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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.

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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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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.





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Community Chest: Customer Service


This month we’ve taken a look at the advice offered on Business.com on how to deliver excellent customer service; we’re not going to delve into the nitty gritty for each sector, however there are some fundamental truths that should apply whatever your line of business.

Body talk

Body language can speak volumes. If your business is conducted face to face then it is vital that you and your employees don’t inadvertently put customers off. The three main areas to focus on are:

Eye contact

Seems like an obvious one, but not engaging in eye contact will make your customer feel ill at ease and may even lead them to believe you’re deceiving them or have a lack of respect.

Body posture

It’s a dead giveaway. If you want your customers to feel valued then an approachable, open and interested posture is a must, so no crossed arms or slumped shoulders!


Not all gestures are bad, however anything that could be interpreted as insulting or aggressive will never be a good thing. Sudden, exaggerated or large movements can be unnerving and we’d hope that finger wagging and shaking fists would never form part of your customer dialogue!

Are you experienced?

We’re not suggesting you turn your place of work into the equivalent of Disneyland, but your customer’s experience with your service will outweigh the price and sometimes even quality of the product or service.

Your employees are your brand ambassadors; if you don’t train them well and treat them right then the chances are they won’t deliver the quality of service and overall experience you want to provide.

Remember that ultimately, the thing that people remember about doing business with you is how you made them feel.

Say what?

In this highly technological age, having your customer’s details and history available at all touch points should be a given; if they are repeatedly asked for information or have to explain their situation more than once then this is bound to lead to your customer feeling unimportant and frustrated. A good customer relationship management (CRM) platform can solve this issue, but only if all staff know how to access and use the information provided.

And finally...

Some would say that the true indication of customer service is how a company deals with its complaints. As certified serial complainers who abhor bad service, we can confirm that you can win round a disgruntled customer with a timely, appropriate and positive response.

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Are you GDPR ready?


On the 25th May 2018 the General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) will replace the current Data Protection directive. Employers must adhere to these changes and be ready, otherwise they could face fines which, if imposed, could be up to 20 million Euros or 4% of company worldwide annual turnover.

Dot the i's and cross the t's

Employers need to know how the regulations will affect their organisation and are encouraged to put a checklist in place. Key people within businesses need to be made aware of how the law is changing; this article gives a brief summary of some of the changes that will be introduced.

Employers have a requirement to document all personal data held within the company, where it came from and with whom it’s shared.

Privacy notices must be implemented when collecting personal data, explaining the lawful basis for processing it, the period it will be retained for and details on the individual’s rights to complain.

Individuals will also have the right to be informed, the right to access, rectify and ask for erasure of personal data.

No longer will employers be able to charge individuals for Subject Access Requests and requests for information will have to be fulfilled within 1 month.

Under the GDPR individual rights will be reformed depending on the lawful basis for processing their personal data. There are 6 lawful bases and the employer needs to ensure:

  1. that the basis used is “necessary” and,
  2. that it must be targeted and proportional in achieving its purpose

Emphasis has been put on consent as individuals must have informed choice and control. The changes also extend to children, giving them special protection, and privacy policies must be clear and easy for them to understand.

Employers must also be aware of their requirements; if breaches occur they’ll be required to report this to the ICO and to the individual(s) concerned.

When does a Data Protection Officer (DPO) need to be appointed under the GDPR? 

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.

You may appoint a single data protection officer to act for a group of companies or for a group of public authorities, taking into account their structure and size.

Any organisation is able to appoint a DPO. Regardless of whether the GDPR obliges you to appoint a DPO, you must ensure that your organisation has sufficient staff and skills to discharge your obligations under the GDPR.

Feel the fear and do it anyway

Although this may seem like a minefield, it cannot be ignored. It’s imperative that employers take action by understanding and preparing for the GDPR requirements and must update all their policies and procedures to reflect the changes and ensure they’re compliant before May.

Opsium will provide further advice to employers in the coming months but if you have any questions now, don’t hesitate to get in touch.

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