SME Agony Uncle: Bobby Kerr answers all your business and work-related questions


Each week broadcaster, entrepreneur and agony uncle Bobby Kerr joins The Hard Shoulder to answer all your employment-related questions.

This week, Ivan kicked things off with Bobby by discussing pets in the office and how it's becoming increasingly popular for our furry friends to be 'joining' the workforce at the office. 

Bobby says he's a bit perplexed by it all and doesn't think a workplace is the right environment for pets. Ivan doesn't think it will catch on here but Bobby says he wouldn't be so sure... 

Now onto your questions... 

Speaking of pets, I have a problem in my office with animals - horses. My boss insists on doing a sweep every day this week for Cheltenham and I am feeling pressured to take part. I have no interest in horse racing and the races seem to take priority in our offices this week. Most of the office earn more than I do so it's easier for them. Should I say no or just leave them to it?

Bobby says that a sweep every day of the festival seems a little excessive but this might actually prove to be an opportunity for this person to let their boss know that they are underpaid. Bobby suggest speaking to the manager and saying they can only enter the sweep on two days because they are broke and because they don't get paid enough and take it from there.  

My manager has insisted that we put in for two days annual leave for the two days our shop was closed due to the snow. None of the staff are happy with this as the manager was quiet about what we should do during the storm so eventually we decided to close at 1pm on the Thursday. What should I do and what are my rights?

Provided the employer gave notice of closure, unfortunately, the employees can be obliged to have those days as unpaid leave. The first thing this employee should do is check their company handbook to see if there's anything specifically related to these types of occurrences and bad weather. 

Bobby's researched this and says it can be ambiguous. Looking at specific questions around these issues, Bobby says that if you legitimately can't make it in, your boss can make you take unpaid leave or work additional time to make up for it. If you show you've made an effort and speak to your boss, a reasonable boss should understand.

Your employer can't make you take any unsafe journey to get to work in these types of weather-related issues but they also don't have to pay you. However, if your company closes the office and you can't work from home then your pay cannot be docked or you can't be made take annual leave.    

Bobby says he sees it as a give and take scenario and wishes management could be understanding in these situations. 

I produce a small niche artisan product and find restaurants are very good at paying on the day of delivery. However, with bigger four and five star hotels, I find they often ignore invoices completely to begin with, fudge on when they will pay them or else pay up to six weeks later. I can't get an overdraft to take care of cashflow so is there anything I can do to stop this long pay cycle?

Bobby says Frank needs to be upfront on what his payment policies are for his product. There is no point in him putting himself under pressure. Bobby advises that he begins by asking businesses for COD (cash on delivery) at the start of their relationship and once they become used to how things work, he should find himself in an easier place. Bobby advises he walks away from any business that is delaying payments because he simply can't afford to wait. 

You can listen back to all of Bobby’s employment advice from Tuesday’s The Hard Shoulder here: 

If you have a business or SME related query you would like answered - you can get in touch with Bobby each week by simply sending a short mail to [email protected]

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