Real Steps Employers Can Take for Women in the Workplace

The theme for this year’s International Women’s Day is ‘Inspire Inclusion’.  It’s crucial to move beyond mere recognition and delve into real actions that truly support women in the workplace.

While highlighting success stories of women is important, it’s arguably more important to address systemic barriers and create an environment where women can thrive every day. Here are some tangible ways employers can make a meaningful difference:

  • Flexible Role Design: Embrace flexibility in job roles and keep requirements concise. Women are put off applying for roles unless they meet almost all of the criteria. The less criteria the more likely they are to apply.
  • Gender-Inclusive Language: Think about using a Gender Language Decoder to ensure your organisation is using inclusive language.
  • Combat Unconscious Bias: Address unconscious bias in your processes by promoting awareness and implementing unbiased evaluation criteria.
  • Diverse Interview Panels: Foster diversity in interview panels to minimise bias and offer varied perspectives during candidate assessment.
  • Salary Consideration: Avoid basing offers on a candidate’s current salary. Instead, offer competitive compensation based on the role’s worth and industry standards.
  • Accessible Training Opportunities: Ensure training programs are accessible to all employees, accommodating diverse needs including caregiving responsibilities.
  • Leverage Apprenticeships: Engage with apprenticeship programs to broaden access to careers, particularly for underrepresented groups.
  • Objective Salary Bands: Implement transparent salary bands based on job roles, performance, and market standards to mitigate wage gaps.
  • Gender Pay Gap Reporting: Consider regular reporting and internal publication of gender pay gap data to hold the organization accountable for progress, whether this is a statutory requirement or not.
  • Enhanced Parental Leave: Offer inclusive parental leave policies, promoting shared parental responsibilities and supporting work-life balance.
  • Flexible Work Arrangements: Implement flexible working policies to accommodate diverse needs and enhance employee satisfaction.

These actions go beyond symbolic gestures, signalling a genuine commitment to fostering an inclusive workplace where all individuals, regardless of sex, can thrive. International Women’s Day serves as a reminder not just to celebrate women’s achievements, but to actively dismantle barriers and create a more equitable future for all. Let’s strive for progress that transcends a single day and becomes ingrained in the fabric of organisational culture.

This blog was written by Alice McEvoy, HR Business Partner at Optimal HR. If you would like any support with reviewing any policies to become more inclusive or would like advice and guidance on your Equality, Diversity and Inclusion policy or strategy, please call us today on 0330 0881857 and we’ll be happy to help!


Understanding Settlement Agreements in UK Employment Law

In the intricate world of UK employment law, a settlement agreement, also formally referred to as a compromise agreement, stands as a legally binding contract that typically comes into existence between an employer and an employee. This agreement serves as a blueprint, delineating the terms and conditions under which an employee consents to relinquish their right to pursue specific employment-related claims against their employer in exchange for certain benefits.

Critical elements of settlement agreements:

Understanding a Fair Settlement Agreement: A fair and equitable settlement agreement is one that delivers a just and acceptable resolution for both parties involved. It typically encompasses various components, including:

  1. Fair Compensation: Often, this involves a lump-sum payment to the employee, which may encompass notice periods, redundancy pay, and other entitlements.
  2. Reference: The agreement may specify the nature of the reference the employer will provide for the employee in future job applications.
  3. Confidentiality Clause: Commonly, settlement agreements feature clauses mandating both parties to uphold the agreement and its terms in strict confidence.
  4. Non-Disparagement Clause: This clause serves to prevent both parties from making disparaging or detrimental statements about one another.

To ensure both fairness and legality within a settlement agreement, it is advisable for both parties to seek legal counsel. This brings us to the following question:

Do Employers Bear The Cost Of Legal Settlement Agreements? Legally, employers are not obligated to cover the legal expenses of employees seeking advice concerning settlement agreements. Nonetheless, many employers opt to contribute to or fully cover these costs as part of the negotiation process. Securing legal advice is indispensable for employees to comprehend the implications of the agreement and safeguard their rights.

Do I Require a Solicitor for a Settlement Agreement? Indeed, it is imperative to engage an independent legal advisor, such as a solicitor, when entering into a settlement agreement. A solicitor specialising in employment law can furnish you with essential counsel regarding the fairness and favourability of the proposed terms. They can also assist in negotiating improved terms, if necessary.

What Occurs if I Decline a Settlement Offer? Should you decline a settlement offer, you retain your prerogative to pursue legal action against your employer. Rejecting an offer does not immediately imperil your employment, but it may lead to subsequent negotiations or potential legal proceedings. It is of paramount importance to meticulously evaluate the offer and consult with a legal expert prior to making a decision.

Is a Settlement Agreement a Prudent Choice? The wisdom of entering into a settlement agreement hinges on your unique circumstances. Such an agreement can proffer advantages such as a swift resolution, financial compensation, and the avoidance of protracted legal battles. Conversely, it entails relinquishing the right to bring certain claims before an employment tribunal. Before making a determination, it is crucial to confer with an experienced employment law solicitor who can furnish personalised counsel tailored to your situation.

In summation, settlement agreements wield substantial significance in the realm of UK employment law, offering a mechanism for employers and employees to amicably resolve disputes. If you are contemplating a settlement agreement, getting legal advice is paramount to guarantee that the terms are equitable and advantageous.

If you require expert guidance, you can reach out to our Employment Solicitor Matthew Brain here at Optimal HR to obtain professional assistance custom-tailored to your specific needs. We are committed to supporting you in addressing workplace issues, including unfair dismissal and discrimination.

Blog written by Mel Stead FCIPD, Managing Director of Optimal HR Services who has 30 years’ experience in HR and employment law matters.

In need of some HR advice? Wherever you are in the UK, you can arrange a chat with one of our friendly professional HR advisors at any time.

Call us on 0330 0881857 or email enquiries@optimal-hr.co.uk

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Managing Workplace Relationships

Let’s talk about something that affects every one of us in the workplace: relationships. We’re not talking about your coffee break chat or watercooler gossip. We’re diving deep into the importance of having a policy for interpersonal relationships at work, especially in the UK. With ITV recently issuing new relationship guidance stating that all personal relationships – romantic or otherwise – should be declared what does your business need to have in place to create a harmonious, safe, and inclusive work environment for everyone? And how do you get the balance right between employees right to a personal life, and ensuring that this doesn’t lead to problems at work?

Things to consider:

Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion

Diversity and inclusion shouldn’t just be a buzzword; and there’s more and more focus on embedding this in workplace culture. Having a clear policy ensures that everyone is treated equally and with respect and minimises the potential for claims for less favourable treatment and discrimination.

Dignity at Work

Nobody should feel uncomfortable, humiliated, or degraded at work. A well-defined interpersonal relationship policy reinforces the importance of maintaining dignity and respect in all interactions. It provides guidelines on how to address and report issues if anyone feels their dignity is compromised, and makes it clear that unwanted and inappropriate behaviours are unacceptable in the workplace.


Harassment, in any form, is unacceptable. UK law is very clear on this, and your workplace policy should be too. If interpersonal relationships end, or are going through challenges, or an individuals is pursuing a relationship that is unwanted it can be difficult to avoid it impacting the work place. Your policy should define what constitutes harassment and outline the procedures for reporting it. It also should ensure that those who report harassment are protected from retaliation, regardless of any relationship – past or present.

Communication Channels

Emails, chats, and work phones are part of our daily work life, and it’s easy for people to blur the lines between personal and professional when using these platforms. Your workplace policy should emphasise using these channels responsibly. That doesn’t mean no ‘chat’ but should be clear that messages should not be inappropriate or offensive. Remember, written words can leave a lasting digital footprint.

Perceived Power Balance

Relationships between managers and subordinates need special attention. It’s vital to avoid any favouritism or misuse of power, real or perceived. A good policy should provide guidelines on these relationships, such as disclosure requirements and how this type of situation can be mitigated.

So, why does all of this matter?

A Harmonious Workplace

Having a clear policy helps to maintain harmony in the workplace. When everyone knows the rules, they’re more likely to follow them, creating a positive atmosphere for all.

Legal Compliance

Ignorance of the law is no excuse. Remember, an employer has the responsibility to take all reasonable steps to prevent discrimination. Having a well written and clearly communicated policy makes it clear that this is taken seriously and that all employees are aware of what is considered appropriate – and inappropriate.

Employee Wellbeing

When relationships in the workplace are healthy, employees feel valued and secure. This boosts their morale, job satisfaction, and productivity.

Inclusive Culture

Embracing diversity and inclusion isn’t just about ticking boxes. It’s about creating an environment where everyone feels welcome and respected.

A clear policy on interpersonal relationships in the workplace is becoming more and more relevant. It’s not just a set of rules; it’s a reflection of your values and commitment to making the workplace a better place for everyone.

So, if you need any assistance, whether that’s support dealing with existing interpersonal issues, or with creating and implementing a policy that works for your business, call us today on 0330 0881857. Together, we can create a workplace culture that’s truly inclusive and respectful.

Blog written by Alice McEvoy, HR Business Partner at Optimal HR Services

In need of some HR advice? Wherever you are in the UK, you can arrange a chat with one of our friendly professional HR advisors at any time.

Call us on 0330 0881857 or email enquiries@optimal-hr.co.uk

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How To Deal With Internal Politics At Work

Dealing with internal politics at work can be challenging, but here are some general tips that can help you navigate such situations in the organisation that you work in:

  1. Understand the dynamics: Take the time to observe and understand the political landscape within your workplace. Identify key players, alliances, and power structures. This awareness will help you anticipate potential issues and make informed decisions.
  2. Stay neutral: It’s essential to maintain a neutral position and avoid taking sides. Refrain from engaging in gossip or spreading rumors. Focus on your work and maintain professionalism, treating everyone with respect and fairness.
  3. Build positive relationships: Cultivate positive relationships with colleagues across different departments and levels of the organisation. This can help create a network of allies and supporters who can provide guidance, information, and potentially advocate for you when needed.
  4. Focus on your performance: One of the best ways to counter internal politics is to excel in your job. Concentrate on delivering high-quality work, meeting deadlines, and achieving targets. Demonstrating competence and professionalism can help you gain credibility and mitigate the impact of office politics on your career.
  5. Communicate effectively: Develop strong communication skills to ensure your message is clear and understood. Practice active listening and seek to understand different perspectives. When conflicts arise, address them directly and professionally, emphasising problem-solving rather than blaming individuals.
  6. Be politically savvy: While you should strive to stay neutral, you also need to be aware of the political landscape and potential challenges that may arise. Be cautious about sharing sensitive information, understand the implications of your actions, and anticipate potential consequences before making decisions.
  7. Seek advice from mentors: Identify mentors or trusted colleagues who have experience navigating office politics. Seek their guidance and advice on how to handle specific situations. They can provide valuable insights and help you develop effective strategies.
  8. Document important interactions: In case conflicts escalate or misunderstandings arise, it can be beneficial to keep a record of relevant conversations and events. Having documentation can provide evidence if needed and help protect your interests.
  9. Maintain a healthy work-life balance: Office politics can be mentally and emotionally draining. It’s crucial to maintain a healthy work-life balance and engage in activities outside of work that bring you joy and relaxation. Taking care of your well-being will help you stay resilient in challenging situations.

Remember, every workplace is unique, and the strategies that work in one environment may not be as effective in another. Adapt these tips to fit your specific circumstances and use your judgment to determine the best course of action.

Blog written by Mel Stead, Managing Director of Optimal HR Services

In need of some HR advice? Wherever you are in the UK, you can arrange a chat with one of our friendly professional HR advisors at any time.

Call us on 0330 0881857 or email enquiries@optimal-hr.co.uk

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How To Manage Difficult Conversations In The Workplace

Difficult conversations are a part of any workplace. Whether it’s delivering negative feedback, addressing a conflict or discussing sensitive topics, these conversations can be uncomfortable and challenging to navigate. However, with the right approach, difficult conversations can be managed effectively, leading to positive outcomes for all parties involved. In this blog, we will explore some tips on how to manage a difficult conversation in the workplace.

  • Prepare

Before having a difficult conversation, it’s important to prepare yourself. Take time to plan what you want to say, how you want to say it, and anticipate potential reactions from the other party. This can help you to stay calm and focused during the conversation.

  • Choose the Right Time and Place

Choosing the right time and place for a difficult conversation is important. It’s best to choose a private setting where both parties can speak openly and without interruption. It’s also important to choose a time when both parties are free from distractions and can give their full attention to the conversation.

  • Use Active Listening

Active listening is an important skill when managing difficult conversations. It involves listening to the other person’s point of view, acknowledging their feelings, and responding appropriately. It’s important to avoid interrupting, judging, or dismissing their perspective, as this can escalate the situation.

  • Stay Calm and Professional

It’s important to remain calm and professional during a difficult conversation. This can help to de-escalate the situation and maintain a respectful dialogue. It’s also important to avoid getting defensive or emotional, as this can undermine the conversation and make it more difficult to resolve.

  • Focus on the Issues, not the Person

When having a difficult conversation, it’s important to focus on the issues, not the person. This means avoiding personal attacks or criticisms and instead focusing on the specific behavior or situation that needs to be addressed. This can help to keep the conversation objective and avoid escalating emotions.

  • Explore Solutions

The purpose of a difficult conversation is to resolve a problem or issue. It’s important to explore solutions that are acceptable to both parties. This may involve compromising or finding creative solutions that meet the needs of all parties involved.

In conclusion, managing difficult conversations in the workplace requires preparation, active listening, staying calm and professional, focusing on the issues, and exploring solutions. By following these tips, employers can navigate difficult conversations effectively, leading to positive outcomes for all parties involved.

Blog written by Mel Stead, Managing Director of Optimal HR Services

In need of some HR advice? Wherever you are in the UK, you can arrange a chat with one of our friendly professional HR advisors at any time.

Call us on 0330 0881857 or email enquiries@optimal-hr.co.uk

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Managing Redundancies In The Workplace

Redundancies can be a difficult process to manage in the workplace. They can cause disruption and distress to the existing staff and can mean difficult decisions must be made by management. However, with the right guidance and support, a redundancy process can be managed successfully. The following steps can help to maximize the effectiveness of managing redundancies in the workplace.

1. Analyze the Situation: When a redundancy is necessary, management should begin by thoroughly analyzing the situation. This should include a review of the existing workforce to determine the potential risks and any potential legal implications involved. This analysis should also provide guidance on who will be affected by the redundancies, when they should take effect, and any other details relevant to the situation.

2. Create a Strategy: Once the redundancies have been identified, management should create a comprehensive strategy to manage them. This should include a timeline for when the redundancies will take effect, an effective method of communication, and a plan for how to ensure that all employees are treated fairly throughout the process.

3. Provide Clear & Transparent Communication: Transparency is essential when it comes to managing redundancies in the workplace. Employees should be clearly informed of any changes in their roles and any other details pertinent to their future. Doing so will allow them to prepare for changes ahead of time and provide an opportunity for them to raise any concerns that they may have.

4. Offer Support: While it is important to provide employees with clear communication, it is also important to provide them with the necessary support and resources to help them through the transition. This could include providing access to career guidance, financial advice and other resources that can help employees as they transition from their current role. Additionally, management should be willing to provide a listening ear and address any concerns that employees may have.

5. Follow Up: Once the redundancies have taken effect, it is important to follow up with those affected and ensure that they have the support they need. Management should check in with employees after the redundancies have taken effect and monitor their progress as they transition to their new roles.

Redundancies can be a difficult process to manage in the workplace, but with the right guidance and support it can be managed effectively. By following the five steps outlined above, management can ensure that the redundancy process is managed in the most effective and dignified way possible.

Blog written by Mel Stead, Managing Director of Optimal HR.

In need of some HR advice? Wherever you are in the UK, you can arrange a chat with one of our friendly professional HR advisors at any time.

Call us on 0330 0881857 or email enquiries@optimal-hr.co.uk

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What To Do When An Employee Is Off Work With Stress

When an employee is off with stress, it can be a challenging and stressful situation for both the employee and their employer. In this blog, we will explore what to do when an employee is off with stress to ensure that they receive the necessary support and to minimize the impact on the business.

  • Contact the Employee

The first step when an employee is off with stress is to contact them to express your concern and to let them know that you are there to support them. It’s important to approach the situation with empathy and to listen to the employee’s needs and concerns.

  • Discuss a Return to Work Plan

Once the employee feels ready to return to work, it’s important to discuss a return to work plan that is tailored to their needs. This may involve adjustments to their workload, working hours, or working environment. It’s important to ensure that the plan is realistic and achievable, taking into account the employee’s needs and limitations.

  • Provide Support

Providing support to an employee off with stress is crucial to their recovery. This can include providing access to counseling or other mental health services, offering flexible working arrangements, and ensuring that they feel supported and valued in the workplace.

  • Maintain Regular Communication

Maintaining regular communication with the employee is important to ensure that they feel supported and to monitor their progress. This can involve regular check-ins, meetings with their manager or HR, and ensuring that they have a clear understanding of their role and responsibilities.

  • Review and Monitor the Situation

It’s important to review and monitor the situation regularly to ensure that the employee’s needs are being met and that they are making progress. This may involve making adjustments to the return to work plan, providing additional support or making other accommodations.

In conclusion, when an employee is off with stress, it’s important to approach the situation with empathy and to provide the necessary support to ensure their recovery. This involves discussing a tailored return to work plan, providing support, maintaining regular communication, and reviewing and monitoring the situation regularly. By taking these steps, employers can support their employees and minimise the impact on the business.

Blog written by Mel Stead, Managing Director of Optimal HR Services

In need of some HR advice? Wherever you are in the UK, you can arrange a chat with one of our friendly professional HR advisors at any time.

Call us on 0330 0881857 or email enquiries@optimal-hr.co.uk

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What can employers do to support employees who are observing Ramadan?

During the month of Ramadan, which in 2023 is expected to last from 22 March to 21 April, many Muslims will fast each day between sunrise and sunset, and perform additional prayers and other religious duties. Employers should be aware of the potential effects on employees of not eating or drinking during the day, combined with a change to sleep patterns, and should consider taking steps to support them.

Employers should not assume that all Muslim employees will be observing Ramadan in the same way, or that those who are fasting will want the employer to make special arrangements for them. Employers could encourage all employees to discuss with them any impact that they think fasting could have on their work, and any measures that could be helpful.

Where employees are working at home while observing Ramadan, there may be greater scope for flexibility in terms of their working hours. However, there could also be potential issues relating to employees‘ wellbeing, such as working for long periods without interruption. Employers should encourage all employees working at home to take regular breaks, but this may be particularly beneficial for employees who are fasting.

Depending on the nature of the work, steps that employers could consider to support employees who are observing Ramadan include:

  • arranging shifts to accommodate employees‘ preferences where possible, for example so that an employee can finish work in time to break the fast at sunset;
  • accommodating requests for annual leave;
  • making colleagues aware that it is Ramadan and encouraging them to be supportive of their fasting colleagues, in particular by not offering them food or drink (where employees are still in the workplace);
  • enabling employees to arrange their working days to allow for lower energy and concentration levels in the afternoon, for example by scheduling important meetings or work involving operating machinery in the morning, and tasks that are less physically or mentally demanding later in the day; and
  • allowing flexible working, for example an earlier start time, a short lunch break or extra breaks for prayer.

Not all employers will be able to accommodate requests for flexibility in working hours or for annual leave, for example due to staffing issues. Employers are not obliged to agree to such requests from employees observing Ramadan, provided that they can objectively justify any refusal.

Need some advice?  Optimal HR provide expert HR advice to employers of all sizes.  Give us a call on 0330 0881857 or email enquiries@optimal-hr.co.uk

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Does My Business Need A Social Media Policy?

Social Media, we can’t live with it and often can’t live without it!!

Matthew Brain, our In-house Employment Solicitor shares his experience on how social media can be managed successfully in any business.

If managed appropriately, social media can be a highly effective marketing tool for a business, promoting it`s brand, as well as it`s expertise and reputation.

However, if not managed appropriately, it can cause internal (and possibly external) communication issues between line-managers and employees. It could also potentially put off prospective candidates.

As the use of social media grows, especially in the post-pandemic era, having a well-drafted workplace social media policy in place can help protect a business’ confidential information as well as its public reputation and perception. The policy should provide clarification to employees as to what is and what is not expected of them when they use social media, both on behalf of their employer and when acting in a personal capacity.

The policy should specify what type of conduct is prohibited, and must emphasise that any confidential or sensitive material relating to the employer must not be disclosed in social media posts. It must make clear to staff the importance of promoting the business’s best interests and protecting its reputation.

It should also enable employees to feel protected against being bullied via social media, and within the policy it is essential to outline the investigatory and disciplinary procedures if the policy is breached in any way, whether that is suspected to have taken place on the employees’ private or work-related social media.

The employer should consider imposing an obligation on employees to have a disclaimer on their personal social media profiles such as “The opinions share on this account are my own and are not the views of my employer”.

If you need any assistance in addressing the above issues in your business then give us a call on 0330 0881857. We are more than happy to help.

Please also check out our website www.optimaloutsourcing.co.uk/hr/project-support/ for more information on how we can support your business.

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The Benefits of Outsourced HR Services for Small Businesses

Small business owners have a lot on their plates. From marketing and sales to product development and customer service, there are a lot of moving parts that need to be managed in order to keep the business running smoothly. This is why many small businesses choose to outsource some or all of their human resources (HR) functions.

HR outsourcing can help small businesses save time and money, while still ensuring that their employees are fully supported. Here are some of the benefits of HR outsourcing for small businesses:

1. Cost Savings

One of the biggest benefits of HR outsourcing for small businesses is cost savings. When you outsource your HR functions, you don’t have to invest in costly HR software or pay for full-time HR staff. Instead, you can work with an experienced and reputable HR service provider that can tailor their services to your specific needs and budget.

2. Access to Expertise

Another big benefit of HR outsourcing for small businesses is access to expertise. When you outsource your HR functions, you’ll be working with a team of experts who can provide guidance and support on a wide range of HR-related topics, from compliance and benefits administration to employee relations and talent management.

3. Improved Employee Retention

Outsourcing your HR functions can also help improve employee retention. When employees feel like they’re being supported by a team of experts, they’re more likely to stick around. This can save your small business money in the long run, as turnover can be costly.

4. Peace of Mind

Finally, HR outsourcing can give you peace of mind. When you outsource your HR functions, you can focus on running your business, safe in the knowledge that your HR needs are being taken care of by a team of experts. This can help you avoid stressful and costly HR-related problems down the road.

For more information on how we can support your business with HR support, give us a call on 0330 0881857 or email Mel@Optimal-HR.co.uk and we will arrange a time for a confidential chat about the support we can offer.

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