What your job descriptions do for you

What your job descriptions do for you

The humble job description is a document that often doesn’t get the love and attention it deserves.

Largely ignored by smaller organisations, their first contact with one can often be the frantic scramble to put something together at the last minute when it comes to hiring a new member of staff – if for no other reason than to avoid an unnecessarily long phone conversation with a recruiter.

So, when it comes to creating your job description it is important to understand the wider value it can add to your business. As beneficial as a well thought out document can be, it can be just as harmful not to spend enough time thinking about what you’re saying to your employees and applicants.

It is easy to think that job descriptions are just tools for recruitment, but like it or not, it’s already much more than just your substitute job advert. Outside of the recruitment process, these are just a few of the other things that your job descriptions can be utilised to improve upon:

  • Job descriptions provide employees with clear expectations of what is required of them. Many problems in the workplace arise from workers having confused expectations, often through no fault of their own. Having a document that clearly lays out the fundamentals of what is required in a role is fair to everyone and avoids the potential for many disagreements.
  • They provide a point of comparison for determining similar industry salaries. It is rare that two jobs in different companies are the same. A clear job description and understanding of your role is vital to fairly assess competitive pay rates and avoid you having to pay more than you need to for certain skills.
  • They provide a starting point for employee reviews and appraisals. Extremely useful regardless of whether you’re setting quantitative goals or discussing role direction.
  • They help to cover potential legal claims. A job description itself is not a legal requirement, however, they have proven to be invaluable in discrimination cases as a means by which to prove the objective requirements of a role. Including the physical requirements of a role in a job description can help with new applicants and existing employees that might seek to tailor their own responsibilities.
  • It provides a fantastic opportunity to share the company direction and values. Whatever size your business, a well written job description will help to align new and existing employees with the direction of senior leadership.

Should your job description be vague in order to attract a wider pool of candidates, you might find that your employee is then confused about their responsibilities. If your job descriptions are just being used for appraisals, you could find that they are too specific to reference against the market to get an accurate price point for the role. Getting it just right can be a delicate balancing act.

So now you know what your job description can do, it’s time to think about what you want yours to do, and if they’re well thought out and kept up to date, your job description will be a great asset to your business.

Sometimes it can be difficult to balance all the factors, but if you feel like you need a helping hand, Kate Underwood HR can offer professional advice and support. Why not call us on 02382 025160 or email: [email protected]

Enhance your payroll processes with Breathe

Enhance your payroll processes with Breathe

I totally back Breathe HR in striving to help end employee admin as much as possible!

So, I am pleased to tell you about their payroll export tool, a brand sparkling new feature that is now available within the BreatheHR app.

Payroll Export Tool

The payroll export functionality has been carefully designed with the intention of streamlining the way you manage payroll

  • by keeping all sensitive information in one secure place
  • removing the headache of importing employee data to your payroll system
  • saving you valuable time as a result.

To help you see how this new import process works and how to use the new feature, Breathe HR have produced a handy video to explain all, which you can find here:

How does the new payroll export tool benefit you?

The new payroll export tool allows you to download payroll-ready files of your employee information from the Breathe system. This can then be imported straight into your payroll software in just a few clicks. The tool can be used for onboarding new employees’ details and updating existing ones too.

When building this functionality Breathe worked hard to ensure that it would meet the import requirements of a wide variety of payroll providers in the UK.

As such, they have provided two options when you go to export employee information. You can either download all of the data with the changes included (e.g. salary adjustments), or alternatively, you can simply export any changes that have occurred within the data. The process can, therefore, be tailored to whichever payroll system you’re using.

Say goodbye to tedious payroll admin

When pulling data with the payroll export tool, employee information is separated into four different spreadsheets. These files cover the following changes;

  • Employee personal information
  • Salary information
  • Benefit information
  • Additional payment information

With this data readily split into categories, it means that there is no longer a need for you to spend unnecessary time fine-combing large amounts of data in order to find what you need.

 Payroll, the Breathe way

Once exported from the Breathe payroll export tool, spreadsheets of employees data can be imported directly into a payroll system.  So it makes it a really simple exercise!

And, if the data needs to be adjusted and/or re-downloaded, then Breathe has it covered: all past exports can be rebuilt and re-run.

To find out more, or if you have any queries on how to use the new features why not book a Demo.

To find out more about how we could help you and your business book a call or email [email protected]

Why Return to Work Interviews are business critical

Why Return to Work Interviews are business critical

Cards on table time. Do you ALWAYS carry out a Return to Work Interview when an employee comes back from a period of sickness?

Or, like many business leaders, are you too busy? Is it just another employee relations administrative job that takes you away from the really important stuff?

Alternatively, perhaps you feel very uncomfortable carrying out an interview which may be emotive, sensitive or even potentially confrontational?

What if I could show you that, far from being a trivial admin task, completing a robust, well thought out Return to Work Interview could actually boost your business productivity and, in turn, profitability?

What is a Return to Work Interview?

Quite simply, a Return to Work Interview (or you could call it a meeting if that feels less intimidating), is between an employee and their line manager, or another nominated person. Ideally, it will take place on the employees first day back to work and should happen whether they have been off for a long time or just a day or two.

The objective is to establish the reason for the absence, identify if there is an undisclosed root cause, update the employee on anything that may have changed whilst they were absent and ensure that they are fully supported now that they are back to work.

For example, you might discover that an employee has been off sick with a migraine, but as a result of the interview, that they are struggling with caring responsibilities or are being bullied in the workplace.

Now that you know the root cause, you are in a position to take the appropriate next steps.

What about the business critical benefits?

As an employer, you have a duty of care to your staff. To ALL of your staff.

Sickness can be a really tough thing for a business to carry and whilst the majority of your workforce don’t take advantage, human nature is such that some will. This can be especially prevalent if you pay full sick pay for all absences.

If you have an issue regarding high levels of short term absence, either across the whole business, a department or just with one individual, these interviews can serve a different purpose. That being, to provide a means to impress upon the individual(s) the impact those recurring absences have on their team, the business and, potentially, their job.

This doesn’t negate your Duty of Care but makes it clear to all, that the ‘odd day here and there’ spread across the year, DOES matter.

Very often when people have to explain themselves, face to face, to a colleague, line manager or HR person, the appeal of taking a day off sick when they could, in fact, come to work or use annual leave, is far less appealing.

Return to Work Interviews act in several ways. They send out a powerful message that the company culture does not just ignore or accept without question, even very short term absences. They ensure Employee records are fully maintained, vital in the event of future disciplinary actions. And they hold individuals accountable – to themselves, their colleagues and the business.

An example of success

Recently a client was really struggling with escalating levels of short term absence. In fact, 67% of all company sickness was attributed to this.

The client was exasperated by the impact this was having on productivity and profits. Employees who weren’t taking time off sick were getting increasingly fed up with carrying the work load of their absent colleagues. Customers weren’t getting the service they required.

To tackle this, we agreed that I would carry out all Return to Work Interviews on the clients’ behalf. It reduces his workload and, as I don’t work with his employees on a day to day basis, there is no risk that relationships might become awkward in the workplace.

Since implementing this change, my client now has 0% short term absence.

So, my question to you is, can you afford NOT to have a system for Return to Work Interviews?

For more information about this, and the full range of HR Support available, please click here to schedule a call or email me on [email protected]

If you would like a free return to work template form then please click here to receive a download.

Don’t forget to check the references!

Don’t forget to check the references!

In an article I read recently, an airline pilot had used a reference from ‘Jabba the Hutt’ to land a job as Captain at West Atlantic UK, and obviously, when found out that the reference was false and that he did not have the qualifications, was fired.

He’d used a reference from ‘Desilijic Tiure’ – an alternative name for the Star Wars character Jabba the Hutt – which claimed he previously worked as an airline captain.

West Atlantic offered Mc-Gann the opportunity to resign, which he did, but then he subsequently claimed 3 months’ notice pay, being his contractual entitlement had he resigned with notice.

West Atlantic launched a counterclaim, for recovery of the employee’s training costs, as he had signed an agreement stating these were repayable if he was terminated within the first six months of his employment.

The tribunal dismissed the pilot’s claim but allowed West Atlantic’s counterclaim. Mc-Gann was ordered to pay back £4,725 in training costs.

Obviously, in this case, it was really serious in that if there had been an incident like a plane crashing, the consequences for West Atlantic and others could have been catastrophic.

Although you’d expect an airline company to have more stringent background checks in place, this isn’t the first serious case where a candidate has fabricated their application and landed a top job for doing so.


The purpose of references

The purpose of references is to obtain information about a candidate’s employment history, qualifications, experience and/or an assessment of the candidate’s suitability for the post in question.

It is estimated that one in eight people exaggerate or falsify their qualifications!

References should only be relied upon to check factual (and not subjective) information, so you should only ask ‘factual’ questions to the referee and not go into detail e.g. about dismissal or resignation.


How Reliable are References?

Due to increasing litigation risks, bad references are becoming extremely rare. Remember that potential employees are likely to choose wherever possible, those who will provide references for them.

Previous employers may have gone out of business, be pleased to provide a favourable reference for a questionable employer, or simply have different expectations in terms of work performance. Where a reference appears inadequate or incomplete, then try where possible to follow up by telephone.

If there was the occasion where a poor reference is received, but an offer of employment has already been made – if at least one reference has been sought (as company standard) prior to the offer being made, then the offer can be withdrawn.

Company offers of employment state that ‘offer of employment is provisional subject to references satisfactory to the company being received’.


Hiring new staff can be an expensive and time-consuming process, so it’s important to get it right. Get in touch if you’d like some support with this.

The Employee Experience

The Employee Experience

“Take care of your employees and they will take care of your business. It’s as simple as that.” Richard Branson.

We don’t hear many negative views of working for Virgin.  What can employers learn from Richard Branson’s ideas?

What is it about an employee’s experience of the workplace keeps them engaged and makes them stay with that employer and how can this improve productivity?

Is it the company culture, the manager, the location, the pay, the benefits, the colleagues, the hours?


In my experience, employees can be disengaged if they don’t understand the direction of the organisation, don’t feel valued, don’t feel listened to or don’t feel appreciated.  Why should an employee care when their employer doesn’t care about them?

How to find out if there is an issue

You may suspect there is an issue if productivity or morale is low.  I find that the best way to assess engagement is to foster a culture for honest feedback.  If your employees are unwilling to provide feedback then there is almost certainly a problem and perhaps a staff survey is the way to go.  Areas for improvement will be highlighted in a survey so that you can focus on what you need to improve upon.

How to increase engagement

Employees are likely to be more engaged if they are free to speak up, understand the importance of their work, have opportunities for learning, flexibility, advancement, challenges and are they are recognised for their achievements and commitment.

Manage with empathy and flexibility.  Ideally the employer/employee relationship should be one of give and take. The managers’ engagement is the key to gaining the employees’ engagement.

Giving employees help to achieve their goals will be appreciated and an open communication style can help employees feel involved and part of the team. Clear paths for advancement are a must and clear job descriptions can help.

Helping employees settle into their roles with a structured induction is a good start for the employment relationship. Good first impressions can help avoid new starters leaving the business after a short period of time – this is a high-risk time for leaving.

Managers should pay attention to their team on a daily basis, listening is crucial.  They expect conflict to be dealt with.

Find a way of reaching everyone when communicating benefits, changes, new clients and be as transparent as possible. The vision should come from the top and the management team should all demonstrate their integrity and commitment to the Company vision.


How do we know that engagement has improved?

After a suitable period, another staff survey should help to check that poorer areas have improved along with encouraging feedback. Employees may visibly go the extra mile, productivity should increase.

There is much evidence to show that disengaged employees take more time off sick.  If your team is happier you may find that sickness levels decrease.

Results of an improved employee experience

Your reputation with customers may improve with employees happy to go the extra mile for them and caring more about the Company’s customers.  Glassdoor is the trip advisor for employers – how do you stack up?

Potential employees may hear about the reputation of your business as a good employer to work for.  Word of mouth and online comments as regards reputation cannot be underestimated. Your recruitment costs could decrease as a result of improved engagement.

Never underestimate the importance of the employee experience!

If you would like some help improving your employee experience then please get in touch – it doesn’t have to cost a fortune, as they say ‘saying thank you costs nothing’

blog_The Employee Experience Kate Underwood HR Dorset Hampshire HR Support & Advice

Can your business weather any disruption?

Can your business weather any disruption?

As Small Business Owners there are many things that can affect your business one of them being your staff not attending work, and this week this might be because of weather.

It has been in the news and my inbox is full of emails from railways and the underground all saying beware that snow is coming.  So that basically means that the whole of Britain is going to grind to a halt, okay I might be exaggerating just a little.  However, staff not attending work can bring a Small Business to a halt to it is important to be prepared.

Here are some common questions that I get asked which might help should there be an issue in the next few days or maybe just somewhere you can come back to for reference should you need it.

Can employees be required work from home if they rely on public transport is disrupted?

For some jobs, it is just not possible to work from home.  However, for some roles, it is something that should be considered.   It is important to note that if it is not in your employee’s contract of employment or you have a policy to adverse weather on alternative methods of work, forcing an employee to work from home without mutual consent could bring a claim of constructive dismissal.  That is the worse case scenario and most employees would be happy to work from home but then there are health and safety considerations along with just how much work are they actually doing?   Let’s face it we don’t get snow that often and the urge to make snowman might be too great!

Is an employer required to pay employees who arrive later or do not arrive at all due to disruptions to public transport?

It is up to the employee to make arrangements to get to work and employers are under no obligation to pay for any time employees are unable to get to work, either late or at all.

If there is no public transport available is there any other way the employee can get to work or maybe work at a different location if that is an option?

Failing those maybe look at options such as unpaid leave or annual holiday.  Just a note that employers are under no obligation to grant last minute holiday and for some small businesses this could cause a huge issue if they did.

If an employer closes its business because disrupted public transport prevents employees from attending work does it have to pay its employees?

If the weather disruption is so significant that most of the staff won’t be able to attend work, again depending on the nature of the work the employer may decide to close.  This would be classed as a period of lay off.  Unless an employer has a ‘layoff and short-time working’ clause in their contracts of employment they would need to pay their employees or if the employees agree to be laid off without pay.  Failure to pay without this clause could be a breach of contract or employees could also claim for unauthorised deductions in wages.

If there is a clause in the contract for a period of lay-off without pay, then the employees could be entitled to a statutory guarantee payment, which is up to a maximum of £26 for any day when work is not available.

If an employee has a child at a school or nursery that is closed due to severe weather must the employee be given time off if they can not arrange childcare?

Employees have a statutory right to have a reasonable period of time off to care for dependants.  However, the right is limited to deal with the emergency at the time and should be used to sort out a longer-term solution should the same situation happen the following day for example.

It should also be noted that in the case where there are two carers e.g two parents then the responsibility should be equally shared.

In Summary

At the end of the day, severe weather like we are having at the moment is getting to be a bit more frequent and as a responsible employer and employee, these situations should be discussed before they become an issue and alternative plans of action agreed upon.

If you would like to discuss any of the points raised above with me then please just drop me an email or give me a ring.

If it does actually snow down in the South tomorrow and you do manage to make a snowman then please let me see on Social Media at @kateunderwoodhr.