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

Join Bobby on The Hard Shoulder every Tuesday, with thanks to Energia

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

It was revealed this week in the Harvard Business review that many managers actually feel uncomfortable giving feedback to their employees. 

Bobby says this is tough luck because part of being a manager means giving feedback is your job. If you don't do it, people will end up in the dark and you could get some nasty surprises. 

So what can you do if you're in this tricky situation? Well, the Harvard Business Review suggests you approach giving feedback these three ways:

  1. Make giving feedback part of your everyday approach to work so it doesn't seem unnatural.
  2. You should always strive to be as direct and clear in your communication to avoid any confusion about what it is you're saying. 
  3. You should always try to make giving feedback a learning experience for your employees. 

Bobby adds that at the end of the day, when a manager talks to their employees everyone wins! 

Now, onto your employment-related questions... 

I've a retail business in central Dublin and my insurance was €15,000 per annum last year. I got what the insurance company called a spurious claim last year and the insurance company settled it with the claimant for €5,000 without my consent. They said this was the cheapest option. I just got my premium for 2018 and it's gone from €15,000 to €21,000. It gets worse, I got a letter about another claim for a fall last month two days after the records for the CCTV get deleted. I was thinking about settling with the claimant directly without involving the insurance company to avoid the premium going up again and putting me out of business. What is your advice? 

So if the claim was for €5,000 and his premium went up €6,000, he has essentially paid for that claim. If the insurance company settled without his consent, it's because they don't need his consent, if he reads his policy, he will see they don't need his consent. Now, he wants to deal with the next claim directly, which is a dodgy thing to do. 

Ivan suggests the solicitor in this claim may see this as an admission of guilt but Bobby warns that more worryingly, doing this without telling your insurance company can completely invalidate your policy. 

Bobby advises to be really cautious in this situation. 

I've been offered a job in a large hardware chain. I've just got my contract and it says I have to be willing to have my bag, myself and my locker available for security checks after my shift every day. Is this legal?

Bobby says the employer is being upfront and has their policy written into the employment contract. Companies in this situation have to be careful because they need to respect the employees' dignity. For example, they can't have a public search of someone's bag in front of other staff or customers, that would be seen as unreasonable. Legally though, they do have a right to perform these searches. 

He doesn't have a choice with regards to agreeing with the policy or not if he wants the job. He has been offered the job and these are the conditions of it if he wants to accept the position. 

I'm managing a small business and have been on the same rate of pay for the last three years and would really like to ask for a raise. What would be the average rate for someone managing a small rural business or where should I look to find out? I really think I am due a raise but I don't know how much to ask for. 

This is a genuine query and I would suggest that you need to do a little bit of homework. One place to look is recruitment companies or jobs advertised so you get a sense of the relevant marketplace. When you're entering into any type of negotiation, knowledge is always power. 

Once you have found what you consider to be the benchmark, ask for more than you'd expect, Bobby advises. In other words, leave yourself a bit of leeway. It's important to put a value on yourself. 

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