in the up to date handbook.

Breach Reporting

If there is a data breach, meaning someone who shouldn’t have has seen or is in possession of the data, it is mandatory that you report it to the Information Commissioners Office (ICO), within 72 hours of the breach.  They can be reached on 0303 123 1113.

Penalties for breaches

A breach could result in a fine for the employer.

Registration with the Information Commissioners Office (ICO)

You do not need to officially register with the ICO as a data processor if you are only using personal data for Staff Administration.  However, you must still comply with all data protection obligations.

If your business is processing personal data for other reasons not connected with Staff Administration, the position may differ and you should take further advice.

Record of Data Processing

You should consider whether to conduct a data processing audit and record in a formal Record of Data Processing document how you manage personal data. Generally small employers are not required to create a Record of Processing document.  However your business may be required to hold a Record of Processing document in respect to your other activity when processing personal data. The ICO website indicates that:

There is a limited exemption for small and medium-sized organisations. If you have less than 250 employees, you only need to document processing activities that:

  • are not occasional; or
  • could result in a risk to the rights and freedoms of individuals; or
  • involve the processing of special categories of data or criminal conviction and offence data.

Opsium have prepared a template Record of Data Processing Activity document for employers to use for this purpose.  However this template is a starting point and will need to be edited to fully reflect the data processing activity of your business.

Data Protection Officer

Some organisations may be required to appoint a data protection officer (DPO).  However it is unlikely this requirement will apply to an employer with less than 250 staff, unless they are using personal data on a larger scale or processing special categories of data.

The ICO website states:

Under the GDPR, you must appoint a DPO if you:

  • are a public authority (except for courts acting in their judicial capacity);
  • carry out large scale systematic monitoring of individuals (for example, online behaviour tracking); or
  • carry out large scale processing of special categories of data or data relating to criminal convictions and offences.


The Government has confirmed that GDPR rules will apply post Brexit.

How can Opsium help?

We are available to provide advice to clients on how to ensure they are compliant with GDPR from an HR perspective.

If you would like more information on how to become an Opsium client, please call our team on 0161 603 2156.

Posted by: Grahame Davies
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Community Chest: How to handle negative customer feedback on social media


Social media gives anyone and everyone a voice and the vast majority aren’t afraid to use theirs, especially when it comes to giving negative feedback on brands. So, what should you do in the event your company receives negative customer feedback on social media? We took to the internet to see what we could find out...

Make it a private matter

Where possible, try and move the disgruntled customer from the public eye into a private conversation. Replying first time round in public can be a good option but anything after that would ideally be sorted in private or offline. Quite often a customer who is unhappy with your company will behave or speak a lot differently when they are not in public and gives them a chance to soften their stance if you can sort their problem out efficiently.

Listen to the customer

It can be all too easy to go straight onto the defensive when someone is criticising your product or service, especially when it is something that is personal to you. However, receiving negative feedback is one of the biggest opportunities your customers can give you. If you can put your pride to one side, open your ears and take in the criticism then you have a great chance at improving your product and getting yourself ahead of the competition all whilst maintaining customer satisfaction.

Response time

Trying to respond to a dissatisfied customer in a timely manner could play a key role in getting them back on side. If you reply to a complaint or feedback efficiently the customer is much more likely to feel valued and, as a result, be a lot more co-operative as you try to fix the problem. On the other hand, if you take a long time to reply or just don’t reply at all, the customer could become even angrier and therefore the situation could spiral out of control. The latter could massively harm your company's reputation which is why it’s important to always respond to customer feedback and complaints unless there is an obvious reason not to.  Of course, this is dependent on the size of your company and the industry you are in.

There you have it, a few tips to help you deal with negative customer feedback on social media. If you don’t feel like following our tips, why not take a look at how this Manchester pub dealt with criticism online.





Posted by: Opsium Marketing
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GDPR is coming


It can’t have escaped your notice that the EU wide General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) becomes law in the UK on 25 May 2018.  This has an impact on all businesses in the UK that process personal data. Personal data is any information that enables an individual to be identified.

Any business with employees processes personal data and therefore needs to be aware of the changes in the law and how this impacts upon how they use, store and retain data.

Businesses also need to consider their wider activities in terms of when and how they handle the personal data of clients, customers and potential customers. However, for employers the key issues to focus on now in terms HR and GDPR are:

Privacy Notices

Employers need to formally advise all employees (and applicants during the recruitment process) about their personal data process. The notice needs to state what data they hold, why they hold it and what they will use it for.

Third Parties

Where an employer shares employees personal data with a third party supplier, they need to ensure this is made clear to the employee in the Privacy Notice.

Legal Basis

An employer needs to have a legal basis for processing personal data, and needs to specifically state what that is in the Privacy Notice.

Record of Processing

All businesses need to consider whether to conduct a data processing audit and record in a formal Record of Processing document how they manage personal data in the business.

Subject Access Request

Individuals have always had the right to request details of the personal data held about them. In future such a request should now be processed for free and must be dealt with within 30 days.

Right to Rectification

Employees can ask for errors in the personal data their employer holds about them to be corrected.

Right to be Forgotten

Subject to certain limitations, individuals can ask for a personal data record to be removed. The employer needs to be able to evidence that the data has been removed.

Information Commissioners Office

It will now be mandatory for the employer to report any data breach to the Information Commissioners Office (ICO).


A new fee structure and registration process has been introduced by the ICO.  However businesses that that only use personal data for staff administration are exempt from this.

No Exceptions

Even if your business does not need to register with the ICO you still need to comply with the other data protection obligations.

If you have any questions or need further advice on getting GDPR ready please contact Opsium.

Posted by: Grahame Davies
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