Order by:



Why you should have the time for zero hours contracts


With the recent bad press surrounding zero hours contracts, many are calling for their abolition. From Sports Direct to care staff across the UK, there has been a wide misuse of zero hours contracts, but does that mean your business should rule them out? We look at the other side of the zero hours coin to find out why they could benefit your business and staff.

Let’s start with Mike Ashley.

When he’s not alienating the St James’ Park faithful, you can find him being admonished for shoddy work conditions in front of a review committee. Conditions in his warehouses have been compared to those of a Victorian workhouse with one member of staff giving birth in a bathroom due to fear of taking time off.

While the review committee revealed many shortcomings in the way Sports Direct treated their staff, the zero hours contract has been highlighted as one of the key issues. But should it have been? 

Cameron’s contract

While many see the zero hours contract as a way for the Conservatives to fudge the employment figures, the practice has been used for decades and in other countries is often referred to as a part time or temporary work.

In truth, a zero hours contract has no legal definition and is used as an informal agreement with an employer who will provide hours when needed, but aren’t guaranteed. While some argue this is outdated and a way of oppressing workers, it’s generally beneficial for both sides.

Zero hours industries

The hospitality and retail sectors make the most use of zero hours contracts due to the peaks and troughs their industries are likely to go through during seasonality. A restaurant isn’t likely to succeed if it had to pay staff during quiet periods, therefore they need to work with their workers to effectively manage rotation to suit their busier periods.

Zero hours contractual rights

This will depend entirely on whether your staff are defined as an employee or a worker. Both are entitled to minimum wage, paid holidays, rest breaks and protection against discrimination. Employees are additionally entitled to protection against unfair dismissal, redundancy pay and time off for emergencies. Employees also need to provide a minimum notice period. 

One area of contention for zero hours workers is that they feel they are ‘punished’ for not accepting hours that are offered. This is often in the form of moving down the list when the next set of hours becomes available.


If you’re looking at taking on the zero hours template then it pays to be flexible. When taking on workers try to understand their availability while also getting across your expectations. For instance, if you often require someone at the drop of a hat but the worker is dependent on public transport it may be worth managing your expectations. Likewise, if someone repeatedly turns down work they need to be made aware that they will no longer be offered hours going forward.

Above all else, zero hours contracts should be reviewed on a regular basis. If you find that you have the ability to take someone on a full or part time contract, do so. It will show people that their hard work and loyalty does pay off.

Be honest regarding your requirements. A few hours a week may suit a student, but someone who has a family to support or bills to pay may find waiting around frustrating. Don’t overload with zero hours contracts as you may find that you alienate more talented individuals by playing the odds.

For more information about zero housr contracts and how best to implement them in your business please call us on 0161 603 2156. 

Posted by: Grahame Davies
View more by: Grahame Davies Back to top



Are you leaving yourself at risk from the provisions of TUPE?


Are you leaving yourself at risk from the provisions of TUPE?

Many employers are blissfully unaware of the rights which are granted under the TUPE Regulations however the risk of going unprepared means you could walk into a legal minefield and face significant financial risk.

In essence the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations 1981 and 2006 provide that in defined situations you are obliged to transfer an employee along with all their key contractual rights such as their role and responsibilities, rate of pay, annual leave entitlement etc without allowing the employee to suffer a detriment such as a reduction in pay or less hours of work.   

So, when does TUPE apply?

Business Transfers

TUPE applies when one business buys another, either in whole or in part, and often when a larger company transfers employees from one company within a group over to another for restructuring purposes.

You may decide to buy a business already in existence and reap the rewards of the established business model. At the same time you need to be aware that you take on the liabilities for the employees that were working for the business before you took it on.

The same rule applies if you are selling your business or part of your business. The employees will transfer which means you are obliged to inform and consult with your affected workforce.

Service Provision Change

A service provision change occurs when a service being provided to a client moves from one employer to another. This could occur in the following situations;

  • An employer chooses to outsource a service that they have previously managed in-house

For example:

You have employed a cleaner directly to do 10 hours per week to look after your business properties. You decide to outsource those 10 hours to an external cleaning company.  

  • An employer chooses to take in-house a service that has previously been outsourced

For example:

You have used the services of an independent bookkeeper and have decided to employ someone directly.

  • A service is transferred from one outsourced business to another.

For example:

A local authority invites transport companies to tender for specific school bus routes every two years. When the tender is won by a new provider TUPE may apply meaning the employees transfer from the old provider to the new provider of the service.  

Inform and consult

Where there is a relevant transfer under TUPE, whether you are transferring in or out, you are under a duty to inform and consult with affected employees. The employee has a right to be notified of a change and be consulted on any measures (changes) that will be occurring as a result of the transfer.

The obligation is on both employers and so it is unwise to simply leave it all down to the new employer as you may be legally liable for a breach of the process.

What are the risks if I don’t comply with TUPE?

At various stages in the transfer process there are potential legal penalties you could face if you ignore the TUPE provisions, in brief these include:

  • £500 per employee for failing to provide a new employer with details of the employees who will be subject to a transfer
  • 13 weeks uncapped pay per employee for failure to inform and consult, both employers may be held joint and severally liable
  • Breach of contract claims if the employee suffers a detriment after a transfer, such as a reduction in pay after the transfer
  • Unfair dismissal claims which can result in thousands of pounds worth of compensation. Both employers may be joint and severally liable for the unfair dismissal of an employee if the employee is dismissed as a result of the transfer  

Employees have an automatic right to transfer where the criteria of a relevant transfer applies. The TUPE Regulations and other statutory provisions provide serious protection for employees and hard hitting financial implications to the unwitting employer who doesn’t comply with their legal responsibilities.

It is always sensible to take legal advice whenever your business is involved in the transfer of business or services.

Posted by: Rachel Harkin
View more by: Rachel Harkin Back to top



Employee Wellbeing


Given that August was a bit of a wash out, now is the time for employers to start thinking about their employees’ wellbeing, especially with winter on the horizon.

So what can employers do to encourage wellbeing in the workforce?

These boots are made for walking…

Persuade your employees to get out and about on their lunch break whilst the weather is fair. Getting away from their desks promotes better mental wellbeing, higher levels of productivity and a reduction in sickness absence. Recent reports have concluded that those with a sedentary job and lifestyle are 60% more likely to die younger so this is a great incentive to make use of outside spaces during the working day.

Gym buddies

There are great benefits to getting sweaty…studies show that it boosts endorphins which in turn help to prevent colds and other illnesses, ultimately helping with your absence levels! Make enquiries with a local gym and see whether the company can subsidise membership or arrange complimentary yoga or Pilates classes in lunch breaks; both of these will help lift morale.

You are what you eat…

Ever thought about promoting a healthy diet? Some companies supply free fruit in the office or come up with ideas for ‘healthy recipes of the week’. Studies show that a healthy diet not only helps productivity and concentration levels but it should also lower absences.

Take a break…

A study carried out by Kuoni and Nuffield Health found that those who go on holiday are more able to deal with and recover from stress. Most employees will take their annual leave but if you do have a member of staff who doesn’t then see what you can do to encourage them to recoup with a holiday.

From a practical point of view, you need to ensure there is cover in place to cope with absences during key holiday periods and as Christmas is on its way, now is the time to ensure that you have an annual leave request policy in place and that employees know how much annual leave they have left to take before the holiday year runs out.

We built this city…

Team building activities such as Go Ape or go karting encourage competition, team bonding and helps your workforce feel refreshed and motivated as well as boosting morale.

Let them eat cake!

If you are based in the Greater Manchester area (as we are), why not join in with #caketober? Forever Manchester is encouraging companies to bake and sell cakes to raise money for charity and wear fancy dress at the same time! If this does not create a buzz and raise excitement in the office, I don’t know what will!

And if you think this will be a popular choice then there’s always the annual Macmillan coffee morning in September, so get a team together and get baking!

Although some of these morale boosting activities will involve a level of financial investment, it’s good to remember that by investing in your workforce you ensure loyalty (and therefore less staff attrition), better morale, increased productivity and ultimately happy employees!

Posted by: Jessica Stock
View more by: Jessica Stock Back to top



Tattoos in the workplace


The history of tattoos can be traced back across many cultures. From Southern India where tattoos are used as cultural symbols across tribes, to Egypt where women used them as a way of indicating status, tattoos have been around for centuries.

In the 17th century, the Japanese used tattoos as a way of marking criminals, fast forward to the 21st century and teens are getting fictional Japanese creatures tattooed on them for fun. Times have certainly changed.

Tattoos mean many things to many people, some use them to celebrate a moment, others to honour a loved one, and then there those who adorn themselves with tattoos as a way of looking cool, usually taking the form of tribal designs, barbwire or the ever popular Chinese symbol.

The benefits of ink

Besides giving people something to read and an easy way to describe someone, tattoos don’t provide much in the way of use in the workplace. Companies will have internal policies when it comes to showcasing tattoos in the workplace.

Employees in customer facing roles may be asked to cover their inking, while other companies may not have an opinion one way or the other. Often this will depend on the type of industry and the clientele they serve.

The tale of Holland, Barrett and the compass

Holland and Barrett recently chose not to hire a student due to tattoos featured on his hands and fingers which he was unable to cover. The student then did the sensible thing and ran straight to the press, complaining of discrimination…

The student in question is 18 with a tattoo of a compass on one hand and ‘STAY TRUE’ across his knuckles. Instead of pointing the finger of ‘discrimination’ at Holland and Barrett, time may be better spent asking why the 18 year old thought it appropriate to have ‘STAY TRUE’ tattooed on his hands.

Just to clarify, I’m not sure who the lad needs to stay true to, but at least he’s in no danger of forgetting to do it.

Holland and Barrett issued a statement advising they do not have an issue with tattoos they just ask them to be covered on the shop floor. Something the student would not be able to do.

On the other hand

This isn’t the only time someone who couldn’t get their way has gone to the press. In September 2015, a woman saw her job offer rescinded when the business discovered she had intricate artwork covering her fingers, hand and forearm.

Dee Set, a shopping logistics company, had offered a job role following a telephone interview, but revoked the offer when they were told about the tattoo. The woman did the only thing she could and took to social media, lambasting the company for discrimination…

Following a public backlash, Dee Set offered the woman the job but she declined.

Do either of the examples above have a case to answer for discrimination?

The short answer is no.

The long answer is that companies are able to ask employees to cover tattoos, keeping in line with company values, if they are consistent, i.e. all employees must adhere to the same rules.

Is it discrimination? 

While people with tattoos may feel ostracised it is important to remember that tattoos are a choice. They are not being discriminated against due to their gender, sexual orientation, race, colour, creed, or religious beliefs.

It is common sense that certain industries would prefer a clean cut image for their employees; while very few promote a strict ban, there are many that tolerate tattoos but prefer them to be covered. If you have tattoos on your hands, neck or face you are opening yourself up to judgement that may see you miss out on certain opportunities. Reputable tattoo studios will refuse to tattoo certain areas of the body; others will talk the decision through with the client, detailing the risks of such a public piece.

What are my rights as a business?

You are well within your rights to request tattoos are covered, so long as there is a business reason behind it. If you choose to implement a dress policy that incorporates tattoos and piercings then you need to be consistent across the business.

As tattoos become more popular you are bound to meet candidates with them. Before you make a recruitment decision ask yourself whether your reason for having tattoos covered is a business reason or a personal one. Tattoos do not diminish the skill set of the individual, but it may be an issue for customer facing businesses.

Too little, too late?

As for those individuals who choose to have tattoos that aren’t easily covered, manage your expectations and don’t lash out on social media if you’re refused a position. With many companies checking social media profiles of respective candidates, you don’t want to give the wrong impression.

If you do have a tattoo that isn’t easy to cover, be honest with your prospective employer. By being open and honest you are giving a good account of yourself that could result in the business taking a chance on you.

For more information about your rights as a business when it comes to dress code please contact Opsium Employer Support on 0161 603 2156

Posted by: Grahame Davies
View more by: Grahame Davies Back to top



World breastfeeding week


If an employee is nearing the end of their maternity leave and preparing to return to work, it’s likely they will need to think about a number of things including childcare and flexible working hours. If the returning mother is breastfeeding they may need to discuss special dispensation within the business to accommodate this.

Returning to work

An employee returning from maternity leave, still breastfeeding, will need to put this in writing to their employer who then needs to speak to the employee to determine any individual needs they may have. If an employee plans to express milk, then efforts should be made to provide a safe, clean and private environment – i.e. not the toilet and nowhere with CCTV.

While breastfeeding is a natural process and is proven to help mother and baby bond, it is still a highly personal activity and many mothers do not feel comfortable breastfeeding outside of their home. As a business, try to make allowances for returning mothers, many will already feel apprehensive about returning to work having been out of the loop for six plus months. It takes time to acclimatise and the added intolerance and impatience of a business unwilling to assist in their return will only make things more difficult.

Support is the key

While there is no law for employers to provide a private area to express or offer flexible working hours and breaks, it is a legal requirement to provide pregnant and breastfeeding mothers an area to rest and, where necessary, lie down.

While laws are vague when it comes to breastfeeding at work, it is important to remember that support is a commodity that should be afforded to all employees. By providing employees with a good standard of care and support in the workplace you are effectively promoting an environment that values strong relationships built on trust.

World breastfeeding week

World breastfeeding week started on 1st August and this year’s theme is about how breastfeeding is a key element in getting people to value their wellbeing from the start of life, how to respect each other and care for the world we share. If you would like more information about world breastfeeding week please visit their website.

Posted by: Grahame Davies
View more by: Grahame Davies Back to top

Employer Protect

Expert HR advice and assistance when you need it, coupled with insurance cover for your legal costs and awards

Find out more

How we can help

Opsium provide the advice, guidance and practical tools you need for a happy, motivated workforce

Find out more