Author: Neil Ferguson

Dissertation Diary

Disseration Diary

As mentioned in my last blog, I required to get thinking about what I was going to focus my Dissertation research topic around; I have since looked into this further and have settled on Social Media within employment and the impact which it can have on small businesses. Within this will be an analysis of the benefits and drawbacks which have an effect on a small business and the considerations they should take when seeking to engage their employees through allowing use of social media.


I have submitted my research proposal stating the particular areas I am looking at and how I will carry out the research and await (hopefully good!) feedback on this. After my proposal is returned, I will drill down on the existing literature and determine the key themes which have already been looked at within this area and what is being said. I will then seek to identify any gaps and focus my research areas around this.

I will be looking to speak to business owners and directors for whom Social Media plays an important and active role in how they run their business. If you are interested in helping me with this research please get in touch and let me know!


I am looking forward to embarking on this project and expect to come across some very interesting aspects of what is a rapidly growing area of business. Social Media and its capabilities are constantly evolving and so to an extent everyone is constantly catching up with the phenomenon.

The potential benefits which arise from staff having access to social media in work and being able to engage with each other and customers are likely to be far reaching. Within this however there are drawbacks, some of which I have seen first-hand through my role at Gravitate HR. I hope to uncover if allowing social media access to employees is ultimately a help or a hindrance to a small business.

I will be updating my blog as my project progresses. For now I have an exam to contend with in early January and then as mentioned await the return of my research proposal with hopefully some helpful pointers to make sure I am heading in the right direction with the project!

Employment Law Updates

Employment Law Updates

Compromise Agreements

With effect from July 2013 Compromise Agreements were renamed settlement agreements. There are also new measures on what can be discussed at pre-termination stage.

Pre-termination negotiations inadmissible in court

From July 2013, even where no dispute has yet arisen, discussions held with a view to terminating employment under a settlement agreement will be inadmissible in ordinary unfair dismissal claims.

Reform of employment tribunal process

From July 2013, pre-hearings now, in effect, became an attempt to limit the number of cases going forward to tribunal. They are an opportunity for alternative resolutions to be looked at and evidently weak cases will be thrown out.

The national minimum wage increases

From 1st October 2013, the National Minimum wage will increase.

The adult rate will increase by 12 pence to £6.31 an hour.
The rate for 18-20 year olds will increase by 5 pence to £5.03 an hour.
The rate for 16-17 year olds will increase by 4 pence to £3.72 an hour.
The apprentice rate will increase by 3 pence to £2.68 an hour.
The accommodation offset will increase from £4.82 to £4.91.

Employers no longer liable for third party harassment against their employees

From 1st October 2013 the provision under the Equality Act which makes employers liable for third party harassment against their employees is to be repealed. Employers should be aware however that depending on the facts, employees may still be able to argue that an employer’s failure to act in response to third party harassment amounts in itself to harassment or discrimination within the scope of the other Equality Act definitions.

Social Media Matters

I have just read a blog article from Social Media Dashboard Operators Hootsuite talking about the importance of social media tools such as Twitter for small and medium sized businesses. This is a topic I find very interesting and am considering basing my Masters Dissertation on (which I really need to start thinking about soon!)

This has been a relatively hot topic of late with more and more emphasis being placed on the potential benefits of an active social media presence to businesses. I agree that there are many benefits to be had but I am also all too aware of the potential employment issues which can arise in the online environments.

Improved Exposure?

The Hootsuite blog refers to positive statistics for businesses with more Twitter followers equalling better brand association, more recommendations from customers and the increase in likelihood for someone to purchase their goods.

But what happens when businesses receive negative feedback online? For example if a celebrity who has hundreds of thousands of followers on Twitter having a bad experience with a company and take to Twitter to rant about the company. This may have a damaging effect on company reputation as well as their services and products. This type of negative exposure against a small company could have potential disastrous effects!

Employment Issues

Many businesses have in place a social media policy to give staff guidance on how they should behave on social media when referring to or representing their company online. This doesn’t necessarily prevent employees from going online to vent frustrations however it should allow the business to take steps to remedy occasions when the policy is breached.

One key aspect of taking action up to and including dismissal relates to whether or not the company name has been brought into disrepute or their reputation has been damaged. Employers should be cautious of jumping too quickly to dismissal claiming this and should think about the actual damage that has been done as the following case shows:

In Taylor v Somerfield Stores an employee was dismissed for bringing the company into disrepute by posting a video online of him and a colleague play fighting with employer branded plastic bags. This dismissal was ruled by a tribunal as unfair as the video had only been viewed 8 times and 3 of those were by the managers investigating the incident. That is not to say Somerfield were not within their rights to invoke the disciplinary procedure; but that going straight to dismissal was viewed at disproportionate.

Conversely, in another Tribunal Case, Preece v JD Weatherspoons, an employee’s dismissal for writing negative comments about customers on Facebook was deemed fair. Although the employee believed her account to be sufficiently private, the tribunal viewed that once posted online, the comments were in the public domain and the dismissal therefore fair.

The benefits of Social Media for businesses undoubtedly outweigh the negatives in my opinion however I think it is important for businesses to be aware of both. A key aspect is having a robust social media policy in place which provides employees some guidance on how to engage online if representing the company. If you think your business could benefit from a social media policy or any other HR Support, give me a call on 0131 243 1379.

First Year of Masters in Human Resource Management

First Year of Masters in Human Resource Management

I recently completed my first year of my Part Time Masters in Human Resources at Edinburgh Napier University and today learnt I have passed all my modules! It has been a busy but worthwhile experience so far which has provided me with a deeper insight into a multitude of HR topics.

Among the main interests from first year have been, a closer look at Social Media and how employers are using tools such as Linked In, Facebook and Twitter to boost their online profile as well as recruit new talent to the organisation. Alongside the positives for social media is the increasing requirement for organisations to lay down clear guidelines on how their own employees should use these platforms when talking about the company. Many companies have found themselves in a sticky situation where an employee has negatively mentioned them in an online post and they do not have a policy on how this should be dealt with.

Reward Systems

Another interesting area I have looked at through my studies is reward systems and the shape that employer’s reward policies are taking. The move away from monetary only reward towards ‘new pay’ which encompasses benefits such as training and career development as well as those which put extra money into an employee’s wage. We are working with some of our clients to develop reward structures which will serve to retain top performers and attract new employees to the business.

With another year of the course ahead of me I am looking forward to the summer and a break without University commitments. It won’t be long before second year starts however and I will be starting to write another dissertation. Beginning to think about topics of interest to research for this, I will probably write another blog once I’ve decided.

If you think your business could benefit from some Human Resource Expertise from Gravitate HR, please get in touch with me on 0131 243 1379!

Our Team Highlights during 2012!

It has been an exciting year for the Gravitate HR team and we are looking forward to another in 2013!

In January, Neil Ferguson joined the team and has been involved in many different projects gaining excellent experience along the way. Neil started his part time Masters in HRM at Napier University in September and will attend over the next two years.

Heather became Mrs Bell in April this year and has been enjoying married life ever since. Heather also attended SACRO mediation training courses and has benefitted from these new skills.

Margery again completed the Pink Ribbon Walk with ‘Katesmates’ in May and helped raise over £2,000 for Breast Cancer Care, a magnificent achievement!

March saw Becky get engaged and she has been at the planning stage for the last few months for the wedding next September. Becky also moved into her new house in September and has been enjoying her earlier starts in the mornings commuting to work!

Elaine moved into her new house in March and has settled in well. She is looking forward to her visit to Dubai in January.

July brought a new recruit to the Gravitate HR team in Gill Schofield. Gill came on as Senior Account Manager and has been working hard on projects and making connections for the business, our client list is set to continue to grow with Gill on board.

Jennifer completed her MSc in HRM at Napier University, graduating in October, congratulations on this achievement, no more studying for the immediate future!

We are attending the HR Directors Business Summit in January 2013 in Birmingham. The featured topics cover a wide range of HR matters from employee engagement to change management. We would be happy to feedback to you if you think your business would benefit.

Important dates for the HR Calendar

A handy HR checklist for July and August

Read Margery McBain’s handy HR checklist for July and August as featured in The Start Up Donut, full of useful tips for employers over the summer months.


Contracts for Young Workers Need to be Simplified

Contracts for Young Workers Need to be Simplified

High youth unemployment has been at the forefront of the Government’s employment agenda for quite a while now. Reported in the media almost daily, the number of young people out of work is increasing all the time following the removal of the default retirement age and a shrinking labour market. There are other reasons for this too; employers are looking for the right combination of experience and qualifications but the young workers are finding it difficult to get a foot on the ladder to gain this experience as well as employers finding the process of taking on a young worker too difficult to navigate.

Is there a Solution?

One solution touted by the CBI is the simplification of contracts for young workers which it is hoped will bring about an increase in the recruitment of young people. An article in People Management Magazine online show the CBI suggests, “Firms can’t see the woods for the trees” which is affecting the number of young workers being taken on. It is thought that by simplifying the steps which employers must take before they can hire a young worker, more employers will look down this route of recruitment, alleviating slightly the issue which is now believed to be affecting more than 1 million young people.

Edinburgh Initiatives

There are many local schemes which aim at helping young workers into stable permanent employment through initial placements and initiatives within these such as wage subsidies or help towards the costs of training/apprenticeships for the young workers. If you are thinking of hiring a young worker you can check out schemes such as Barnardo’s Works , The Edinburgh Guarantee Scheme or Recruitment & Training Edinburgh Ltd .

Considerations when Hiring

It is important to note if hiring a young worker that there are some considerations which you must make. The minimum wage might be lower and the number of hours they can work can also be influenced depending on age and whether they have left school. The Direct Gov website is extremely useful for information relating to this.

If you require any further information or assistance with recruitment or if you would like to know who to contact at the above Schemes please do not hesitate to get in touch with Neil Ferguson of Gravitate HR on 01312257458.

Office closed on Monday 9th April 2012!

Office closed on Monday 9th April 2012!

Please note our office will be closed on Monday 9th April 2012.

Gravitate HR wish everyone a Happy Easter! We are open again on Tuesday 10th April.

Margery McBain features in two new articles!

Margery features on page 23 of Entrepreneur Country with an article on ‘The Widening Wage Gap’.

Margery gives a short review of ‘The Growth Drivers’ in Business XL’s ‘What I’m reading now section’ Business XL [PDF – 299kB].