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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.

Posted by: Opsium Marketing
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Effective Date of Dismissal


Employer: ‘I’ve told my employee they can’t come back to work, what do I do now?’

Employment law adviser:  *Sigh*

The first piece of advice to our reader is…don’t do this! Always take advice before you say anything to an employee that even vaguely suggests they can’t continue working for your business.

In the case of Cosmeceuticals Ltd v Parkin the Employment Appeal Tribunal determined that the statutory definition of the Effective Date of Dismissal is the date that a summary dismissal is communicated to the employee, even where notice ought to have applied and wasn’t given. And in the light of the recent ruling that tribunal fees were unlawful, it’s even more important to follow correct procedures.

In this particular case the employer had concerns over Ms Parkin’s capability in her role. During an informal meeting the employer told her that she would not be able to return to the role she held and made poor attempts to discuss alternative employment for her.  She was later put on garden leave and the employer wrote to her, 28 days after the initial meeting, to confirm her dismissal giving notice of four weeks from the date of the letter.

The Employment Appeal Tribunal found that the written dismissal letter giving notice was not the event that terminated the contract. The words spoken by the employer in the first meeting were sufficient to terminate the contract of employment summarily and without due notice. The fact that the employer later attempted to cover up his error by then following due process was irrelevant and the Effective Date of Dismissal occurred on the date of the first discussion.

This concerns advisers for a number of reasons:

  1. The law requires Employers to show that the reasons for dismissal are fair. An irrational or sometimes emotional reaction to an employee who isn’t performing or has acted in a manner which is unacceptable to your business could result in a detrimental outcome. It is important to take stock, collect your thoughts and check your reasoning before determining the employee’s fate, or you may be at risk of the reasons being objectively unfair.
  1. An essential element to a fair dismissal also requires you to have followed a fair process. Most employers have contractual and policy procedures for capability and conduct matters. It is important that these procedures are followed rather than decisions simply being communicated immediately and without carefully consulting with the employee through a formal process.
  1. Where an Employee is dismissed immediately an Employment Tribunal has the right to take account of the notice period which would have applied had the dismissal been performed correctly. Despite the two year qualifying service requirement to bring most unfair dismissal claims, employers dismissing on the spot may fall foul of notice provisions which take them past the two year service mark, allowing a legal claim to be registered.

This case serves as a sound reminder that employers are best advised to take careful advice on a case by case basis before challenging a problem employee. Once the wrong thing has been said there is nothing your advisers can do to change this. A dismissal can be judged to have taken effect from verbal conversations and attempts to remedy the situation may not work. Timing and approach is everything when it comes to avoiding legal disputes.

Posted by: Rachel Harkin
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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.

Posted by: Opsium Marketing
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2018 National Minimum Wage Increase


April heralds Easter weekend, birthdays for the star signs Aries and Taurus and of course, the annual increase to the National Living Wage and National Minimum Wage.

Current and increased rates

The below rates are for the National Living Wage and the National Minimum Wage. The rates change every April.

Year 25 and over 21 to 24 18 to 20 Under 18 Apprentice
April 2017 (current) £7.50 £7.05 £5.60 £4.05 £3.50
April 2018 £7.83 £7.38 £5.90 £4.20 £3.70


As the rate increases are linked with age, it’s vital to keep an eye on whether employees are tripping into a new bracket during the course of a year, especially if you have a young workforce. Implementing a system to help you flag these changes will help enormously.

If you realise you haven’t been paying an employee the correct minimum wage then you need to work out the difference and pay any arrears immediately. If you are unsure, the Gov.uk site has a calculator which can help you check any existing rates of pay as well as calculating what you should be paying any future employees.

To ensure you are complying with the letter of the law, it’s also worth checking you understand what counts as working time, as it may not always be as clear cut as you think…

What counts as working time?

For all types of work, including time spent:

  • at work and required to be working, or on standby near the workplace (but don’t include rest breaks that are taken)
  • not working because of machine breakdown, but kept at the workplace
  • waiting to collect goods, meet someone for work or start a job
  • travelling in connection with work, including travelling from one work assignment to another
  • training or travelling to training
  • at work and under certain work-related responsibilities even when workers are allowed to sleep (whether or not a place to sleep is provided)

Don’t include time spent:

  • travelling between home and work
  • away from work on rest breaks, holidays, sick leave or maternity leave
  • on industrial action
  • not working but at the workplace or available for work at or near the workplace during a time when workers are allowed to sleep (and you provide a place to sleep)

You can find examples on the Gov.uk website or if you need further information or advice, get in touch.

Posted by: Opsium Marketing
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How to create a Sexual Harassment Policy


Following the latest scandal which has spread from Hollywood to Westminster, sexual harassment is again plastered over the front pages of the papers and trending on social media, it seems timely to create a Sexual Harassment Policy.

Despite having Equal Opportunities within the workplace since the ‘70s, it has been proved time and time again that gender hypocrisy still exists within the workplace.

Sexual harassment can impact greatly on the victim’s emotional and mental health, leading to a loss of self esteem. For the majority of people, work is where you spend most of your time and, to victims, it can feel like there is no escape from the perpetrator.

There have been calls for a dedicated legal process to deal with Sexual Harassment within the workplace in addition to the current Equality Act 2010 to support vulnerable employees (both men and women).

Having a good policy can help employees raise these concerns, rather than going on long term sick as a first response. This article aims to help small businesses to consider what could be included in a Sexual Harassment Policy (SHP).

Encouraging staff to be open and bring claims forward

Ensure your SHP is clear that any allegations will be looked into fairly and that the employee raising the claim will not be discriminated against as a result.

Who can the allegation be raised to?

In the usual grievance process, an employee often has to raise a grievance with their line manager. However, given the sensitivity of such allegations, the SHP can be more lenient and encourage employees to seek guidance from a trusted manager or senior colleague. Making the process easily accessible will help remove barriers, enabling victims of harassment to come forward.

Can the employee remain anonymous?

Protecting the identity of the employee raising the allegation can encourage them to speak out about Sexual Harassment. This would need to be carefully worded as there may be times when this is impossible given the circumstances. However, withholding the accuser’s identify in the initial investigation stages could help victims make that all important first step.

Train managers

Often sexual harassment is seen to be a joke, with the victim being categorised as ‘too sensitive’. It is important to remember that a business can be liable for the actions of its employees. Therefore it is important to train managers to prevent sexual harassment, and if not possible, train mangers to handle any accusations with care and compassion.

If a complaint should go as far as a tribunal, how the company responded to complaints will be examined and scrutinised.

Act - even if no complaint has been made

In the absence of the victim coming forward, or even if gossip is going around the office, investigate! The victim may not feel able to come forward for many reasons (being the source of the office gossip won’t help), but that does not mean they are not entitled to a fair outcome.

This will set a precedent for any would be perpetrators and shows that your company has a zero tolerance on sexual harassment.

Follow your Sexual Harassment Policy!

Having a policy is all well and good, but if you do not follow it, it is meaningless.


Sexual harassment is a serious issue that employers may inadvertently be liable for. Having a good policy, and more importantly following this policy, should help protect small businesses from avoidable disruption and legal action. If you would like help to create a Sexual Harassment Policy, or need help supporting an employee who has been a victim of sexual harassment, contact Opsium for further advice.

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