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.

The path to running a successful business is often paved with difficult conversations - and telling an employee they are facing redundancy is about the worst piece of bad news a boss can break.

This week Bobby has some advice on facing up to the task - and making sure the situation is handled as cleanly and compassionately as possible.

“It is a horrible thing to have to do,” he says. “I have done it myself in the past and many people have had to face it - there is no easy way to say it.”

“Firstly you make sure that you have the absolute minutiae organised regarding employee entitlements - what it is, the severance package, holiday pay; everything all lined up like ducks in a row.

“You ensure that there is no procrastination, that the conversation is brief and that you offer support.”

The news should always be delivered face-to-face and you should be prepared for the fact that everyone reacts to bad news differently.

“I think the best thing is to be short, be decisive, be swift and do the business - as unfortunate as it is,” he says.

“You have got to accept that somebody is being told devastating news and you don’t want to make it any worse for them.”

Bobby I’ve got a dilemma about references: I’ve been asked for a reference by an employee who has never impressed in the office. I’d go so far as to say they are bad at their job. I’m privately glad they are gone but still it leaves me in an awkward position. Any advice? Sean.

For Bobby, this one is relatively simple. You write down when the employee started, when they finished and the job they were tasked with - without accentuating any of the positives.

“I would say she started, she finished - if you want more details give me a ring,” he says.

“I wouldn’t be comfortable with somebody who was dishonest or something like that knowingly going to another job and using me as a positive reference.”



Hi Bobby, following taking a day off yesterday because of the weather, my manager issued an official letter warning that three days notice is required for any time off. Is this legal? The company is very small, employing only 2 -3 staff and absence does disrupt the work.

While this stance is legal, many employers - Bobby included - took a different view of things regarding Storm Ophelia.

“The shops were shut and the staff were all paid,” he says “We just took it on the chin.”

“I think if somebody went and came to work - it is different if we decided to tell people not to come - but if somebody turned up for work, they are entitled to be paid and we paid them.”

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