Working Safely At Height- What Do You Need To Know?

What goes up, must come down, as the adage goes. Working at height remains one of the biggest causes of occupational fatalities and major injuries. Cases commonly involve over-reaching, over-balancing or the failure of a fragile surface. It’s not just about what people fall off, but also what they can fall into, be it unguarded holes in floors such as hatchways, inspection holes and pits, and falls into process tanks and machinery. Additionally, falling objects and contact with other hazards, such as overhead electrical services, can be included in work at height.

Generally, work at height can be taken to mean any work where, if there are no precautions in place, a person could fall a distance liable to cause personal injury. It should be remembered that access and egress could also constitute working at height, e.g. via a fixed ladder.

Workers in maintenance and construction are particularly at risk, but many other people in a variety of jobs could also be at risk of falling from height. Any job from retail to painters & decorators, window cleaners

Whatever the task, any work at height needs to be planned in advance, with careful consideration given to the selection and use of work equipment and means of escape in an emergency. The majority of falls from height happen to those who carry out ad hoc work without proper training, planning or equipment.

When planning any activities which may involve working at height, the following hierarchy of control measures should be considered:

  • Avoidance where possible, of working at height by carrying out tasks from the ground. Practical examples include using extendable tools, lowering a lighting rig to ground level or assembly of edge protection on the ground.
  • Working from an existing place of work, such as a protected flat roof or using an existing means of access and egress, such as a fixed ladder.
  • Provision of suitable work equipment to prevent a fall occurring, e.g., edge protection.
  • Provision of work equipment to minimise the distance and consequences of a fall, e.g., fall arrest systems (harnesses and lanyards), and
  • Instruction, training and/or other means.

An existing safe place of work

Where work at height cannot be avoided, an existing safe place of work should be used. Existing safe places of work should:

  • Be stable and of sufficient strength and rigidity for their purpose
  • Rest on stable and suitably strong surfaces
  • Be of sufficient size to allow safe use for persons, plant and material
  • Have suitable means for preventing a fall
  • Have a surface which has no gap through which a person or material could fall and cause injury
  • Be constructed, used and maintained to prevent the risks of slipping, tripping or any person being trapped between them and any adjacent structure. For example, an existing flat roof with permanent edge protection may be used for work at height activities.

Equipment and method

  • Even before work at height begins, there is much to be considered – not least the selection of equipment and the method to be used. When selecting equipment for working at height, employers must provide the most suitable equipment appropriate for the work. They must also take account of working condition factors. Such as the weather and the nature, frequency and duration of the work, as well as the risks to the safety of everyone where the work equipment will be used.
  • It is vital that whatever equipment is selected for working at height, it is assembled and installed in line with manufacturers’ instructions. Equipment should also be inspected regularly for signs of deterioration.
  • Where the safety of work equipment depends on how it is installed or assembled, e.g. scaffolding, it should be inspected in place before it is used. Where it is exposed to conditions that could lead to a dangerous situation. Such as high winds, it should be inspected at suitable intervals and each time exceptional circumstances occur that could jeopardise its safety.

Access Equipment

Where there is no suitable existing safe place to work from, work equipment or other measures to prevent falls should be provided, such as access equipment fitted with guard rails. Independent scaffolds, tower scaffolds and mobile elevating work platforms (MEWPs) for example.

When selecting work equipment to prevent falls, employers should give priority to collective measures over personal protection. Equipment should be strong enough for the work and any loads placed on it, considering:

  • The working conditions and risks to safety at the place where the equipment is to be used.
  • In the case of work equipment for access and egress, the distance that has to be negotiated.
  • The distance and consequences of any potential fall
  • The duration and frequency of use
  • The need for easy and timely evacuation and rescue in an emergency
  • Any additional risks posed by the use, installation or removal of the work equipment, e.g. the erection and dismantling of scaffold on a busy street

Falling Objects

Consideration must be given to the safety of people who work or pass beneath the work at height activity. Measures should be in place to protect them from falling objects. Firstly, steps should be taken to prevent the fall of objects or materials, e.g. toe boards and sheeting on scaffolding. Where this isn’t reasonable, measures should be implemented to ensure that persons are not struck by falling objects. E.g., barrier-off danger areas below and prevent unauthorised access. Chutes may be used to control the transport of materials and waste from a height to a safe location. Materials should not be thrown from height, e.g., into a skip.

Fragile Surfaces

If a fall from height does occur, the consequences will depend on many factors. Such as the distance fallen, the nature of the surface landed on, how the person lands and the age and health of the individual. The severity of the injury is increased for example, when the fall is into the path of a moving vehicle (or machinery) or into a tank which contains a hazardous substance.

When carrying out roof work, fragile surfaces present a significant risk – no person should pass or work on or near to a fragile surface unless it is not reasonable to carry out the work elsewhere. Where it isn’t reasonable, suitable protection, such as platforms, coverings, crawling boards or guardrails, must be provided. Where this is not practicable, measures should be taken to minimise the distance and consequence of any fall, e.g., fall arrest systems, safety nets and air bags. Prominent warning signs should be posted at any location where persons may pass near to or work on a fragile surface.

Fall Arrest Equipment

Where the risk of falls cannot be prevented, work equipment or other measures to minimise the distance and consequences of a fall (should one occur) need to be provided, e.g., fall arrest systems, safety netting or air mats.

This equipment does not stop people falling but minimises the potential injuries if they do.

Use of Ladders and Stepladders

Work at height should preferably be carried out from the safety of a platform with suitable edge protection in place, but sometimes this may not be possible. In such situations, a ladder may have to be used; however, ladders are best used only as a means of gaining access to and from a workplace. They should only be used at a workplace for low risk and light work of short duration or where the site features will not accommodate a working platform (provided that a safe system of work can be devised). Work that requires the use of both hands or is in itself inherently dangerous. E.g. hot work, should not be conducted from a ladder

Every year many people are killed using ladders. Many of the accidents occur because the ladder is not properly secured, usually because the work was of very short duration. Other typical accidents include falls because of over-reaching, overbalancing or losing hold of the ladder when carrying loads on it.

The length of the ladder has a significant bearing on its suitability, it must be long enough to allow an inspection or task to take place without over-reaching, and also to provide a safe means of egress if necessary, at the top landing. The longer the ladder, the more difficult it is to carry around site and manoeuvre into position.

The material of construction may also be significant. As timber is nonconductive it will prove to be a more suitable material than aluminium where electrical equipment is being used. Aluminium ladders may be damaged in corrosive atmospheres, whereas timber ladders are prone to warp if left exposed to the elements.

Ladders and stepladders should be inspected before each use to ensure that they are suitable for the job, and in good condition. Damaged stiles, damaged or missing rungs or missing feet should exclude the ladder from use. Painted ladders should not be used as the paint coating may conceal faults. Systems are necessary to ensure all ladders can be individually identified, are properly stored, and are issued for use to identified personnel.

  • The suitability of the ladder for the operations and operating conditions under which it will be used.
  • That systems are in place to inspect and maintain the ladder in a safe condition.
  • That safe systems of work are devised for the ladder’s use.
  • That staff are informed, instructed, trained and supervised as necessary to be able to use the ladder safely.

The length of the ladder has a significant bearing on its suitability, it must be long enough to allow an inspection or task to take place without over-reaching, and also to provide a safe means of egress if necessary, at the top landing. The longer the ladder, the more difficult it is to carry around site and manoeuvre into position.

The material of construction may also be significant. As timber is nonconductive it will prove to be a more suitable material than aluminium where electrical equipment is being used. Aluminium ladders may be damaged in corrosive atmospheres, whereas timber ladders are prone to warp if left exposed to the elements.

Ladders and stepladders should be inspected before each use to ensure that they are suitable for the job, and in good condition. Damaged stiles, damaged or missing rungs or missing feet should exclude the ladder from use. Painted ladders should not be used as the paint coating may conceal faults. Systems are necessary to ensure all ladders can be individually identified, are properly stored, and are issued for use to identified personnel.


Although stepladders provide a freestanding means of access, they require careful use. Usually, stepladders aren’t designed for any side loading and therefore, can be easily overturned. Stepladders should be industrial grade, be used on a level surface and with the hinge fully extended and locked (or retaining cord fully extended). The workers’ knees should be below the top of the ladder when in the working position.

Fatal accidents have occurred when workers have stepped on to the top step of a stepladder, which has subsequently toppled over. Therefore, the top step of a stepladder should never be used at a workplace unless guidance from the manufacturer states that the equipment has been designed for this purpose.

In addition to the controls set out above, other measures to reduce the risk of a fall should be used. e.g., information and training, use of competent persons, demarcated areas to provide a warning, adequate lighting, good housekeeping measures, use of suitable footwear and checking weather conditions.


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Future Focused HR: Embracing topical trends and progressive practices

Future Focused HR: Embracing topical trends and progressive practices

We know that employers are facing more challenges than ever before when running their business. From the risk of losing staff, the worry of how best to be a supportive employer to the uncertainty of using AI in your business when it is such an unknown but powerful tool.

On 8 November, AAB People are hosting a webinar that will cover some of the most topical HR matters facing employers right now, based on our conversations with clients and from what we see in businesses we deal with day to day. We have included a varied range of topics detailed further below and provide pragmatic advice to business owners, manager and HR professionals on how to effectively deal with the issues we believe they are facing.

The impact of Hybrid Working on Mental Health and how to manage it

Having been catapulted 10 years ahead of where we would have expected to be following the pandemic, has the pendulum swung too far and how do we find a balance between Hybrid working practices and the increase in mental health issues.

This seminar will help employers look at their Hybrid working practices form a “people” perspective to avoid the “one size fits all” approach.

AAB People can work with employers using specialist skills to identify roles, behaviours and personalities best and worst suited to Hybrid working ensuring they get the best out of everyone

How to Retain and Engage Talent

We will cover the importance and benefits of engaged employees and how this links to retention. We know that holding on to great employees is a focus for a lot of employers right now due to a very buoyant recruitment market. We will also discuss factors which can impact employee engagement and methods of increasing engagement and in turn employee retention levels.

Managing AI in the workplace

You will likely have seen the recent influx in conversations about Artificial Intelligence and how people think this is going to impact on the workplace. We are going to look at where AI can be useful, and how to manage it effectively and ethically within the workplace to ensure that it is used in a positive and productive manner.



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Our Client

Scot Hoist Ltd is a Glasgow based firm who specialise in the hire, inspection, maintenance, and servicing of vertical access equipment throughout the UK. A family run business, the firm currently employs 12 staff, all of whom, with the exception of trainees, have been with the business for a minimum of ten years, and who are either qualified to, or working towards, industry standard NVQ competency levels.

AAB People started working with Scot Hoist in February 2022, following a challenging year for the firm. Our Payroll team were already providing services to Scot Hoist at this point, as were our Entrepreneurial Services colleagues at AAB, providing accounting services.


Our Challenge

Scot Hoist had been working closely with our Entrepreneurial and Payroll teams for a period of time before engaging with AAB People. Following a period of considerable growth, the firm identified that there was a requirement to update their current HR and Health & Safety documentation, policies and procedures.

To ensure compliance with current legislation and that their HR and H&S policies/procedures/documentation were appropriate for the business in its current form, a complete refresh was required. The client also did not have an internal HR resource therefore there was an immediate need for a qualified HR or H&S specialist to provide advice/guidance tailored to their specific business.


Our Solution

From a HR perspective, we initially assisted with some on-going staffing issues, then went on to provide some new HR documentation for the firm, including employee handbook, policies and contracts. More recently, we spent the day with the full team at their premises, delivering DISC Insights training sessions and a session to introduce their employee handbook, HR system People HR and generally the ways in which we will support them as an external HR support.

Our Health & Safety team have had a very hands on approach. H&S Service Lead Lee Craig has worked closely with Robert to review and update the H&S Policy and procedures, managed their Constructionline and Safe Contractor renewals, and carried out an inspection of the premises providing advice and helping to implement changes to meet the required health and safety standards and completing a premises fire risk assessment.  The H&S service continues on an ongoing basis providing competent advice and practical support.


Our Impact

Since engaging with Scot Hoist, we’ve provided reassurance that all their HR and H&S policies and procedures are up to date, and fully compliant. Following a challenging year for the firm, alongside our wider teams (Payroll and Entrepreneurial Services at AAB), we have become a valued sounding board and trusted advisor for business owner and Managing Director Robert, and have built up a fantastic working relationship with him and the team. The staff that work most closely with the firm were recently invited out to a ‘thank you’ BBQ lunch at Scot Hoist, which was a great opportunity for the teams to meet face to face and get to know one another better.


‘’We already worked with the Entrepreneurial Service and Payroll teams at AAB, so we were definitely interested when we found out about their new offshoot company, AAB People.

Not only do we now have peace of mind that all out HR and Health & Safety policies are up-to-date and compliant, we also have the comfort of knowing that there is someone reliable and friendly on the end of the phone if we have any questions. Lee, Georgia and the wider team are always happy to come out to see us and it’s been great building on those relationships.’’

Robert Steele, Director of Scothoist Ltd

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Employment Legislation Changes: What Employers Need To Know

There are three employment legislation changes that we are expecting to take place in the year ahead. These changes will affect family friendly provisions in the workplace.

Three key changes have been announced by the government which will be the most significant developments to family friendly legislation since 2015 – flexible working rights will be getting a shake up, along with the introduction of carers’ leave and extended redundancy protections for pregnant and new mothers. It is anticipated they will become effective for employers in the year ahead, and the below sets out what employers need to know at this stage about the upcoming changes.

Redundancy Protections During Pregnancy & Maternity Leave

It is well understood by employers that employees expecting a baby, or those on or returning from maternity leave, are already the most protected category of workers in employment law. However, these new proposals will broaden the rights of expectant and new mothers a step further by extending the period of protection for redundancy from the point of an employee informing their employer they are pregnant until 18 months after the birth of their child. What this means in practice is that in redundancy situations pregnant women and expectant mothers will have the right to be offered suitable alternative employment for a longer period. It does not mean that this group of workers will be immune from redundancy, but essentially there will be additional protections from pregnancy, right through to a child reaching 1 and a half years old.

Carers’ Leave Introduction

Carers currently have very limited rights under what is known as Time Off For Care Of Dependents providing ‘reasonable’ unpaid time off. The proposed legislation would be much more prescriptive giving the right for unpaid carers to take up to one week (five working days) of unpaid leave per year. Like the changes to flexible working outlined below, it is anticipated this would be a right regardless of length of service. Employees will not be required to give evidence of the request for leave, and employers will not be able refuse requests, but they will be able to delay requests on limited grounds. It is expected employees will be able to choose to take leave in a flexible way such as single days, half days, or a full week.

Flexible Working Changes

Probably the most wide reaching of the three proposals is the reforms to flexible working, and the changes proposed are a significant shift from the status quo:

Employees will no longer have to justify the effect of their request for the employer, and how the change might be dealt with;

  • Rejecting a flexible working request will require consultation by the employer;
  • Employees will be able to make two flexible working applications per annum rather than the current right to one application; and
  • Decisions on the outcome of a flexible working request will require to be made within 2 months as opposed to the current 3 months.

Impact of Changes

Whilst these are the most significant changes to family friendly legislation we have seen in nearly a decade, even collectively, the impact for working families is likely to minimal. However, they are definite progress – the fact that the government are implementing several new pieces of legislation to give enhanced rights and protections for those with caring responsibilities are a step in the right direction. For employees, the new legislation will give that little bit more protection and confidence in making requests to support their family. For employers, although many have become far more flexible than ever, the introduction of additional laws will serve as clarity on what is expected. Further updates are expected in due course to firm up the details and specific dates of when these laws will become effective in practice.

Furthermore, whilst the upcoming changes are somewhat limited in reach, these three initial reforms are likely to be a catalyst for further change coming down the track in mandating employers to improve their family friendly support to their staff. There is already further provision anticipated with statutory neo-natal leave and pay already approved and also set to be brought into effect over the next year or so. It’s clear that further reform in this area can be expected so watch this space.

Our specialist HR & Employment Law team are here to support you. If you have any questions about the employment legislation changes please do not hesitate to get in contact with a member of the team

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Right to Work Checks – What you need to know

What are right to work checks?

As part of the onboarding process right to work checks are a vital part of ensuring businesses are compliant with the law. So, what are right to work checks? They are checks employers carry out with new staff members to ensure they have legal authority to work in the country where they are to be employed. They should also be carried out throughout employment to ensure their right to work is still valid if they do not have a permanent right to work status.

What documentation is considered as evidence of right to work?

There is a useful document on the government website which details what evidence is required. An employer’s guide to right to work checks: 6 April 2022 (accessible version) – GOV.UK ( If the employee is from the UK, the right to work would be their valid UK passport and a document that details their national insurance number. This will differ for foreign employees and will usually require evidence of a visa; employers should keep in mind that employees from the EU may be part of the EU settlement scheme and should ask for evidence of this. It is important that all employees are treated the same no matter where they are from to avoid claims of discrimination. Right to work checks should be completed for all employees. Employers should then also carry out ongoing checks on their employees’ right to work, to make sure their visas or passports are in date. If an employee is waiting for confirmation of their visa/ national insurance number, documentation from government bodies evidencing they have applied can be used in the interim.

How should this be stored?

It is important to note that for all right to work checks, employers should sign and date a copy of the right to work documents to say they have seen the original. This should then be clearly labelled and securely stored on the employees’ personal file. Any updated documentation should also follow the same process.

What if an employee is unable to provide appropriate right to work?

It is a criminal offence to employ/ pay individuals who do not have appropriate right to work and so is vital employers keep on top of this. If employees are unable to provide accurate right to work, after a grace period to gain this, they should either have their offer of employment revoked or their employment terminated if they are unable to evidence that it will be obtained in a reasonable amount of time.

Changes that took effect from 1st October 2022

During the pandemic there were changes made to right to work checks to allow employers to check right to work remotely. The changes allowed employers to check right to work by arranging a video call with the employee and checking their scanned documents, if they were unable to check in person. As of 1st October 2022, these changes are no longer valid. Checks will now either need to be in person, or by appointing an Identification Service Provider (“IDSP”). The IDSP will then use Identification Document Verification Technology (“IDVT”) to check the passport of the British & Irish national on behalf of employers. If the employee does not have a passport, then you must see their documentation in person. Please be aware that this could be carried out before the first day of employment, such as at a second stage interview. If the applicant is outside of the UK and Ireland you can use the government checking service, which will require a share code that the employee will have been issued with. View a job applicant’s right to work details – GOV.UK (

If you have any queries about the right to work checks process or any questions about your HR & Employment Law processes please do not hesitate to get in contact with or a member of our HR & Employment Law Team.

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Fios Genomics

Our Client

Fios Genomics provides bioinformatic data analysis services to pharma companies and academia for drug discovery, development and applied research. (Bioinformatics is the science of collecting and analysing complex biological data such as genetic codes.)  

Founded in 2008 and based in Edinburgh,  Fios is listed among the top bioinformatics providers, with a large client base in all life science areas. In the last six years alone, its 10-strong team has grown to 46, working with top pharma companies around the world.

Our Challenge

Fios has a specialised team of bioinformaticians, statisticians and biologists based mainly in Edinburgh, AAB People has supported the company for over six years in all things HR, excluding recruitment. In the absence of internal HR expertise, Fios sought a long-term partner who could manage, develop and advise on all aspects of workplace life, employment practice and employee relations. The ongoing brief is wide-ranging general HR expertise, guidance and practical tools, from compliance and procedures to performance management, professional development and employee engagement. 

A priority since 2022 has been to provide team training across ever-evolving areas relating to people management, such as company-wide diversity and inclusion awareness, to reflect and respect the changing nature of the workplace. Also vital in the post-pandemic landscape of hybrid and remote working has been the provision of training relating to a re-distributed workforce. Pre-2020, almost all Fios staff were based in Edinburgh. Now, most work remotely or within a hybrid arrangement, presenting fresh challenges for leadership, communication and performance management.

Our Solution

Consultant Donna ran training workshops for all 46 Fios employees, including management team training. They included performance management and appraisals guidance for new and established managers, where sessions were created for managers to learn how to manage processes relating to performance management and employee feedback. 

Also vital was awareness training in several continually evolving areas: diversity and inclusion, the importance of emotional intelligence in a highly technical, analytical, often ‘black and white thinking’ environment, giving sensitive feedback and having difficult conversations, building resilience and the challenges and practicalities of working from home and here-to-stay hybrid working. 

AAB People also provided employee relations guidance, featuring end-to-end process education on all aspects, from mediation, casework, performance management issues to annual leave, maternity leave, absence management, occupational health referrals and disciplinary procedures.  In addition, a benefits review and set of recommendations was conducted for Fios in 2022.  

Turning to company culture, AAB People ran a Values workshop for Fios in 2020. The outcomes have since underpinned all workplace behaviour, outlook and recruitment, as well as approaches to everyday challenges and problem-solving. An adapted version of AAB’s own ‘Ways of Working Charter’ was introduced, covering mindful, respectful communication with colleagues, people development, time management and overall company culture guidance.  

An employee engagement forum was established, in which six representatives of different departments meet voluntarily every six weeks to discuss workplace incentivisation schemes, any emerging team issues and ideas for all-important team social activities, many of which happily include AAB People! 

Ensuring robust policies, procedures and compliance is another key part of the brief, including a Right to Work audit to ensure that correct documentation is supplied for every employee in every circumstance. 

Ongoing support and a ‘listening ear’ is central to the AAB People-Fios Genomics relationship. CEO Sarah Lynagh has weekly calls with Donna to discuss emerging HR issues and challenges. These might include retention challenges, performance management or specific cases relating to individuals. As testament to her trusted role as senior advisor and HR Lead, Donna is regularly invited to internal leadership meetings where people strategies and decisions play a significant part. She is also first port of call for any employees with HR questions or concerns. 


Our Impact

CEO Sarah Lynagh particularly values the advisory role that AAB People play over and above the practical support and guidance of everyday HR issues: 

“We have the ideal arrangement, where AAB People are part of our team but act as a slightly independent, neutral source of knowledge and expert guidance. They also ‘keep us right’ in negotiating the teething problems associated with business growth.“ 

“As CEO of a growing business, you can sometimes get lost in the weeds and the trees. It’s great to have a sounding board in Donna, who can help us decide what to sometimes let go and what to pursue. It’s also beneficial for our business to have access to her wider team and all their client experiences. It takes away the typical pain points of running a company.” 

“Before we found AAB People, we had academic processes in place and legal support, but we lacked the ‘softer touch’ expertise needed to nurture a growing team. We needed to take stock and professionalise our HR!” 

“We’ve had several new managers facing new scenarios – people whose roles are very technical and who’ve benefited from AAB People’s management training, having never run teams before or been responsible for the development and wellbeing of other colleagues. The training around diversity and inclusion and emotional intelligence really opened our eyes.” 

“The emerging issues around post-Covid hybrid-working have been particularly challenging to navigate. It was like a grenade being thrown into our working practice, leading to several new flavours of contract and with them, new types of policy and new people management issues!” 

“The world has changed; the levels of flexibility that new recruits, especially younger ones, are demanding, is brand new territory. It’s a fine balance between encouraging office-based working to suit the needs of the job Vs. alienating the discerning talent you’ve worked hard to find. The ‘Monday-to-Friday in the office’ culture is simply no longer an option for some recruits.”

“The values workshop that Donna ran for us was terrific and very worthwhile. We apply the outcomes to our daily practice and stick to those values in our comms, our marketing and in recruitment interviews.” 

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Smart Security Client

The Client

This 16-strong team of ‘smart security’ experts has grown quickly since launch in 2019. Best known for its DIY smart home burglar alarm battery-powered system, the Edinburgh-based consumer security hardware and software start-up has big plans to grow over the coming years as it develops and manufactures more new smart home security products.

The Challenge

The team sought ongoing HR expertise to help them navigate a growing team and all that comes with needing to introduce people management processes, policies and procedures. With 11 staff and growing in Summer 2021, they hired AAB People for guidance, advice and practical support.

Keen to engage experts who would do more than assist with transactional HR tasks, they were looking for structure, rigour and deeper insight into all things HR. The company has been supported by Scott and his colleagues not just in everyday HR operations, but in more advanced, strategic, often complex and sensitive areas. With a management team who are largely tech specialists, the firm had no internal HR expertise on board and had previously relied on an impersonal call centre support system. They sought a more human, ongoing partnership and a proactive approach that would reach far beyond helping meet ‘legal minimums’.

“We now understand far more about HR. Often in larger firms, people see HR advisors and departments as ‘blockers’ to getting things done. Our experience is quite the opposite. Working with AAB People has helped us learn more about nurturing, motivating and managing employees. We’ve even come to enjoy forming a structure for organisational development! And the monthly Pulse surveys – so simple yet so effective – are one of the best tools we’ve gained. We wonder now why we never did something like that before!”

 CEO of the Smart Security Firm

The Solution

AAB People has focused on bringing ideas and suggestions, reducing stress and helping the firm make people-related decisions that rely on a deep knowledge of employee needs, workplace relations and professional development. One of the most powerful new tools introduced by AAB People has been the concise monthly one-minute Pulse Surveys, which help the board to ‘take the temperature’ of the team around job and workplace satisfaction and work life balance. Other solutions introduced by AAB People include:

  • a new, scalable HR system for gathering employee info and data, including documentation, holiday management and other people management admin
  • a tight, efficient probation review process and set of procedures, and line management training to enable prompt, practical decisions around new hires where necessary
  • a performance management and bespoke appraisal system, and a learning and development process
  • advice and guidance on job specs and helping managers be more specific about what they’ll need from team members
  • sensitive employee relations case management
  • diversity and inclusion guidance – how to embed diversity inside the business and not just view it as an HR add-on. AAB People has helped to create an environment where diversity and inclusion are understood to be a whole-company responsibility.

The Outcome

AAB People has brought far more awareness to the board of “when people problems are there”. Beforehand, there was less management information and general HR acumen to be able make pivotal decisions. Robust processes are now in place to identify people-related issues and to know how to approach them. The team reports more confidence and more visible infrastructure – for the company and its investors – to enable the business to scale up.

The CEO is clear about the impact AAB People has had on operational life:

“We’ve been pleasantly surprised at how positive the impact has been. Working with an HR consultancy in this way is a great model for business of our size with a limited budget for hiring HR specialists in-house. A challenge for start-ups like ours is to introduce some structure but not so much that it constrains innovation and growth. Together we enjoy a consultative approach to designing new HR processes and tools and a healthy exchange of ideas where we can challenge each other.”

“It’s really invaluable knowing we’ve got someone in Scott who understands what we need and has the in-depth knowledge to ‘catch us’ in areas we’re uncertain in, and in challenging and sensitive times that require deeper knowledge than we have of a complex legal system.”

“Thanks to AAB People, we have a reliable, pragmatic, insightful, professional HR capability. Before this partnership, we were rather under-structured in terms of people management. We value the knowledge, rigour and vital flexibility that they bring.”

“As a result of having AAB People on board, we have peace of mind that all things HR are guided by advisors who know the industry, can advise frankly on risks and implications, and help us motivate, inspire and look after the employment needs and challenges of our growing team.”

COO The Smart Security firm

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Crabtree & Crabtree

The Client

Crabtree & Crabtree is a bespoke holiday letting agency, with a curated portfolio of exclusive holiday homes across the North of England and South of Scotland. Founded by Emma Crabtree in 2004, it has grown to become an 11- strong team with properties across four unspoilt regions. Until recently, most of the team worked in the Kelso office in the Scottish Borders.

The Challenge

In 2019, during a period of controlled growth, the business sought a human resources partner that could lead on all aspects of people management and effectively become an extension of the team. The focus was on a strategic relationship and personal touch service that would provide longer term recommendations as well as assistance with employment contracts, policies and appraisals. AAB People was recommended by a colleague at Scottish Enterprise.

“We sought HR guidance in a phase of controlled expansion, building the team from 7 up to now 11 with a view to continued growth” explains Emma Crabtree. People here are passionate about our brand. It’s a friendly, family feel team who know each other well. We recognised a need to formalise how we work as we grow, which we hadn’t particularly done before, but without losing our sense of camaraderie and warmth. We sought a listening ear, a partner who could recommend responses to formal and informal issues quickly and sensitively.”

The arrival of the pandemic in March 2020 presented a series of new HR (as well as business) challenges. As well as managing growth and formalising procedures, another significant HR challenge emerged. Sudden remote working, and uncertainty around how and to what extent the holiday lettings industry would return to business, presented immediate people management priorities.

“We sought HR guidance in a phase of controlled expansion, building the team from 7 up to now 11 with a view to continued growth”

The Solution

Five months before the pandemic took hold, AAB People began building its role as a close partner who would respond in a bespoke way to all emerging HR needs.

The team installed a framework for recruitment, employee relations and professional development and introduced tools, systems and processes to manage everyday HR needs. They helped with the process and procedures around a maternity leave and a promotion to manager position and the development needs around that. The team also refined all documentation to suit the style and feel of a small growing business, moving away from a cover all approach.

As the pandemic struck, Crabtree & Crabtree found themselves having to reorganise thousands of bookings, as well as processing deferrals and cancellations and adjusting to new legislation and ever changing guidance (and sometimes lack of!). The team became busier than ever. All new recruits were interviewed and hired online, with AAB People guiding the team carefully and sensitively, helping the interviewers to listen well in an unusual setting and observe the candidates as well as ask leading questions.

One of those essential recruits was an operations manager, a new post that became increasingly urgent with so many changing external factors affecting liaison with customers both holidaymakers and holiday property owners.

“It was vital for us to get this right, and AAB People helped us to form a strong double act: they knew how to help us find ideal candidates, ask the right questions and remain calm in the face of hospitality industry chaos! Recruitment is about the right people, it’s not just about growth. AAB People are a valuable, professional helping hand in identifying who we need and where to find them.”

As pandemic restrictions eased, the business became even busier, on boarding new property owners in all four regions of England and Scotland. As a result, the property management team continues to expand.

The Outcome

In a time of great change and uncertainty for the hospitality industry, Crabtree & Crabtree describes AAB People as a professional, reassuring HR partner “who knows exactly what we need, when we need it and how to achieve it.” They see the team as being “under the skin of the business and its changing needs”.

The business now has a more bespoke and personal, less generic set of documents and contracts relating to people and workplace management, including a valued new employee handbook.

“We also now have a strong and reassuring knowledge of how best to manage the more intangible parts of HR, keeping the ‘feel’ informal, whilst creating a more structured framework for how we behave as we grow the business. It’s good to have guidance on how to bring out the best in our team’s enthusiasm and capabilities without over -formalising how we do it.”

In 2021, Crabtree & Crabtree has a clear plan of what needs to happen to manage and grow its ever -busy team, with everything to do with people management clearly signposted.

“In AAB People we’ve found a team who understand us, are similar in size to us and are growing like us. They help us manage our people and any emerging situations, large or small. With the new HR plan, we feel as if we know what’s coming next and always have a reassuring sense of calm in the face of sudden changes. Our contacts are delightful, efficient and best of all, they understand us and reflect our own warm culture.”

Emma Crabtree, Director, Crabtree & Crabtree

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