What are the unwritten rules at work?

When you start a new job, you may feel a warm, welcoming vibe as you’re introduced to your colleagues via a company-wide email and taken out to lunch by your boss.

In these early days, you’ll get information on how to file your expense report, order your business cards or how to claim expenses.  You’ll learn what the ‘official’ rules of the workplace are, what policies must be complied with, and what is expected of you in the role you were hired for. Along with an explanation of the company’s values, goals, and mission, your induction may include information on cool company perks such as being able to bring your dog to work.

There’s another category of new workplace rules though that’s not written down anywhere. Not only do they govern the way things actually get done, regardless of anything else you may have heard, but they also define the culture of the organization. “They pick up,” writes Frances Frei and Anne Morris in Harvard Business Review “where the employee handbook leaves off.”

“Culture,” Frei and Morris explain, “Tells us what to do when the CEO isn’t in the room, which is, of course, most of the time.” Though they aren’t documented, they are certainly observable in the workplace. And in the immortal words of Yogi Berra – “You can observe a lot just by watching.”

Here are six things you should observe about the rules you won’t find in your employee handbook.

  1. What flexi time really means:

You love the idea of flexi time and why shouldn’t you? You took the job, in part, because you liked the idea of calling the shots about when you log on and what time you get to the office. Perfect, you thought, as you signed on the dotted line: No more fretting that your boss is timing how long your dentist appointment has you away from your desk.

But, take note. Does your workplace really embrace the flexible arrangement it boasts? Or does it seem like most of your colleagues are at their desks by 8 AM and rarely out the door before 6 PM? Does anyone ever leave midday for a gym class, to go to the chemist, or even to squeeze in a haircut—or are those suspiciously comfy office chairs occupied all day long?

Understanding the reality of the workday and what’s expected of you—no matter what the hiring manager told you in the interview—will keep you from tripping up and help you schedule your extracurricular activities accordingly.

  1. When the work-day actually ends:

Sophie, a woman I worked with, started her second post-university job with huge enthusiasm, a pay raise, and a sparkling brand on her CV. Then she quickly realized she had a problem that was totally going to cramp her happy hour style: No one left the office until the boss did. And the boss didn’t leave until 8 PM.

Being the first to depart in a situation like that can be stressful. If you came in early, it’s likely that no one saw you arrive. If you leave early, everybody knows it. Regardless of how productive your day was, if you regularly jet hours before the majority of your co-workers, you may get inaccurately labelled as lazy or lacking drive and ambition.

The most important thing, of course, is that you get your work done, and that your boss knows you got it done. If the pressure to stay late never lets up, or if your performance is deemed lacking as a result, this might not be the right culture for you.

  1. The open -door policy:

You may find a peach of a company that will tell you the CEO’s door is always open! Come and share your best ideas! We want to hear from you!

The reality may be quite different. You see, it turns out that your manager does not love the idea of you marching into the executive suite and spilling all your brilliance.

Moreover, as lovely as an open-door idea is, it may not always be practical. The CEO may never be around or may rarely have a minute of time to spend with you, or any employee for that matter.

If your company says it has this policy, watch to see if anyone actually uses it (and what happens when they do). Best to be informed before you invite yourself in to share your big ideas with the head honcho.

  1. When you’re expected to respond to email:

Your manager loves to fire off detailed project emails late at night. No need to respond she says, she just needs to get it off of her mind. But the next day, when you notice that your colleagues are talking about the email exchange that happened while you were fast asleep, you feel out of the loop and uninformed.

Knowing when, and how, you’re expected to participate is important. So take a cue from your colleagues. Even if you’re not inclined to change your bedtime just so you can respond within minutes of your supervisor’s message, you can take a look in the morning and get yourself up to speed with anything you may have missed overnight.

  1. How to dress:

You wore your finest interview attire when you were called in to meet with the hiring manager and your future team members, but do you need to replicate that look on a daily basis?

As you walk through your new workplace, note whether your co-workers are dressed in jeans and flip-flops or business-casual attire. Depending on your role, you may be able to rock the T-shirt and trainers—or you might not. But no matter what, remember that your attire plays a role in how confident, creative, and competent you feel. And it certainly plays a part in how you’re perceived by the group as a whole, so dress accordingly.

Oh, and be sure to check out how the team handles tattoos and piercings. Some organisations or managers will be more open to these accessories than others. Observe what your department is doing, and follow suit.

  1. When to take holiday and for how long:

It’s been well documented that Millennials don’t want to be chained to the workplace. But every company defines the concept of work-life balance a bit differently. The stated Annual leave policy will tell you how much time you get to take off. The culture will tell you whether or not people actually pay attention to that policy.

Are you seeing lots of leave days booked and taken by others? Or are the office absences few and far between? Even in companies that offer unlimited holidays, employees may be reluctant to take much time off. Observing the behaviour in your organisation will give you a sense of what the actual Holiday policy really looks like, and how much freedom you’ll have for all the adventure travel you’ve been saving up for.

The bottom line is that no matter what you receive in your induction materials, so much of what you need to know in your new job isn’t going to be found on paper. By utilizing the powers of observation, you can get up to speed quickly. And so that you don’t commit any office faux pas—or worse, put your work ethic in question—you’d do well to figure out the unwritten rules as soon as you’ve memorized where the coffee cups are kept.


5 Typical Mistakes in Employment Contracts

  1. Protection of connections and information

It is astonishing how few of the contracts that we are asked to review, provide adequate protection once an employee has left employment.

Confidentiality clauses are a must in nearly all contracts, but are often missed or poorly drafted.

Well drafted post-employment restrictions preventing the poaching of customers or employees can be enforceable and should be put in place for key employees and sales staff.

Restrictions should be periodically reviewed to ensure they are likely to be enforceable and, as a rough rule of thumb, they should definitely be checked if they:

  • · last for more than 9 months after termination;
  • · don’t have a geographical limit;
  • · aren’t offset against a period of garden leave;
  • · aren’t limited to only protecting the contacts and activities that the employee has been

involved with in the last 12 months of employment.

  1. Contracts working against the employer

A number of insurance backed Legal and HR service providers insist that their clients have contractual disciplinary procedures.

This leaves the employer bound to follow that process for every disciplinary issue and any failure could result in a breach of contract claim, regardless of the employee’s length of service.

Contractual policies may be great for ensuring that claims are never brought against your Legal or HR provider’s insurance, but may not give you the flexibility you need to run your business.

  1. Signed, sealed and delivered

Do your contracts need to be signed as a deed, if so, do you know what is required? Are any new contracts issued to your existing employees enforceable even if signed?

If you want certain protections in your employment contract, often relating to intellectual property or directorships, then how the contract is signed is crucial. Often contracts incorrectly specify that they merely need to be signed, but this could render sections unenforceable.

A mere signature of a new employment contract by an existing employee, without any additional benefit, could also render any post-termination restrictions unenforceable.

  1. Benefits, bonuses and commission failures

Does your contract actually reflect the benefits, bonuses and commission you offer? Does it give you sufficient flexibility to vary those benefits in future?

We often find that contracts fail to deal with fundamental questions, such as:

  • · Do you have flexibility to change the terms of a benefit or commission scheme?
  • · If you discover misconduct, are you able to clawback any bonuses paid?
  • · Do the benefits offered impact on the calculation of holiday pay?
  1. Contracts for board directors

Do you have service agreements for your company directors? If not, you probably should.

These are the individuals who have overall responsibility for the running of the company and have specific legal obligations. You need to ensure that all of their obligations are documented and that the relationship between their employment and their statutory role is stated.

Time for a review?

Please call us if we can help you further.



Executive Search, Recruitment Agencies, In-house – what is right for your business?

Hiring the right people is as significant to the success of a company as the business model and health of the balance sheet. 

Recruitment is a highly lucrative unregulated and fast growing industry. It is important therefore for companies to understand the different options available to them, the costs as well as the benefits and any downside of the choices they make.

Some Key Facts 

The findings of the latest Labour Market Outlook from the CIPD and the Adecco Group demonstrate how important this is. They surveyed 2,182 employers on their recruitment, redundancy and pay intentions for the second quarter of 2019. 

Pay outlook– pay growth largely limited to key staff and new starters

  • Despite rising recruitment and retention pressures, median basic pay expectations in the 12 months to March 2020 remain at 2%. However, pay expectations have fallen back in the private sector from 2.5% to 2% and have risen in the public sector from 1% to 1.5%. 
  • Inflation is continuing to put upward pressure on pay for some organisations. Recruitment and retention difficulties are also a key factor in driving pay decisions, affecting new starters and key staff in particular. More than half of employers (53%) said they have increased starting salaries for at least a minority of vacancies and one in four (28%) have increased salaries for the majority of vacancies in response to recruitment pressures.  
  • In addition to hiring challenges, a third of employers (33%) said that it has become harder to retain staff in the last 12 months, particularly in the public sector (42%). In response, over half (54%) of organisations have increased salaries in some capacity and one in four organisations (25%) have increased salaries for key staff only. 

Skills shortages– employers are having to be more flexible to find candidates 

Skills shortages are particularly being seen in professional occupations (e.g. scientists, engineers) where 50% of employers report that applicants don’t have the required level of skills needed. 

The Labour Market Outlook found that:

• Two in five employers (43%) are upskilling existing staff to offset hard to fill vacancies 

• 23% are hiring more apprentices 

• 19% are recruiting from outside the UK

• 1 in 7 (16%) are lowering their recruitment standards 

In line with recent ONS data*, the report also found that employers were making greater efforts to hire those aged over 55 (8%) and those from disadvantaged groups (6%). 

What is the difference between Executive Search and Recruitment Agencies?

The aim of Recruitment Agencies is to fill a position with the best available person. Recruitment agencies source from a pool of candidates that are actively looking for a new challenge by advertising on various platforms. This leads to a group of candidates that are “self-selected” of which the selection was not pre-determined by the company.

The aim of Executive Search consultants is to locate and recruit the best person, regardless of whether he or she is already employed or seeking a new position. 

This approach can broaden and deepen the talent pool available to a search firm’s clients and places the control of who should be part of this talent pool, squarely in the hands of the client company. 

There may also be the use of specialised pyschometric tools, resources and skills to enhance the selection process.

The costs

Executive Search and Recruitment Agencies tend to charge a percentage fee or a retainer. 

The percentage fee is based on the starting salary of the candidate and is normally payable once the candidate starts work with you. This form of charging is most common and if you don’t find a suitable candidate, you don’t have to pay the agency anything.

However, fees can vary from 8-25% depending on the agency and the salary. If you choose a retainer fee, it is agreed at the outset; with a percentage being payable upfront and the remainder due when the candidate starts their employment.

What are your recruitment options?

Your network– Many companies use their personal network to find staff and this can be very effective. However it can also lead to skills shortages and complications with personal relationships.

Advertising on line– Companies may advertise via online sites such as Linkedin, Indeed, Monster, Fish4jobs and even Facebook.This has the benefit of advertising that your company is busy and hiring but can create a lot of administration.

Recruitment Agencies– You won’t have been in business long before the sales calls start.  When choosing an agency, try and get a recommendation and check their credentials. Anyone can set an agency up with no qualifications or experience. If things like diversity and inclusion are important to your company make sure you ask about this.

Executive Search or Headhunters– This is usually used for senior or specialised roles due to the cost. Finding a firm that understands and challenges you is worth a lot. Meeting a few firms and interviewing them can be helpful.

De-constructed recruitment– A key component of recruitment is identifying the passive candidate.  You pay a day rate for experienced researchers to find and speak to candidates for you.  A cheaper option but requires internal co-ordination.

Independent HR company or individual– Many experienced HR professionals have strong recruitment experience. They can also manage the whole process for you, even if you work with an external recruiter. 

Common recruitment mistakes

Organisations in high growth mode often run very inefficient and costly recruitment processes with little thought for the candidate experience even though it is a seller’s market.  Multiple repetitive interviews, waiting until vacancies have been created to start a process and failing to assess candidates thoroughly are typical.

Looking ahead

It is important for companies to understand and cultivate their ability to read market conditions, trends, movement and fluidity in order to develop and manage effective recruitment strategies. Needs changes as companies grow and it is important to regularly review this.

Ruth Cornish (FCIPD) is the Managing Director of Amelore an HR consultancy. Amelore provide exclusive HR and OD services to high growth and ambitious companies.


5 things every manager (of people) should know

Being a manager can be both a tough and a highly rewarding job. Often the result of a promotion coming after hard work. Or a brand new role in a new organisation.  But rarely does the status of manager come with a tight brief and any training. Most managers learn the hard way about what is expected of them and for many their main source of development is how they have been managed; well or badly.

If every manager understood the following 5 things clearly their chances of being successful and effective would significantly improve which in turn would have a powerful knock on effect across the company.

What their purpose is

When we audit companies we often ask the CEO and other senior people, what the purpose of different roles are. We also ask the individual doing that role. Often the definitions don’t match. Sometimes it sounds like two different jobs to us. If you do nothing else, make sure you can articulate the purpose of the manager’s role.

Often explanations talk about production, technical expertise, sales targets, quality but rarely do they talk about responsibilities for the people being managed. It can be seen as Business as Usual – ie in addition to other expectations on the manager meaning it will be a low priority. Which will impact on the whole culture of the organisation and not in a positive way.

What they can and can’t do

This might seem obvious but it rarely is.  We are talking about whether they can hire and fire, what their budget is, whether they can arrange training and promote people. Are they free to discipline their staff or must this be culturally approved? What isn’t written on the job description or needs to be explained?

What vicarious liability is and how it might impact on them

Vicarious liability refers to a situation where someone is held responsible for the actions or omissions of another person. In a workplace context, an employer can be liable for the acts or omissions of its employees, provided it can be shown that they took place in the course of their employment.

Many employers are unaware that they can be liable for a range of actions committed by their employees in the course of their employment – these can include bullying and harassment, violent or discriminatory acts or even libel and breach of copyright. It’s also possible to take action against an employer for the behaviour of third parties, such as clients and customers, provided these parties are deemed to be under the control of the employer.

The key question of any case of vicarious liability is whether the employee was acting in a personal capacity, or in the course of their employment. This can often be difficult to determine. Nor does an employer’s liability end once the employee leaves the organisation – as the law stands, action can still be taken against an employer even though the person in question no longer works for them.

What their H&S responsibilities are

Under the law employers are responsible for health and safety management. For every employee this responsibility lies with their manager. Even if there is a H&S Advisor. It is the managers that have the responsibility on a day to day basis because it is the employer’s duty to protect the health, safety and welfare of their employees and other people who might be affected by their business.

This means making sure that workers and others are protected from anything that may cause harm, effectively controlling any risks to injury or health that could arise in the workplace which includes managing and monitoring stress. Also managing sickness absence and understanding when an employee may need to be offered reasonable adjustments if they have a special need or a disability, and it might help them remain at work.

Employers also have duties under health and safety law to assess risks in the workplace. Risk assessments should be carried out that address all risks that might cause harm in your workplace.

What the unwritten rules are

Often the unwritten rules or internal ways of working are the biggest keys to success or failure. Knowing them is a start. Often politics is a key part of this. Who to know, be connected with. Who to avoid upsetting. How the organisation deals with conflict and disagreements. How the culture dictates the ways of working for the organisation.

We get involved in situations where managers haven’t worked out and often failing to understand and comply with unwritten rules (obvious to everyone apart from the manager) is sited. Imagine being told it was all over for failing to comply with rules that no-one told them about.

Often a solution to tackling any of these issues that you recognise can be signing up to an HR audit and a bespoke management training programme. So that you know your managers are being supported but also that what they are being taught and guided on is appropriate and on brand for your company.  This can be in conjunction with senior leaders and any internal HR function.

The good news is Amelore offer this service so do get in touch if we can help and advise you further.


Most employers will be aware of the upcoming introduction of the General Data Protection Regulation, or GDPR. But how can they be sure the way they collect and store information for immigration purposes will be compliant? Amelore look at the key risk areas.


The introduction of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) presents a huge challenge for employers in many data processing scenarios.

Not surprisingly, immigration processes necessitate the collection and processing of considerable personal data by an employer and, in many situations, one or more third parties such as legal advisers.

And with the deadline (25 May 2018) fast approaching, there is a chance that certain types of personal data processing will not be captured in your thinking, and will therefore create a risk of a breach.

For many employers, immigration is a niche activity that changes constantly and is therefore difficult to fully understand and account for with internal policies and processes.

However, given the sensitive nature of data collected and processed, and the multiple parties often involved in this, now is the time to look at key immigration activities and ensure that they are GDPR compliant.

Here are a few scenarios that illustrate the wide range of immigration data points to be accounted for in preparing for GDPR.

Right to work checks

Employers must conduct right to work checks on any new employee, ideally before they start working for you so you only employ people with the ‘right to work in the UK’.  Employers should take copies of any original documentation they see and copy, sign and date the document copy which should then be securely stored.

While it is easy to assume that this is covered by a “legal obligation” that is not actually the case.

A right to work check is done to establish a statutory excuse against a civil penalty – that is, to avoid a fine should an employee be found to be working illegally. It is not strictly speaking a legal requirement to perform a right to work check and there are no penalties for failing to perform a right to work check where the employee is working legally. However, employers that do not carry out right to work checks will not have a statutory excuse.

Therefore, the retention and processing of data relating to immigration status would be categorised under “legitimate interests” and this processing should be covered in a privacy notice.

Resident labour market test

The resident labour market test (RLMT) is conducted as part of a Tier 2 General (new hire work permit) application to justify the recruitment of a non-UK/EU individual, ahead of a UK/EU individual.

The employer generally needs to place two adverts on two websites for 28 days each, and then assess applications against the skills, education and experience described in the advert.

If there are no suitably qualified candidates from the UK/EU, then a non-UK/EU individual can be offered the role and be sponsored under Tier 2 General.

Documentation, including job applications, CVs and interview notes need to be retained for up to seven years in the event that the Home Office conducts a compliance audit.

Now imagine you were one of the candidates who applied for that role. You were interviewed for the job but ultimately were unsuccessful. It would be reasonable to expect that your details would be retained for a reasonable period, for example six months, to allow the employer to defend any challenges arising from the appointment.

However, most candidates would be surprised to learn that their personal information would be stored for up to seven years and shared with legal advisers and the Home Office as part of the immigration process for the successful candidate.

While employers may be able to argue that retaining the information is a legal obligation, the Home Office document that describes document retention is not technically part of the immigration rules. Rather, it is a policy document and therefore it may be open to interpretation whether it is a legal obligation or not.

As such, employers may instead have to rely upon “legitimate interests” as the appropriate legal basis to retain such information. This of course requires a proper assessment to ensure those interests are not outweighed by risk of prejudice to individuals.

What steps do employers need to take to ensure that their RLMT processes are GDPR-compliant?

  1. Ensure your privacy notice for recruitment purposes makes clear the possibility of personal data being processed and retained for the purpose of immigration requirements, specifically the RLMT for Tier 2 General, including the sharing of that data with legal advisers and the Home Office, and the length of time data may be stored.
  2. Minimise personal data where possible. The personal data that must be retained on file, as per the relevant Home Office policy document, relates only to applications shortlisted for final interview – rather than all candidates who responded to the advert. Likewise, do not ask for personal data that is not strictly required at this stage of the process, for example, copies of passports, immigration documents and evidence of qualifications and experience.
  3. Redact and anonymise personal data. A further way to minimise the personal data you hold is to redact information that is not relevant to the information you need to retain, such as contact details, interests and hobbies.

Immigration enquiries and opinions

Throughout the course of employment an employee can expect that their employer may need to consult with legal advisers and other professional advisors on a range of matters, including immigration, and in doing so may need to share personal data.

This should of course be covered in the section within the privacy notice dealing with disclosures to third parties.

However, what if as part of these enquiries it is necessary to transfer data outside the European Economic Area (EEA)? For example, where the organisation is looking to transfer an employee to the US and would like a US-based immigration lawyer to assess eligibility.

Transfers of personal data outside the EEA need to be addressed within privacy notices. Also, any such transfers of personal data should only take place where steps are taken to ensure adequate protection for that personal data in the recipient country (this is also the existing position under the Data Protection Act 1998).

With just over a month to go until GDPR goes live, now is the time to understand the data points in your immigration processes and ensure they are GDPR compliant.

What every manager wants to avoid

In our work, we audit any new company we work with and have observed that a common theme in many is that managers don’t appear to want to manage.

By that we mean managing people. Setting standards on performance and monitoring them, holding employees to account, identifying what behaviours are needed to create the right culture to grow the business and being confrontational if and when it is necessary. Or they are only embracing the nicer side of management. Giving out pay rises and promotions etc

Managers and leaders seldom avoid this type of work for any other reason than they don’t know how to do it and are worried about getting it wrong. Often employees pick up on a fear and become experts on how to make the most of this which is rarely beneficial for the manager or the company. Equally managers aren’t set any targets or held to account about whether they do it (well) or not. So they will naturally focus on what is valued.

As we are all aware, being good at a technical or specialist role can often lead to promotion into a completely different type of role. Leading and managing a team is so much more than being the most senior member of it with the biggest say. The person that earns the most does so because they also have significant people management responsibilities and are accountable for their team as well as business area. Rarely is this properly explained. During recruitment or promotion discussions. Usually the elephant in the room and therefore often misunderstood.

No training or guidance for managers

Here are some of the things that managers have often had no training or guidance on whatsoever:

  • A core understanding of management theory and what is relevant to their company and industry
  • How to delegate and communicate effectively
  • An understanding of their obligations and duty of care under employment and health and safety legislation
  • How to turn key organisational KPI’s into objectives or targets for staff
  • The difference between technical and behavioural competence
  • How to understand and harness the power of personality
  • How to select staff – interview competentantly, understand and recognise unconscious bias and discrimination. Understand the equality act.
  • Motivational techniques and team building

It stands to reason that if you don’t know how to do something you may avoid it or try and get someone else to do it. Particularly if you fear negative consequences for yourself. Or if you observe that no-one else is tackling similar issues.

Revolving door culture

But as many will be aware, not doing something often has a bigger impact on your culture than doing something, even if it’s not perfect. Not tackling people management issues will build up over time until you start to observe that your good people are leaving. You will replace them of course. At considerable time and expense. And then your fanastic new hire might leave before their probabtion period is up and you start to wonder if it’s something in the business.

The truth is that it’s your culture. How you do things. What you avoid or ignore.

Targetted development

But you can address the fear and reluctance of maangers with some targeted management development training. A core part of that should be an assessment of whether you have the right poepe in lead roles.  Often you will have and they just need devellping. But some people don’t make or want to manage people. No matter how much you spend on core Leadership programmes. However they may be suited to a different specialist role? Or have a No 2 that is interested?

What provider to pick?

There are plenty of companies around who specialise in leadership and management development training. Many long established and many newer ones coming through.

Talking to CEO’s about their previous experiences of such engagement they often report that many staff enjoy attending such initiaitves but they rarely had a long lasting effect as they often didn’t address the following issues:

  • Who held managerial posts
  • What their remit was v what they did
  • Whether the corporate structure was correct
  • What the culture was (desirable v actual)
  • How they would be managed post the intervention

It was hard therefore to quantify any return on the investment made often because the desired outcome hadn’t been pinned down or properly understood.

Our approach

At Amelore, supporting organisations to develop managers has become a growing area for us.  We usually work with companies that are already established and performing well but who want to develop their management team and culture to create space for a senior team to focus on the strategy. Often they don’t have an HR Director in their business.

Our work as external HR professionals can involve us recruiting new managers and coaching key individuals along side regular internal workshops. We can honestly say that every company has different needs and consequently different programmes.

What we bring is our insight into how to make companies work better which we’ve gained over many years. And our HR expertise.  And just like Mary Poppins, we stay as long as we are needed. Ultimately our aim is to leave that company in a good place to grow, compete and innovate. To give it competitive advantage because it works as well on the inside as the outside.