Christmas party dress code

It’s the way you wear it

How does your company dress code stand up to the latest government guidance and what do you need to consider for this year’s Christmas party?

Government Guidance

Earlier in the year, the government released some long-awaited guidance on discriminatory dress codes [CIPD: New dress code guidance published 22/05/2018].

Called ‘Dress codes and sex discrimination – what you need to know’ it offers best practice guidelines on how employers can avoid dress codes being discriminatory – with particular focus on sex discrimination.

The guidance followed a petition set up by Nicola Thorp, whose agency told her its grooming policy insisted women wear heels measuring between two and four inches. She was sent home for wearing flat shoes. The petition gathered more than 150,00 signatures.

The petition led to a report produced by two parliamentary committees, which gathered evidence from hundreds of women who felt that the way they had been forced to dress while at work was discriminatory or made them feel uncomfortable.

The guidance followed in May and while it doesn’t suggest that dress codes and uniforms for males and female staff should be identical, it does say that the standards imposed on both genders should be of an equivalent level.

The guidance isn’t very exact and it has been accused of being too wishy washy, with too many suggestions rather than hard guidelines – perhaps not surprising due to its very nature whilst considering LGBTQ. (For more information on LGBTQ, please click on the Wikipedia link.) But the general upshot is that while it says it may be unlawful to expect women to wear high heels, it would be best for companies to avoid making any gender-specific requirements at all when it comes to dress codes. For example, the dress code could require all employees – of either gender – to ‘wear smart shoes’.

Employers also need to consider religious requirements – for example expecting staff to wear a skirt, which could be against religious requirements to keep their legs covered.

Where the standards are the same for both genders – ie you need to dress smartly – you are on solid ground. Once you start expecting women to wear makeup or nail varnish or skirts – which is gender-specific – then that ground becomes legally shaky.

You might also need to think about making clothes accessible for those with disabilities. Not all disabilities are visible – someone with diabetes or arthritis may find it uncomfortable to wear smart shoes for instance. Someone in a wheelchair or with mobility issues may struggle with zips and buttons or find them uncomfortable when sitting in a chair.

Office Parties

Lots of companies have already booked their Christmas party – while some of us do little more than arrange a meal in a local pub with a few drinks, other companies arrange far grander affairs. It’s vital that you consider how any dress code could affect your employees and overshadow what is supposed to be a fun event to look forward to. At all times, think inclusiveness.

For instance, have you made it a black-tie affair? Not everyone has a dress suit in the wardrobe – and hiring one is not cheap. While your managers may think nothing of shelling out for suit hire, consider younger, lower-paid staff – and people who just don’t have spare cash to spend on one night out.

The same goes for female staff who may not be able to splash out for a new dress and for what should have been a fun night out with colleagues.

It’s important that everyone feels comfortable with the party dress code – if you are planning on some sort of themed event, ensure the fancy dress is easily attainable. Going for a colour theme – black and white for instance – allows people to enter the spirit as much as they want to/are able to. It’s easy to add a white scarf to a black dress, while those who want to go all out are welcome to hire a panda costume or get the department to dress up as a set of dominoes!

Giving people plenty of choice and options will allow them to do what they feel comfortable with and leave them to enjoy the night – which is the whole point of that office party!

If you would like to discuss any issues relating to inclusiveness, and how it may affect your business, please contact Cecily Lalloo at Embrace HR Limited.

T: 01296 769 282 or contact us here.

Based in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, Embrace HR Limited supports business owners who do not have their own HR department or those that do but need help from time to time. We also work across the Home Counties of Oxfordshire, Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire, and also SMEs based in London.

Employees Working
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‘No-deal’ Brexit will still be a good deal for workers

Guidelines released by the government show that protection of workers and the legal responsibilities of employers to their staff are set to remain…

The looming spectre of a ‘no-deal’ Brexit is breeding an atmosphere of uncertainty across the UK – whether you are a home owner, business owner or someone who has to deal with HR issues and workers’ rights.

March 29, 2019 will see the EU leave the UK – and if the increasingly likely-looking ‘no-deal’ happens, the government has released guidelines on what the legal implications might be.

Workers’ Rights

The good news is that the government has already confirmed that there will be no alterations to current rights for workers of their protection – this is all covered in the EU (Withdrawal) Act 2018, which translates EU legislation into UK law. Dominic Raab, Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, told a recent press conference that domestic law already exceeds the EU when it comes to these matters, and that existing EU provisions would be transferred into UK legislation after Brexit.

What could be a risk in the longer term is the fact that, because these rights will simply be under UK rather than EU law, Parliament could at any time choose to scrap them and there would be no redress to the EU Court of Human Rights.

EU Citizens

If you’re a European Union (EU) citizen, you and your family will be able to apply to get either ‘settled’ or ‘pre-settled’ status. This will mean you can continue living in the UK after December 2020.

The application fee will be £65 for adults and £32.50 for children. The application process will be phased and is intended to be fully operational by March 2019. There will be a grace period until 30 June 2021 for EU nationals to apply for either status.

Two useful articles on this include An employer’s guide to preparing for Brexit [People Management: An employer’s guide to preparing for Brexit, 3 Sep 2018] and, on the Gov.co.uk website here [GOV.UK: Settled and pre-settled status for EU citizens and their families].

European Councils

One group that may be affected are European works councils, which represent the European employees at a company or organisation. However, the document states that UK regulations will be altered to enable new requests for a works council to be set up and to allow existing ones to continue.

If your company has European Works Councils and trades unions that are parties to European Works Council agreements, you may need to review your agreements as there will no longer be reciprocal arrangements between the UK and the EU.

Insolvency

Another change relates to employer insolvency. Should an employer go into insolvency, employees will still be protected under the Employment Rights Act 1996 and Pension Schemes Act 1993 implementing the Insolvency Directive [EUR-Lex: Document 32008L0094] or relevant legislation in Northern Ireland.

However, UK and EU employees who work in an EU country for a UK employer may be at risk. It is possible that they will be covered under the national guarantee fund in that country, but that is not a given at this stage.

Finally, should we leave the EU without a deal, the UK would also no longer have access to the European Single Market. This would mean companies would have to make customs declarations on all EU trade, and you may need to employ customs brokers or warehousing. This could be pricey, especially for smaller businesses, so if this applies to your organisation it would be worth becoming familiar with existing guidelines for importing and exporting outside of the UK.

Read the full guidance document from the Government here [GOV.UK: Workplace rights if there’s no Brexit deal].

If you would like to discuss any issues relating to your HR provision and Brexit, and how it may affect your business, please contact Cecily Lalloo at Embrace HR Limited.

T: 01296 769 282 or contact us here.

Based in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, Embrace HR Limited supports business owners who do not have their own HR department or those that do but need help from time to time. We also work across the Home Counties of Oxfordshire, Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire, and also SMEs based in London.

adult at computer
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A bit on the side – four in 10 workers have second ‘jobs’

People managers need to start considering how they will tackle this growing trend…

We often talk about developing careers and keeping employees engaged on our blog, but what do you do when alongside their career with your organisation, employees have a second job or small business?

Side hustle

It is a growing trend – with four in 10 working adults having some kind of ‘side hustle’ alongside their full-time job or career, according to Henley Business School’s white paper, The Side Hustle Economy.

And these side hustles form an important part of the economy too – their income adding up to a not-so-inconsiderable £72bn for the UK economy in 2017.

HR policy

Does your organisation have any policy in place for these kinds of activities? It won’t be surprising if not as, in a recent survey, around half of the companies asked had no such policies in place.

With the trend on the increase – figures are expected to double in the next 10 or so years – it is an issue that anyone involved in human resources should be seriously considering.

According to the School’s Dr Charmi Patel, associate professor in international human resource management: “A key issue is compliance; if staff are working flexible hours, from home or virtually, the control might not be there, on whether they are conducting their own business on company time and using company property, resources and data to do so,” she said.

Open for business

But while it is important to have these policies in place, organisations should otherwise be open to the idea of employees running a separate business or job on the side. Often these kinds of activities are creative and involve the employee’s passion – and perhaps one that cannot be fulfilled at work. Of course, there is the risk that they eventually may become so successful that they are able to leave to pursue their dream full-time but, in many cases, it is the key to your employee feeling fulfilled and successful, and becoming someone who will carry that success into their full-time job as well.

Organisations that seek to restrict or control side hustles are likely to see employee engagement slide – and in turn well-being and hence productivity dip.

Where human resources may need to keep a careful eye is on people burning the candles at both ends to keep up with both their career and their extra-curricular business. And of course, you will want to ensue that it is not going to conflict with your own business.

A life balance, which enables staff to manage their job and their side hustle, is the ideal, and maintaining that equilibrium is something that people managers need to focus on.

If you would like to discuss this subject further and how it may affect your business, please contact Cecily Lalloo at Embrace HR Limited.

T: 07767 308717 or contact us here.

Based in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, Embrace HR Limited supports business owners who do not have their own HR department or those that do but need help from time to time. We also work across the Home Counties of Oxfordshire, Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire, and also SMEs based in London.

Manager and employee engagement

Being the best – starting at the top

Managers need to understand how they can support employee engagement and well-being. And why…

Employee engagement and well-being is vital if you want to keep your people happy and productive – and retain valued members of your team. But this kind of culture must be supported from the top down – so to ensure it works properly, managers must be on board.

What the research says

And yet in recent CIPD research [CIPD Community: New tools to help you develop managers to support employee well-being and engagement, 22 Mar 2017], it appeared that less than half of the surveyed HR professionals believed that their company’s line managers had indeed bought into the importance of their staff’s well-being.

On the back of this research, the CIPD has teamed up with Affinity Health at Work and a number of research partners to come up with a selection of tools aimed at giving managers the tools and skills they need to ensure the well-being of their teams – called the Maturity Model [CIPD: Developing managers for engagement and well-being, 21 Feb 2017]

Being the best

Working on employee engagement and well-being is key to becoming a great company to work for. Every year, the Sunday Times Best Companies lists reveal which companies and not-for-profit-organisations are the best to work for.

And it’s not just for the blue chips and global giants – this accolade is something that all companies can work towards, whatever their size. It’s an aim that will reap its own rewards in terms of employee productivity and retention. There are eight specific segments to be considered – including leadership, how employees relate to their managers, and the level of engagement they have with their company. How staff feel about pressure at work and their life/work balance, their satisfaction with pay and benefits and how their growth within their job/career is managed are other vital criteria.

Here at Embrace HR we work with a number of SME’s to help them address these eight important areas as part of the ‘Best Companies’ programme. Take a look here to find out more: www.b.co.uk/factors/ [Best Companies: The 8 factors of workplace engagement]

Taking it from the top

These things need to start at the top though, so the maturity model, mentioned earlier, which can help those involved in people management identify where an organisation is at in terms of management development, is really useful in helping to bring you up to speed.

Once you have assessed where your company currently sits within the maturity model – at the lower end for instance (little or no competence) – you can work on the required processes to achieve the next level, and ultimately aim for the lofty heights of level 3 – competence.

So to use the maturity model, you would evaluate your company’s approach and current leadership development offering to work out what level you were starting at.

For instance, at level 2, your managers receive some support to develop their management skills, and the company culture and policies support effective management development.

You can start assessing your team and making plans to bring your managers to the next level in order to increase employee engagement and well-being by downloading the report and maturity model here [CIPD: Developing managers for engagement and well-being, 21 Feb 2017].

If you would like to discuss this subject further and learn how Embrace HR can help your business, please contact Cecily Lalloo at Embrace HR Limited.

T: 07767 308717 or contact us here.

Based in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, Embrace HR Limited supports business owners who do not have their own HR department or those that do but need help from time to time. We also work across the Home Counties of Oxfordshire, Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire, and also SMEs based in London.

People working
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Is Yours a People Company?

Do you value your staff above all else…?

Is your organisation a People Company? Does it put the success and well-being of its staff at the top of its dream board? And would your staff say this is true?

If so, congratulations, you truly have a People Company!

So what exactly is a People Company?

As we have already stated, it’s an organisation where the staff are highly valued, and where the management know that they need to help their people to develop in order to grow the company. Not only do the company’s leaders believe that, but their staff will know that they are important and valuable to the organisation. In return, these staff will value their place in the company and work to the best of their ability to help the organisation succeed.

One of the most vital factors is that employees actually believe that you, as an organisation, are people-oriented – which means the company’s actions must support this point of view.

The importance of the HR department

To keep and retain the best people, you must take on a proactive role, ensuring that staff are engaged, which in turn will increase levels of productivity. You need to be ahead of the game to succeed, to recruit the right people, to develop their skills, and to keep them on board.

To do this, HR must ensure that it is focusing on the people who work in the organisation. It means automating the processes it can, in order to let its HR team focus on what they are skilled at – getting the best out of the staff.

The importance of automating routine processes

Making it easy to do many HR tasks automatically and online makes sense. For instance, if your staff can book their own holidays using an online system, that’s a routine job that a member of the HR team doesn’t need to handle. If managers can book appraisals and other people-managing tasks online, yet again, it’s a job an HR person doesn’t have to be involved in.

And a new job title has emerged as this trend continues – Chief People Officers. They are likely to appear in the kind of forward-thinking organisations that always spring to mind, such as Google – but even the Cabinet Office has one in the shape of Rupert McNeil [GOV.UK Rupert McNeil] – providing “professional leadership on a range of people issues, including talent, capability, inclusion, capacity, pay and employee deal, performance, employee relations, culture and behaviours.”

It’s all about the experience

However, there’s more to being a People Company though – you need to ensure that your staff are being offered engaging working experiences throughout their time with you. It starts with the recruitment process – companies now must market their own brand to would-be employees, to ensure they attract the best possible candidates.

Finding out about your new staff during the recruitment process is vital – understand them and you’ll get to understand what drives them and what will make them want to stay within your company and succeed.

If you would like to discuss this subject further and how it may affect your business, please contact Cecily Lalloo at Embrace HR Limited.

T: 07767 308717 or send an email.

Based in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, Embrace HR Limited supports business owners who do not have their own HR department or those that do but need help from time to time. We also work across the Home Counties of Oxfordshire, Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire, and also SMEs based in London.

Satisfied employees
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Happy Employees in the Workplace

From a rather way out suggestion from a Swedish politician, to some rather more reserved suggestions – there are plenty of ways you can make your workplace a happier place!

HR professionals must have been left reeling in Sweden after a politician suggested that sex breaks in the workplace would be good for the physical and mental health of employees! The vote on his proposal is due in the spring, so we will look forward to seeing the results…

In the meantime, it is worth looking at how you can keep your employees happy in more conventional ways. After all, we all know how ensuring your workforce is content can result in better productivity for any company. It also encourages your people to stay with you, cutting back on time and resources spent on recruiting and training new staff.

Work/Life Balance

We are certainly not suggesting that you introduce conjugal breaks, but ensuring that your staff have a healthy work/life balance will help them maintain healthy relationships outside of work. And people who are in happy, healthy relationships tend to work better and be more focused, which can only be of benefit for your organisation. Considering policies that allow flexible working and discouraging a workplace culture of outside-hours working will also help.

When it comes to relationships at work, you need to consider whether you have some sort of Romance Policy in place, and what needs to happen should romances between colleagues flourish – according to reports around 15% of people meet partners at work, so it’s something that needs to be addressed by HR. I have written about this subject before.

Employee Benefits

A study in the Journal of Labor Economics in October 2015 found that happy employees generated about 12% more work than others, so it really is worth spending the time to ensure your staff are content, especially if you consider that research by employee benefits and perks company Perkbox found that 30% (that’s 6.5 million!) of UK workers are unhappy at work and would move jobs for better benefits.

A massive 69% said company perks and benefits were important to their overall satisfaction and more than a quarter pointed out that lack of reward and recognition for good work was their main grievance at work.

Recognition & Praise

Recognising and acknowledging good work and effort is not hard to do – encourage your managers to praise on a daily basis where it is due – and make sure that it is widely known that recognition can come in several forms, whether verbally, by email or for more major achievements using a more public vehicle such as company newsletter or intranet.

Holiday Entitlement

Finally, while it is still summer – though we think someone may have forgotten to tell the weather – do remember that it is vitally important to have a break. Managers should not only encourage their staff to take at least one long break, rather than lots of odd days, but should also plan in advance for cover and ensure there is a sufficient handover. This will help your staff to go away without fear of being contacted while they are on holiday – and also ensure that the remaining staff members don’t end up doing two jobs while their colleague is away. More advice on this here.

If you would like to discuss this subject further and how it may affect your business, please contact Cecily Lalloo at Embrace HR.

T: 07767 308717 or send an email.

Based in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, Embrace HR Limited supports business owners who do not have their own HR department or those that do but need help from time to time. We also work across the Home Counties of Oxfordshire, Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire, and also SMEs based in London.

The 'Always-on' generation. Image courtesy of nenetus at http://www.freedigitalphotos.net
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The Youth of Today – Are you Ready for Generation Z?

When it comes to managing HR, you need to understand your market, and while you may have got a handle on the Millennials – those who reached young adulthood around the year 2000 – do you know about what’s coming next?

Generation Z (sometimes called the Post-Millennials) are the first generation to have grown up in a truly digital world. They are often referred to as the ‘always-on’ generation. They won’t remember a world without smartphones, and find the idea of being unable to be connected to friends, family and indeed the rest of the world by phone and internet completely alien.

So, have you thought about how you might be planning to attract, recruit and retain this new influx of workers?

The UK also has a severe digital skills shortage, so these young people, with their in-built digital skills are going to be hugely valuable in the workplace. But you need to be aware that their attitudes and expectations around the working environment could be vastly different to the previous generation.

Report Findings

The findings of the Amaze Generation: digital me report which has studied 10 to 15-year-olds over the past five years, are intriguing. It revealed that these young people have developed processes and strategies to deal with the digital world around them, in every aspect of their life from relationships, self-esteem and careers to education, pastimes and shopping.

They are not, as you might have first thought, digital slaves obsessed with taking selfies, instead they are shaping and moulding the digital world around them. See the video here.  They are already digital strategists and content editors – though they may not realise it yet – they edit their own personae online and create their own personal brands. They want constant communication, but in a form of their own – they want intimate networks, not intrusion.

What this means to an organisation

As they come into the workplace, Generation Z will already be able to manage their own lives from a smartphone, and be capable of dealing with the latest technologies or new trends quickly. They will be surprised if their workplace cannot do the same.

They won’t be scared of new technologies and processes, they will be able to work around them, not be scared that a new development will take their job away.

You can expect them to challenge communication technologies and processes, as well as ways of remote working – and coming up with their own, probably improved methods of working.

And for HR…

As HR professionals, we will have to be aware that they are used to getting almost instant feedback and will want their working lives to offer positive experiences. They will be looking for the freedom and flexibility to be creative, and will expect to work in an atmosphere where they feel valued and where they can achieve their potential.

So how can you attract these Post-Milennials to your organisation? Well, make sure they know that they can have an input into the way the company works, and that their ideas will be appreciated. You need to ensure they feel like they will have a future with your organisation – managers should have genuine conversations with them, recognise their good work, and offer decent benefits and salaries.

If you commit to investing in these young employees, allow them the freedom to grow and thrive and they will reward you with their loyalty and their talent.

If you would like to discuss this subject further and how it may affect your business, please contact Cecily Lalloo at Embrace HR.

T: 07767 308717 or send a message.

Based in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, Embrace HR supports business owners who do not have their own HR department or those that do but need help from time to time. We also work across the Home Counties of Oxfordshire, Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire, and also SMEs based in London.

Election 2017
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What HR Professionals Need to Know about the General Election

From political discussions in the office to what the election result could mean to you, here’s what you need to know…

One of the first issues when a general election is called is the matter of politics within the workplace.

Of course, you can’t ban any talk of politics or the general election – it will be uppermost in many people’s minds and on the news constantly. But you are entitled to stop political campaigning at work, which might cause disruption or upset to your staff or customers – and of course if they try to use work equipment for their campaigning, for instance, using the photocopier to produces masses of leaflets.

You are also entitled to stop any political symbols being worn at work. Do you have a dress code or a policy on political activities in the workplace? Use these to let your staff know about your expectations. And with Brexit being at the fore of all parties campaigning in the run-up to the election, any comments that could be construed as harassment, particularly towards other nationalities, is a strict no-go area. HR departments may need to be prepared for conflict on this matter.

So, onto the election and the policies that could affect those of us working in HR.

Conservative Plans

It is expected that Theresa May is planning to protect workers’ rights, as she is said to want to create a fairer, equal society and to aid social mobility. The Conservatives said they would ‘protect and enhance’ workers’ rights in the Brexit White Paper – which would include the three million EU nationals living in the UK, as well as UK citizens in the EU.

Most parties want to keep the employment rights we already enjoy under the EU, so hopefully most of these won’t be changed much, whoever wins the election.

Hopefully May will also stay firm to her promise to help to end the stigma of mental health in the workplace, and the Tories have already promised to back legislation on the gender pay gap – so let’s hope that won’t change either.

Labour Plans

If Labour come to power, Jeremy Corbyn has promised that they would raise the minimum wage for all to a minimum of £10 an hour by 2020. Good news for employees, although there may be some companies questioning if they could afford it. Labour also want to add another four bank holidays to the calendar – these could be especially significant for companies that work with counterparts overseas who don’t have the same days off.

At the moment, the Taylor Review is looking into modern employment practices, including the gig economy and zero hour contracts – so it is hoped that this does not get forgotten amongst all the political campaigning – and its findings overlooked. Read more on the review here.

If you would like to discuss this subject further and how it may affect your business, please contact Cecily Lalloo at Embrace HR.

T: 07767 308717 or send a message.

Based in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, Embrace HR supports business owners who do not have their own HR department or those that do but need help from time to time. We also work across the Home Counties of Oxfordshire, Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire, and also SMEs based in London.

Image courtesy of stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The Employee Experience

How your staff engage at work is vital for productivity, as well as staff recruitment and retention.

Customer experience is now all-important for those in the retail, entertainment and hospitality arenas, especially as the landscape has changed, allowing customers to review their experiences – good or bad – almost instantly on social media.

The level of care that is given to these customers is something that HR professionals now need to focus on, as employees expect the same kind of consumer-style experience at work – and will be passing on the same kind of reviews when they leave.

When we watch Netflix, for example, it looks at our choices and offers up more films and TV programmes than it thinks we will like. HR needs to do the same thing in the workplace – offering a personalised experience, rather than taking a one-size-fits-all approach.

Companies are using the Cloud, artificial intelligence and mobile computing to develop their businesses in every aspect – and that includes HR. HR departments in big players such as General Electric and IBM are making the whole employee experience human-centered – ironically by using the latest technology.

At General Electric, they now have a Head of Employee Experience, who looks at everything that can help staff be happier and therefore more productive – their environment, the tools they use and the technology they have access to.

And a study by The Future Workplace and Beyond.com – The Active Job Seeker Dilemma – showed that more investment was now going into training, improving work spaces and offering more rewards. Offering a better employee experience will help you to attract and retain the best talent in your industry.

The working environment

Most offices these days are open plan – interestingly, it has been mooted that these spaces are designed for extroverts, who need plenty of stimulation from colleagues, but for the introverts, who can be just as creative and talented, the space does not work so well.

A study by Steelcase across 17 countries found that staff who had control over where and how they worked, and who had the freedom to choose a work space to suit the job in hand – were 88% more engaged at work.

Take a look at how your work spaces work for various kinds of people – and different kinds of work. Apply your own feelings on where you like to work, where you like to go to get a job sorted, areas where you avoid working or meeting. Are there spaces for sitting quietly and concentrating, breakout areas for informal creative discussions and so on?

The employee experience should be as important as the customer experience. Your company probably considers every interaction that the potential customer will make with the organisation, from their first visit to the website, to their purchase, aftercare and beyond. This is how you need to look at the potential employee – consider their experience from that first recruitment ad to their first day at work, the last day, and everything in between and beyond – how you can support them, and guide them on their journey through your organisation.

If you would like to discuss this further, please contact Cecily Lalloo at Embrace HR.

T: 07767 308717 or send a message.

Based in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, Embrace HR supports business owners who do not have their own HR department or those that do but need help from time to time. We also work across the Home Counties of Oxfordshire, Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire, and also SMEs based in London.