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Interns – to pay or not to pay

As the summer holidays arrive for students up and down the country, the subject of work placements and internships are likely to come up for a lot of businesses. Emails and phone calls will fill your in-tray, as young people aim to soak up valuable on the job experience to set them apart from the rest. But as a business, what are your rights when it comes to taking on an intern?

Employment status

While some employers take the approach that interns are free labour, that entirely depends on the status of the employee and how clearly that is communicated. There are three types of employment status:

According to gov.uk, an intern is classed as a ‘worker’ if:

  • they have a contract or other arrangement to do work or services personally for a reward (your contract doesn’t have to be written)
  • their reward is for money or a benefit in kind, for example the promise of a contract or future work
  • they only have a limited right to send someone else to do the work (subcontract)
  • they have to turn up for work even if they don’t want to
  • their employer has to have work for them to do as long as the contract or arrangement lasts
  • they aren’t doing the work as part of their own limited company in an arrangement where the ‘employer’ is actually a customer or client

If they are classed as a worker they are entitled certain employee rights, including:

  • getting the National Minimum Wage
  • protection against unlawful deductions from wages
  • the statutory minimum level of paid holiday
  • the statutory minimum length of rest breaks
  • to not work more than 48 hours on average per week or to opt out of this right if they choose
  • protection against unlawful discrimination
  • protection for ‘whistleblowing’ - reporting wrongdoing in the workplace
  • to not be treated less favourably if they work part-time

When is an intern not required to receive the national minimum wage?

If an intern is a student required to do an internship as part of a UK based further or higher education course or they are of compulsory school age, they aren’t entitled to the minimum wage.

If the worker is there in a voluntary capacity, i.e. they are working for a charity, voluntary organisation, associated fundraising body or a statutory body, or they don’t get paid, except for limited benefits (reasonable travel or lunch expenses) they will not be entitled to the minimum wage. This also applies to those interns who shadow an employee and perform no work themselves.

Don’t take your word for it

Simply stating that you will not be paying an intern is not enough if during their time with your business they contribute to any action that classes them as a worker. If you’re unsure about whether an intern is entitled to receive the national minimum wage please contact us today for more information.

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You’re on CCTV

In 1993, Philip Noyce directed a movie about a well to do book editor, Carly Norris, who moved into a luxury apartment building before learning that her every move was being recorded on hidden CCTV. That movie was called Sliver. If you haven’t seen it consider yourself lucky, if you have, I’m sorry.

The reason I have brought up this monstrosity of a movie is due to the subject matter at hand, the monitoring of an individual and the risks it creates, and we’re not just talking about a bad Rotten Tomatoes score…

CCTV in the workplace

As an employer, there are several reasons you may want to install CCTV in the workplace. Security, health and safety, protecting your business assets, assessing and improving productivity and compliance are the main ones. But while there may be legitimate reason for using surveillance there are also a number of associated risks.

For example…

Mutual trust:

It’s a tough sell to employees that you will be recording them while on the job. Regardless of intent, the feeling will be that you do not trust them. The key here is to be clear from the outset of your intentions for using CCTV and the impact it will have on the business.

And remember, employers have a legal obligation to not act in a way, without reasonable and proper cause, which is likely to destroy or damage the relationship of mutual trust and confidence between themselves and employees.

Data protection:

Holding data on employees, especially visually monitored data, could result in an increase in subject access requests (SARs) on information held. It can become a waste of time and money to be dealing with requests and ICO (Independent Commissioner’s Office) investigations from nervous employees. Always be sure to act in accordance with the Data Protection Act 1998 (DPA) and its eight key principles.

Human Rights:

Employers in the public sector should be aware of the right to privacy for employees under the Human Rights Act 1998 (HRA). Employers in the private sector also need consider their actions when it relates to this act, although it can be argued that it is necessary to protect data. In any case, you will need to ensure that any monitoring is not disruptive or intrusive as a tribunal or court is likely to take that into account when making their decision.

Managing the risk

Here are some practical tips on how to effectively manage the risk associated with CCTV in the workplace:

  • Carry out an impact assessment.

           The ICO recommends this for justifying CCTV use. The assessment should identity:

  • The purpose and likely benefits
  • Adverse impacts (if any)
  • Alternative options for achieving the desired results
  • Obligations in regards to employee monitoring
  • Whether the decision is justifiable
  • Be clear about the levels of privacy an employee can expect.

          Changing rooms, break areas and toilets are going to be difficult locations to argue the justifiability of CCTV.           Public entrance ways are an easier sell when it comes to expected privacy. Recording an entrance way to a           department could result in a small number of employee desks being in shot. Rather than arguing the case, it           may be beneficial to adjust the camera angle instead.

  • Give your employees a chance to be heard.

          Often disagreements can be boiled down to simple misunderstandings from one or both sides. Invite                       employees to voice their opinions, to avoid any potential fallout. One example would be when using footage           for a disciplinary purpose, if an employee is unable to challenge the footage they could potentially seek an               enforcement notice from the ICO preventing the use of the data. This could scupper any disciplinary                         investigation and sour any further relationship with the employee.

  • Deal with the SARs in a prompt manner.

          Employees have the right to request a copy of any CCTV footage that relates to them. Employers have 40               days to respond to an SAR.

Covert monitoring

Recording an individual without their knowledge is only justifiable in exceptional circumstances where you suspect criminal activity or serious malpractice. Below are a few steps to follow when it comes to covert monitoring:

  • Authorised by senior managers
  • Only to be carried out for a set timeframe, or as part of a specific investigation
  • Consider the risk of intrusion on innocent employees and potential risks
  • Areas where privacy is expected remain private
  • Limit the number of people involved

If you are considering the use of convert monitoring, we suggest gaining expert counsel before proceeding. For any information about the use of CCTV and whether it is worth investing for your business, contact us today.

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Community Chest: How to deal with late, or non-paying, clients

In this edition of community chest, we look at the epidemic of late and non-paying clients and how, as a business, you can stem the flow.

Cash flow is probably the most important aspect of any successful business. Failing to receive payment from customers will affect all areas of the business from payroll to stock replenishment. That is why we have reached out to the business community for an answer to the question, how to deal with late, or non-paying, clients. 

Set up payment parameters

This may sound simple enough but set out your stall in the beginning with strict payment terms, such as receiving the full amount within 30 days of invoice. Failing to do this opens you up to clients who will take your kindness for weakness and stretch out payment for months on end. Have a signed service agreement that clearly defines payment terms, interest and penalties for non-payment.


Use statements to summarise outstanding accounts. People can make oversights and miss invoices, but the longer a problem is left, the more difficult it becomes to resolve.

Also, remember to invoice frequently and on time, if you are constantly late in raising invoices you may find the client isn’t going to be too fussed about paying on time.

Due diligence is a must

Before you get into business with someone do your research. A quick Google search will reveal the reputation of most businesses, do they play well with others, have they a history of late payments, do they renege on contract terms? Remember that when a company fails to perform to the standard expected they are open to online slander and the saying ‘there is no smoke, without fire’ couldn’t be truer.

Set up a PayPal or merchant account

Accounts such as these require payment when the service is performed. This eradicates the risk of non-payment and sets out a clear ‘money for goods’ service level agreement. No one is left waiting for money and everyone is happy. Bliss.

Maintain a strong, but positive, position

If you specifiy payment terms of 30 days and haven’t received payment by day 31, give them a reminder call. It’s easy for companies to forget things, we all do. Often, they will be apologetic and offer to settle the invoice as soon as possible. If they still don’t remain positive, but be forceful to come to a satisfactory resolution:

If they don't pay, have a sequence of steps to take. 

  • Have someone else within your organisation make the call
  • Send letters, documentation will help you should you need to pursue the matter through small claims court
  • Don’t be afraid to refuse future credit until payment is settled
  • If they still fail to make payment, become small claims court proceedings

Use a third party

If you find your cash flow is in trouble there are third party options available. Companies such as Bibby Financial Services and Aldermore Bank offer invoice financing options. This involves releasing cash tied up in outstanding invoices. This enables you to receive a percentage of the invoice up front, with the remaining made available when the debtor completes the payment, minus a service fee.

If you have a question you’d like answered by the business community, or you have advice and guidance you think will be relevant on one of our current topics email info@opsium.co.uk or visit our FacebookLinkedIn or Twitter pages and use hashtag #OpsiumCommunityChest

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Kermit gets the chop

The puppeteer who voiced popular muppet, Kermit the Frog, was recently let go by Disney after voicing the character for almost 30 years.

Steve Whitmire took over voicing the iconic character from creator Jim Henson in 1990, but a series of “disrespectful” actions caused Disney to part ways with the performer and hand the role to fellow puppeteer Matt Vogel.

Whitmire has been, understandably, upset over the incident citing his refusal to break important character traits as one of the key reasons he was dismissed, although Disney describes it as years of unacceptable business conduct which soured their working relationship.  

Since the story broke, readers have been vocal in their anger over Disney’s decision, but is the multi-billion-dollar company in the right on this one?

It’s not easy being green: 

While many on the outside will look at Disney turning their back on a loyal member of the team as despicable, it does appear that they gave the employee numerous opportunities to temper his behaviour through performance related feedback.

Whitmire is said to have taken umbrage with one script where Kermit is speaking to his nephew, Robin, and lies about his breakup with Miss Piggy (I know, try and keep up). Whitmire pushed back against the script and described Kermit as:

“Too compassionate to lie to him to spare his feelings”

Studio executives disagreed with his stance and the pages of cast notes he sent to the writers.

Head of the Muppet Studio, Debbie McClellan, said:

"We raised concerns about Steve's repeated unacceptable business conduct over a period of many years, and he consistently failed to address the feedback,

“The decision to part ways was a difficult one which was made in consultation with the Henson family and has their full support."

How to handle disruptive employees:

As an employer, it is important to reward loyal members of the team, but not at the expense of everyone else. Disney have a responsibility to all their staff, not just certain high profile individuals.

Despite the backlash from fans, Disney approached the situation well, offering regular feedback on Whitmire’s performance, providing opportunity for him to adapt his approach to certain situations. The termination of his contract seemed to be a last resort for Disney.

While Disney gave the employee a number of years to change his approach, not every company will have that freedom. Granted, there would have been special circumstances for the timescale, namely the employee’s high profile and skillset, remember that no matter how good an employee may be at their role, no one is irreplaceable, regardless of what Beyoncé says!

If you find your business suffering at the hands of an unruly employee and need guidance and advice on how to handle the situation, contact us today. Contract termination should be a last resort, but it’s also a valid one. Don’t leave it too long.

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BBC salaries reveal big gender pay gap disparities

Mark down July 19, 2017 in your calendars. Remember it as the day that the wheels truly fell off the BBC as the British public - and apparent shareholders in the corporation - discovered that we were all extras in a special episode of Goodnight Sweetheart.

(For those unaware of one of British comedy’s finest creations, let me help peel back the curtains. Goodnight Sweetheart is a BBC comedy featuring Nicholas Lyndhurst who discovers that he is able to go back and forth between the present day (‘90s) and 1940s London, during World War 2.)

The BBC revealed the salaries of 96 of its stars* earning over £150,000 a year as part of its new Royal Charter, setting the internet ablaze as third party offence swept the nation. But while some complained that fake nurses on Casualty earned more than real nurses, the true story was that two thirds of the stars on the list were male, and the gap between the highest paid male and female talent was £1.5million.

*The full list can be reviewed at the end of this piece.


Mutiny on the B(BC)ounty:

Prior to the release of the figures, there were no clear concerns over gender pay. Perhaps the public were naïve enough to believe that a corporation as large and iconic as the BBC weren’t going to fall victim to the gender pay gap. They were wrong.

The list showed a business operating in an age of pale, male and stale, while espousing modern values. An embargo was placed on the release, something motor mouth and all round figure of derision, Piers Morgan, roundly ignored. Why should the BBC be allowed to put their ducks in a row?

Since then, there have been whispers that all is not well on the good ship BBC, talk of frosty exchanges between news anchors has been just the tip of the iceberg, with Woman’s Hour’s Jane Garvey tweeting:

“I'm looking forward to presenting @BBCWomansHour today. We'll be discussing #GenderPayGap. As we've done since 1946. Going well, isn't it?"

BBC Breakfast host, Dan Walker, came under fire for making the list (£200k-£249k) when his co-host, Louise Minchin, didn’t. He explained that all BBC Breakfast hosts are paid equally, though his salary included his hosting Football Focus.


Third party salaries

Some questioned the big gap between stars like Chris Evans (£2.2m) and Gary Lineker (£1.75m) with Graham Norton (£0.85m), but this was explained away as stars Norton, Mary Berry, and the cast of Poldark, are also paid through a production company, who aren’t required to release salaries. Top Gear’s Matt LeBlanc is also paid via BBC Worldwide, hence why his salary was absent from the list.


Public outrage

Since the release, many people have taken aim at the BBC over the gap, including one member of the public who provided the tweet of the year, with this beauty:

Although a close second was provided by @harrisharrison:

Others have provided the stereotypical response questioning the licence fee, although if you believe that this will affect the licence fee in any way, I have a friend in Nigeria who wants to share his wealth with you.

While it is heartening to see so many journalists and MPs share outrage on behalf of the women at the BBC, Beth Rigby and Caroline Lucas to name but a few. It’s perhaps selective outrage as Sky hasn’t been forced into revealing the salaries of its journalists. If it had, I wonder whether it would reveal that Beth Rigby earns as much as her male counterparts?

While many concentrate on the gender gap, others are equally concerned with the Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) disparities. Seven of the top 10 earners are white male, but only 10 names out of 96 were of BAME backgrounds.

The haves and the have nots

An article on Sky News by political correspondent, Lewis Goodall, further fuelled the flame of class inequality at the BBC, with this quote:

“I've been doing some research and number crunching. The list contains over 80 on-screen names. No fewer than 45% of the BBC's best paid stars went to private schools. That compares to 7% of the nation overall.

Just think about that. If you send your child to private school it increases their chances of being one of the biggest names in TV and media by a factor of six.”

 He added:

“Three in five of the best-paid BBC on-air journalists and presenters went to independent schools. That means you're nine times more likely to be a top BBC journalist if you went to private school.”

“If you're a working class girl, the odds are longer still. From Jeremy Vine to Mishal Husain from Sophie Raworth to Nick Robinson, the list is eye-wateringly long. Much attention was paid to the pay disparity on the Today programme, less to the fact that four of its five presenters went to private schools.

Tellingly, even among many of those who did go to state schools, the vast majority went to grammars. It's possible to count the number of "bog standard comprehensive" working class boys and girls on one hand.”

Journalists are meant to be impartial and reflect the British public. From the bin collector to the managing director, society is a mixture of genders, backgrounds, ethnicities and beliefs but does the BBC truly reflect the British public?

Three in five of the best paid on-air journalists and presenters on the BBC attended independent schools, making you nine times more likely to be a top BBC journalist if you went to a private school. With that in mind, what about those individuals who were not afforded such privilege? As an organisation intended to reflect the everyman, this report is not only detrimental to the BBC, but of anyone who aspires to be a top journalist or on-air talent without the aid of a private education.


Who’s to blame?

While it’s easy to take aim at the people on the list as receiving salaries that far outweigh our perceived value for them, is it their fault? If your boss offered you seven figures, you’d hardly correct them that you’re only worth six, at best.

Likewise, you’re unlikely to find people fighting for the rights of gender, ethnicity and class, when it’s probable they were legitimately ignorant to them the whole time.

We’re not talking about a backward corporation aiming for legitimacy; this is the linchpin of British television. A beacon with which we have looked to for decades to present the best writing, directing and acting talent our little isle has to offer. Classic comedies, cutting edge documentaries, compelling dramas – I mean, did anyone ever watch Only Fools and Horses and believe Cassandra was clearing the same as Del Boy or whether Denzil was pulling in that Boyce money, no of course not!

Be selective in your outrage, but be consistent. The BBC aren’t the only ones to blame for the pay gap, they are just today’s poster child.

The BBC has a lot to do in terms of restoring trust and respect, but they are not out of the water yet. It’s not a case of just paying people more and being done with it. Instead, they should look at all their talent, and regardless of who they are, they should pay them fairly and equally for their work. That’s part one, part two (which should run concurrently with part one) is about looking at how they can produce more opportunities for all people, regardless of class. The BBC should be inclusive, never exclusive and always open to new and exciting talent, regardless of the type of spoon it was fed with.

The list...

£2.2million - £2.5 million

Chris Evans, Presenter

£1.75 million - £1.79 million

Gary Lineker, Presenter

£850,000 - £899,999

Graham Norton, Presenter

£700,000 - £749,999

Jeremy Vine, Presenter

£600,000 - £649,999

John Humphrys, Presenter

£550,000 - £599,999

Huw Edwards, Presenter

£500,000 - £549,999

Steve Wright, Presenter

£450,000 - £499,999

Claudia Winkleman, Presenter

Matt Baker, Commentator and Presenter

£400,000 - £449,999

Alex Jones, Presenter

Nicky Campbell, Presenter

Stephen Nolan, Presenter

Andrew Marr, Presenter

Alan Shearer, Sport

£350,000 - £399,999

Derek Thompson, Actor

Fiona Bruce, Presenter

Tess Daly, Presenter

Vanessa Feltz, Presenter

Nick Grimshaw, Presenter

Simon Mayo, Presenter

£300,000 - £349,999

Nick Knowles, Presenter

Sue Barker, Presenter

Eddie Mair, Presenter

Lauren Laverne, Presenter

£250,000 - £299,999

George Alagiah, Presenter

Nick Robinson, Presenter

Ken Bruce, Presenter

Scott Mills, Presenter

Trevor Nelson, Presenter

Evan Davis, Presenter

Brian Cox, Presenter

Zoe Ball, Presenter

Jason Mohammad, Presenter

Amanda Mealing, Actor

£200,000 - £249,999

Peter Capaldi, Actor

Danny Dyer, Actor

Emilia Fox, Actor

David Jason, Actor

Rosie Marcel, Actor

Adam Woodyatt, Actor

Gary Barlow, Contributor

Len Goodman, Contributor

Dannii Minogue, Contributor

Bruno Tonioli, Contributor

Alan Yentob, Presenter

Victoria Derbyshire, Presenter

Mishal Husain, Presenter

Martha Kearney, Presenter

Laura Kuenssberg, Correspondent

Andrew Neil, Presenter

Jon Sopel, Correspondent

Mark Radcliffe, Presenter

Mark Chapman, Presenter

Jools Holland, Presenter

Dan Walker, Presenter

John Inverdale, Presenter

Gabby Logan, Presenter

£150,000 - £199,999

Laurie Brett, Actor

Letitia Dean, Actor

Tameka Empson, Actor

Guy Henry, Actor

Linda Henry, Actor

Scott Maslen, Actor

Diane Parish, Actor

Hugh Quarshie, Actor

Jemma Redgrave, Actor

Tim Roth, Actor

Catherine Shipton, Actor

Gillian Taylforth, Actor

Lacey Turner, Actor

Darcey Bussell, Contributor

Mel Giedroyc, Presenter

Craig Horwood, Contributor

Paul Martin, Presenter

Simon Schama, Presenter

Justin Webb, Presenter

Kirsty Wark, Presenter

John Simpson, Correspondent

Sophie Raworth, Presenter

John Pienaar, Correspondent

James Naughtie, Correspondent and Presenter

Gavin Esler, Presenter

Mark Easton, Correspondent

Ben Brown, Presenter

Jeremy Bowen, Correspondent

Kamal Ahmed, Correspondent

Adrian Chiles, Presenter

Greg James, Presenter

Shaun Keaveny, Presenter

Moira Stuart, Presenter

Jo Whiley, Presenter

Naga Munchetty, Presenter and Contributor

John McEnroe, Presenter and Commentator

Jonathan Davies, Contributor

Clare Balding, Presenter

Jonathan Agnew, Presenter and Commentator

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