Acorn FAQ’s

QUESTION: Why should I use ASL?

ANSWER: We are a highly knowledgeable and experienced Human Resources Team. With over X years of combined HR experience we have the depth and knowledge to help partner with you. We seek to create partnerships with our clients to ensure that the services provided are flexible and tailored to meet the specific needs of the organisation.

We focus on the style and structure of each client’s business on a one to one basis to ensure a personalised service is provided.  We want to see a business achieve it’s potential and are passionate about supporting and guiding our clients through the complexities of employment law and employment relationships.

QUESTION: What types of organisations do you work with?

ANSWER: We provide HR consulting services to all types of small- and medium-sized businesses. We’ve worked with businesses in all kinds of industries, ranging from manufacturing operations, Educational establishments,  professional services, technology focused companies and retail. .

QUESTION: What is the benefit of outsourcing my Human Resources Function?

ANSWER: Getting employment law wrong can be very costly and time-consuming taking you away from your core business. Many small to mid-sized organisations typically have an individual that is responsible for  HR but generally has several other duties and wears “multiple hats”. In some cases HR duties can fall on owners and directors of these size of companies. HR Consulting can be a cost effective resource to ensure you are compliant with employment law. Most importantly it offers your organisation consistency in managing all manner of employee issues.  It also allows you the opportunity to free yourself and other employees from the administrative burden that HR can pose and enable them to focus on their man role.

QUESTION: Where can I learn more about the work you’ve done with other clients?

ANSWER: We are happy to provide client references and contacts should you wish to hear directly from our clients about their experience with our services

QUESTION How can I test your services before making a long-term commitment?

ANSWER: We prefer not to offer a retainer services and believe our last piece of work is testament to the value of the service we provide.  We offer our services on a project by project basis or as and when required.

Following our initial consultation, we provide a written proposal clearly outlining the deliverables agreed and outline pricing.

QUESTION: What services does ASL offer?

ANSWER: It is a full scope assessment of your payroll, benefits, and administrative policies and procedures. We focus first on legal compliance and then suggestions for best practices. As a result of the Audit you get a detailed summary, suggestions for compliance and significant resources from our HR library of materials.

We support our client on all manner of topics including, disciplinary, grievance, redundancy, restructures, TUPE, case management, dismissals, engagement, retention, absence management, recruitment and managing performance.  We are equipped to deal with any HR challenge you may have.

QUESTION: Do I need to sign a written contract?

ANSWER:  We ask you to sign up to our terms and conditions, however they do not tie you in for any length of contract. Obviously we would like to work with you long term but only if the relationship works for both parties. The relationship between you as a client and us as your HR consultant is based on trust and mutual respect.  As such, it is our policy to offer our clients the flexibility to end a HR service immediately with just a phone call.

QUESTION: Do you offer on-site support?


QUESTION: Who will I be dealing with?

ANSWER: You will have a client relationship owner assigned to you, but as a small team of 4 advisors, all of the team will understand your business and have access to your policies and procedures. Therefore, it doesn’t matter who you speak to you when you call they will be able to help you with your query or direct it to the most appropriate member of our team.

QUESTION: Where are you based?

ANSWER: We are based in Stourbridge in the West Midlands. We predominantly cover the West Midlands and Worcestershire area but have clients as far a field as Scotland and London.

 QUESTION: What hours are you available by phone or e-mail?

ANSWER: Our normal office hours are 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday.  However due to the nature of some of our clients businesses, we frequently support HR activities in the evening and at the weekends. If you do require out of office support this will be discussed when we agree terms.

QUESTION: What expertise do you have?

ANSWER: Our HR Advisors have to maintain their expertise to be valuable to their clients. Small-business owners who don’t have a dedicated HR department within their companies benefit from an HR Advisor who can provide guidance on the day-to-day operations. The HR Advisor can advise on HR functions that will sustain employee engagement and productivity.

Our HR team work hard to continually upgrade our knowledge and expertise in HR best practice so we can market high-quality services to clients and ensure that their clients trust our advice.  We are CIPD qualified, which is the professionally recognised HR qualification in the UK.  More importantly, we have the experience to match our qualifications.

QUESTION: Do you help with Training and Development?

ANSWER: Training and developing is important for any company to grow and succeed. Our HR Advisors can help train and develop your staff by delivering appropriate workshops on such things as, managing absence in the workplace, how to manage performance in your teams and how to engage and retain talent in your business.

To get the best out of your people, it’s important to develop them and ensure they are highly engaged.  Therefore, as part of our proactive approach, we deliver workshops to ensure your line managers are equipped to manage your people effectively.


Call us on 01562 881019, or email

What is a HR Audit?

At Acorn, one of our first steps of engagement is through a HR Audit. It also gives a great insight into how a company is run, how staff are managed and areas that are important to individual businesses.

Below are some of the aspects that we will look at to ensure that you are compliant with current employment law legislation and establishes the organisation as a first class employer.

  • Pre employment – documentation checks, including contracts, job descriptions, work place assessment, agreed method of recruitment, medical consent questionnaire, list of company core companies and organisational structure.
  • Induction – to include looking at how staff start in the company and how they are supported in their first few weeks of their employment.
  • Probation checks – we look at the probation period, how staff are supported within that time and any paperwork associated with this time including successful and unsuccessful probation letters.
  • Performance management and appraisals and what paperwork is used for these.
  • Disciplinary – we will review your disciplinary policy, paperwork associated with this procedure
  • Absence and sickness management – documentation and processes used by the business to monitor long and short term. Paperwork around this can be complex and will include medical consent form, SSP1 form, GP requests and AWOL support.
  • Holidays – holiday management via your holiday policy, support in how to pro-rata holiday entitlement and bank holiday and shut down support.
  • Apprenticeship – and young worker support
  • Grievance – paperwork and policy
  • Flexible – paper work regarding flexible working
  • Maternity and Paternity – policy for Maternity and Paternity, entitlement letter, congratulations letter
  • Training
  • Leavers
  • Settlement agreements
  • Redundancy
  • TUPE
  • Health and safety

Case study – Long term sickness

Case study for a large, multi-site organisation with 80 plus employees.
An employee had called in sick due to workplace stress and had a fit note signing them off for one month.
It was clear that the employment relationship had become strained and the employee didn’t feel comfortable speaking to their line manager.
The employee had refused to attend a welfare meeting stating they were unfit and were in discussion with their Trade Union.
In normal circumstances it would always be advisable that the manager maintains contact with the employee however, in this situation it was clear that support was needed. We therefore offered our services and an Advisor from Acorn maintained regular contact with the employee and informed the organisation of any updates.
Through the close case management provided and through gaining the trust of the employee, the employee attended a welfare meeting which was held by the line manager with Acorn’s Advisor present. The meeting allowed for productive communication between both parties and a return to work plan was drawn up.
The employee returned to work after the expiration of their fit note.
The case demonstrates that regular and effective communication is key to managing long term sickness cases especially where relations have become strained. By maintaining regular communication and being able to hold the welfare meeting enabled a quicker return to work which ultimately saved the employer the cost of sick pay and agency cover, mending relations in the process.
Acorn Support can offer you the tailored support your organisation requires in order to get the right result for all parties.

Mind the gap

By April 2018, companies with over 250 employees will need to publish their gender pay gap.

Approximately 9,000 companies will need to do this, via the government website –

The gender pay gap is the difference in average hourly earnings, and is calculated on a 1% sample of employees’ jobs. It takes the median average for men and women, which is the level of pay that half of people earn more than, and half earn less than.

The pay gap isn’t the same as equal pay. Equal pay – that men and women doing the same job should be paid the same – has been a legal requirement for 47 years.

A company might have a gender pay gap if a majority of men are in top jobs, despite paying male and female employees the same amount for similar roles.

Public, private and voluntary sector firms are now all required to disclose average pay for men and women, including bonuses.

Employers also have the option to include a narrative with their calculations. This would explain the reasons for the results, and give details about actions they are taking to tackle the gender pay gap.


Information from

Acorn case study – Recruitment Support

We have recently been supporting a client with the recruitment of two members of staff.

This has been invaluable to them as we have carried all aspects of the recruitment procedure, this has resulted in saving them time by not disrupting their day to day work. We have been able to develop skills based tests for the interview process. Through the understanding of the company and it’s vision, mission and values we have devised interview questions that ensure we recruit a candidate with the necessary skills and drive, as well as personality, that will be an asset to the company.

We supported with the following aspects

  • Drawn up job descriptions
  • Researched advertising media
  • Placed advert in appropriate media
  • Managed applications – shortlisted according to job role requirements, sent regrets
  • 1st Stage screening – developed telephone interview questions and conducted the interviews
  • Supported with an skills based test at our offices
  • Developed face to face interview questions and supported at the interview process
  • Supported in the overall decision making on the successful applicant.

We will continue to support the employer with the induction process and future training.

Right to work – what you need to know

It is an employers responsibility to ensure that their employees have a right to work in the UK.

What counts as eligibility as proof to work in the UK? Here is the checklist from GOV.UK site

Employers may have to pay an illegal working fine (also known as a civil penalty) if they employ someone who does not have the right to work in the UK. Here is the link to ‘An employer’s guide to the administration of the civil penalty scheme’

Find out if a potential employee has the right to work in the UK and what documents employers should check.You can also use this tool to find out which documents you need to produce to prove you’re eligible to work in the UK.

Cases regarding employing illegal workers 

A takeaway proprietor has failed in an appeal against a £30,000 civil penalty notice imposed for employing two illegal workers

Tesco fined for employing illegal foreign workers

Case study – Bank holiday confusion

A client recently took over beauty salon with 6 employees.
Holidays were not tracked and it was unclear on what the employees holiday entitlement, particularly concerned bank holidays as the salon closed anyway on a Monday when most bank holidays fall. Also, there was a number of part time employees.
Acorn provided documentation that clearly highlighted to the client how many days holiday the employees were entitled to and how many of the bank holidays they were entitled to even though they are not open on a Monday and work part time.
As an employer you still need to meet the statutory annual leave requirements, and this should be on a pro-rota basis for part time employees.
Holidays are what most employees value most, therefore getting it right and clear really helped the client and the staff.

Public and Bank holidays – Pro rata

Because most bank holidays fall on a Monday or Friday, part-time employees who do not work on these days could be entitled to proportionately fewer days off compared with full-time employees, depending on shift patterns and annual leave arrangements within the organisation.

Employers must ensure that all employees have at least the statutory minimum annual leave entitlement and that part-time employees are not treated less favourably than full-time employees. To avoid a complaint of less favourable treatment under the Part-time Workers (Prevention of Less Favourable Treatment) Regulations 2000 (SI 2000/1551) many employers provide part-time employees with a pro rated bank holiday entitlement.

While there may be no arrangement that will have entirely fair results for all employees whatever their working pattern, one option is to calculate pro rated bank holiday entitlement according to the number of hours that the part-time employee works, irrespective of whether or not he or she works on the days on which bank holidays fall.

For example, if full-time employees are entitled to eight bank holidays a year, in addition to their normal annual leave entitlement, a full-time employee working a five-day week of 37.5 hours would be entitled to 60 hours of leave on bank holidays (ie eight days of seven and a half hours). A part-time employee working a three-day week of 22.5 hours would be entitled to a pro rated bank holiday allowance of 36 hours (22.5 ÷ 37.5 x 60). Calculating an hourly entitlement has the disadvantage of potentially resulting in an employee working for, for example, only one or two hours on a particular day.

The employer should allow the part-time employee to book the 36 hours’ pro rated bank holiday entitlement as annual leave under the organisation’s normal procedure. If the employee is scheduled to work on any bank holiday, he or she would have to book this as annual leave to take the day off. If the business is closed on bank holidays, the employer could require the employee to take annual leave if he or she is scheduled to work on these days, by including this in the employee’s contract or giving the appropriate notice.*




*Original article from Expert HR