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March 2024 Frequently Asked Questions (FAQS)

Frequently Asked Questions

In this month’s Newsletter we aim to answer questions that we come across on a regular basis.

What is the difference between a Sabbatical and Unpaid Leave?

If an employee requests to take a significant break from work for any reason, then the options available to consider are a Sabbatical or Unpaid Leave.

Sabbatical leave suspends the Employment Contract. This means that the employee leaves for an agreed period of time with a fixed start and return to work date.  During the period of Sabbatical, the employment terms freeze and the time off is without any pay, holiday, other benefits accruing. The continuous service period is also suspended.

When the agreed Sabbatical period ends, it can either be extended, the employee can ask to come back to work or the employee may resign. A sabbatical agreement should be drawn up which clearly identifies the terms of the sabbatical leave and what happens to the employment during and upon the employee’s return.

It should be made clear that there is no onus on the Company to offer the employee’s old job back to them. The Company can offer suitable alternative roles or their contract may be terminated under a potential redundancy process.

In the event of Unpaid Leave the Contract of Employment remains ongoing, and all the employment rights remain in place. The unpaid leave period is undefined and often left as an open and informal agreement. During the absence, the employee’s rights continue to accrue including their holiday, benefits and continuous service.


Can I Decline a Flexible Working Request?

If an employee submits a Flexible Working Request, the employer has a duty to consider the request.  After following a process of conversation and discussion, an employer may only reject the request on the basis of it negatively affecting the Organisation. The exact reasons for declining a Flexible Working Request are:

  • It will cost too much to grant the Flexible Working Request
  • The workload cannot be reorganised amongst other staff or contractors
  • More staff cannot be recruited to cover any workload
  • Quality of work will be negatively affected
  • Customer demand will be negatively affected
  • Business performance will be negatively affected
  • Not enough work available for the times requested to work
  • Reorganisation of the business is planned, and the Flexible Working Request will not fit in with the plans.


It is important that you do not use the above reasons lightly. They can be challenged by the employee and potentially decided in a tribunal. You must also be careful not to directly or indirectly, discriminate against individuals. Each Flexible Working Request must be dealt with on an individual case by case basis.

If you have any questions about rejecting a Flexible Working Request, please get in touch with us at


How Should I Manage a Pay Increase Request?

There is nothing more awkward than an unplanned meeting request from an employee to discuss their pay expectations. Pay requests by employees can be an emotive and sometimes divisive subject. Employees can request pay increases for a multitude of reasons. More often than not, requests are for personal reasons or a change of personal circumstances. When a pay review request has little to do with their performance or contribution to company performance, empathy and openness are a good route to go down, whilst also managing expectations.

So what is the best way to handle a request for a pay increase. We recommend asking the employee to lay out the reasons why they think they are due a pay increase. The employee should include within their request the additional benefits they would or do, bring to the Company or Organisation to justify an increase in pay.

Often employees will site comparator roles outside of the business as benchmarking data. Benchmarking data can be helpful as long as the data being provided is a true comparator. Ask to see the data or ask the employee to provide the data. Be clear if you do not think the data is comparable do your own research and explain your findings and any differences.

There should be a good business case for granting a pay increase. If either the employer or the employee is struggling to find one, then it may well be that the current level of pay is the correct one.


What is the Difference Between using an HR System and a Spreadsheet?

How many times have you heard “I do everything on a spreadsheet because it’s easier”? Yes, probably like us, many times. You may be able to easily use a spreadsheet as a database of employee information, but it cannot easily manage the other aspects of employee data.

This is where an HR System wins hands down. A dedicated HR system will manage all employee data from documentation to training records and from sickness and holiday absence to appraisals. Spreadsheets cannot do this easily. Not only will it manage all of this data, but it will also keep it more secure than on a spreadsheet by providing different levels of security for different roles, only allowing authorised individuals to see relevant information.

If you would like to know more about how the systems HR Smarty use could help you manage your employee data more easily, simply follow the link to our HR Systems web page:


How Do I Avoid Making Poor Recruitment Decisions?

If you are constantly finding yourself in a cycle of recruiting employees and then losing them or terminating them on a regular basis, you probably need to review your recruitment process. Recruiting employees is a costly and time consuming exercise and one which you need to be getting right more often than not.

Every employer will get a poor recruit. It is almost guaranteed. What an employer needs to do though is to take steps to ensure that this is the exception rather than the rule by adhering to the points below:



  • Map out a clear process from identifying a recruitment requirement to the employee passing their probation period.
  • Ask the candidates to complete time-barred, organisation relevant tests at the final interview stage to ensure they can do what they say they can.
  • Ensure that your induction or onboarding process is robust and suitable for your sector and working environment.
  • Provide mentors and buddies for new employees.



  • Miss out on effective communication prior to their start date.
  • Let them complete the first day of their employment without issuing a Contract of Employment.
  • Let the employee start their first day without full support.
  • Let the employee pass their probation if you are not 100% happy with their attitude and quality of work.


Contact Us

If you have any questions or queries on any of the above answers or just need some HR support, we are ready to help you. Simply call us on 01903 754107 or email us at or

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