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.

This week, Bobby kicked off by highlighting some of the reasons why people quit their jobs. The job may not be as the worker expected, for example, or they had to work longer than they anticipated when accepting the offer.

This led to Bobby reflecting on the interviewing process, and how employers will often take somebody on because they like them rather than their ability to the job.

He suggested: “I do think a good interviewer will separate the wheat from the chaff, and actually discover who the salespeople are, and who the best people are for the job.”

He also had some advice for people who may be applying for jobs but have been out of work for some time. This, inevitably, may create a gap on a CV.

Bobby advised: “You need to be careful. You need to be honest, but you don’t want to draw attention to it.”

If you were busy or occupied during that time - studying, for example - then it is important to explain that to the interviewer.

“There’s a way of selling it, without dwelling on a negative that [you were] out of work for a year,” Bobby noted.

Bobby, I’m at my wits end with my manager. He calls so many unnecessary meetings during the day. It seems he doesn’t want to make one decision himself without at least running it past the whole department. I’m not long in the door in the firm, but feel difficult bringing it up with someone who outranks me. But I’m not the only one who feels this way. Should I air my grievances?

The fact that this listener is new to the job is an important factor - and one to seriously consider before doing anything.

Bobby observed: “I always think when you start a new job you have two ears and one mouth for a reason - you should check out the lie of the land before you say or do anything.”

One possible solution here is to offer to help the manager with any difficulties - use a one-to-one to raise the concerns over the endless meetings, but also take a more proactive approach and offer a helping hand.

“It’s a little bit of walking on eggshells,” Bobby acknowledged. “I would caution impulsive actions when you’re just in the door.”

Bobby, my employer tops up maternity benefit on the return to work. Do they have an obligation to do the same for two weeks paternity benefit?

Bobby’s answer to this one was simple: “Absolutely not.”

All new fathers are entitled to two weeks paternity benefit from the State, with a payment of €235 each week (the payment also applies to parents in same-sex couples). The arrangement for civil servants is different - they enjoy two weeks paid paternity leave - but for private companies there’s no obligation for the employer to pay a worker during any paternity leave.

Bobby explained: “When an employer tops up on a maternity basis, they are going beyond their obligation - there’s a statutory amount you have to pay.”

He highlighted the small amount of fathers taking advantage of the benefit - only around a third are taking advantage of the new payment.

The situation is different elsewhere of course. Bobby highlighted Sweden and Spain as examples of countries with more generous legislation for new parents. Sweden, for example, offers 16 months paid parental leave - with at least three months of that set aside for fathers - and parents receive 80% of their salary (capped at around €4,000 a month) during that time.

For the past three months, my nephew has been on trial in a company. He loves the work and hopes he’ll be taken on, even part-time. Two weeks ago, after a year of ongoing tests and scans, he was diagnosed with a long-term chronic illness. His illness will not interfere with his ability work - but if he experiences a flare up of the condition, he may have to take time off to recover. If he’s offered a position, what does he say?

In this situation, Bobby would advise not telling the employer about the illness for now.

“If he has the ability to do the job today, I wouldn’t be saying anything about,” Bobby suggested. “Why would you say it? You’re not being dishonest.”

That advice would change, however, if any sort of medical examination was involved in securing a part-time or full-time job at the company. If that does arise, then it would be the time to come forward and fully disclose the condition.

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 agonyuncle@newstalk.com