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The thin blue (inked) line


Last month, we published an article looking at whether visible tattoos have their place in the professional arena. From drunken mistakes to pieces of intricate artwork, tattoos have been around for centuries, decorating cultures long since passed from the Mayans to footballers and minor celebrities.

For those that didn’t read last month’s article (why?) the gist is that each company is responsible for managing tattoo and piercing policies within their business. Whilst we recommend working with your staff to come up with a policy that best reflects your business ethos, the law does not side with the inked army and if Holland and Barrett doesn’t want their customers to be served by a human colouring book, they don’t have to.

Does it matter anymore?

Judging by some of the comments on the topic, tattoo acceptance depends on age, class and background. This isn’t scientific fact and can often depend on the tattoo, for instance a ‘nice looking’ piece will often go down a lot better than a skull, wearing a cowboy hat smoking a pipe. Clearly there are a lot of people out there that don’t appreciate a good ‘skull tatt’.

It’s therefore no surprise that the Police Federation of England and Wales is trying to lift the ban on people with visible tattoos on their hands or face from becoming Police Officers. Since 2012 the Met has refused to take on recruits with visible tattoos, effectively ruling out people well suited for the role, and probably a lot that weren’t.

The Federation is calling for a sensible discussion on tattoos, presumably on a case by case basis, as opposed to a blanket ban.

Public opinion

While the public are increasing their tolerance to the tattooed, there are exceptions. For instance, facial tattoos are still stigmatised by being associated with gang members and angry boxers, while hand tattoos tend to signify being young and wanting to work at Holland and Barrett…

Home Office guidance on tattoos points to each candidate being judged on their own merit. Chief inspector Vicky Martin of the Federation said:

"The issue we've got is a number of forces are interpreting it differently and some are becoming very strict and I think it's actually becoming a bar to some really good people joining the service."

Chief Inspector Martin called for a “national standard, rather than local interpretation” adding:

"We are calling for a modern, consistent national approach to tattoos to be adopted across the police service. [The federation] believes that if the police service truly wants to embrace diversity and widen the talent pool it recruits from, then forces need to be more open-minded, so communities have a police service that reflects today's society."

Now forgive me if I’m wrong but describing tattoos as an issue of diversity is pushing it a little. Race, colour, sexual orientation, these are an issue of diversity; a tweety bird from a tattoo artist in Blackpool circa 1998 is not. Tattoos are a form of expression that involves choice, you can choose whether you have that tribal image on your arm or that rose on your hip. When businesses are asked to show more diversity with their recruitment it’s unlikely that means recruiting more people with Chinese symbol tattoos.


The Federation will be conducting research into public attitudes relating to police officers with tattoos, presumably at the cost of the taxpayer, toward the end of September, so you can expect a follow on from us in October. Hopefully once this is cleared we will look toward gaining voting rights for the tattooed minority. 

Posted by: Opsium Marketing
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How to manage someone like Joey...


Following his transfer to newly promoted Scottish giants Rangers FC, Joey Barton has been suspended just eight games into the season following a training ground bust up.

With Rangers back in the Scottish top division after suffering enforced relegation following financial difficulties in 2012, the future looked bright for one of Scotland’s biggest teams. A heavy defeat to rivals Celtic prompted Barton to take on the managerial role and let his team mates know where they were going wrong. This led to a training ground altercation with fellow player Andy Halliday, with Barton ordered home and warned not to return to training in a bid to cool things down. Unfortunately Barton became lost on his way home and ended up at talkSPORT. Not wanting to waste petrol, Barton decided to discuss his treatment live on air.

Barton described the circumstances as strange and advised that he needed to re-evaluate his situation. This forced Rangers manager, Mark Warburton to open crunch talks with Barton resulting in a three week ban from the ground and training facility.

So what can you do if you employ someone who displays raw passion?

  • Passion is a good thing, but it’s important to manage the attitude of your employees from the outset. Letting members of the team argue over petty squabbles will set a precedent that will be hard to put right in the future
  • Don’t let things fester. Work with your employees to air any grievances and if issues arrive involve staff in their resolution
  • The popularity and ease of social media mixed with high emotions is a recipe for disaster. Having a clearly defined social media policy and ensuring your team have read and understood it fully is a good way to proactively manage any online fall out with employees

If you currently employ someone like this or have members of your team that are on the cusp follow our simple guidelines or speak to one of our advisors for more personalised information.  

Posted by: Opsium Marketing
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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
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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
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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
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