HR Blog | 5 September 2016

Hi, I’m Tanya!

Woman housework sadness

Tanya had her family early.  She found herself a single parent with young children at school, but she decided to put herself through college and qualify for a better job.  It took a while as she couldn’t be a full time student, but she juggled childcare and college and worked her way through an arts and graphic design course, and then got her MBA.  She needed her Mum and her Gran to help with childcare but they all pulled together.  Gran got ill and Mum had to split her time between looking after Gran and the grandchildren, but they still muddled through.  Tanya’s children were at school so they couldn’t go in the college crèche, but she juggled courses, journeys and childcare.  Her Mum let her down sometimes and she found herself cutting a class so she could pick up the children from school or even missing a residential when her Mum had to work.  She almost got expelled but she managed to hang on and the proudest day of her life was when she got her MBA.

She works for a web design and social media agency now.  She doesn’t have a job – they have insisted she is self-employed so she invoices them every month. She hadn’t been paid for three months. Accounts are giving her the run around and she is having to borrow money to put food on the table and to get to work.  The family isn’t rich but they all chip in as best they can.  Her boss just tells her – “the client hasn’t paid and you get paid when they pay us”.


Tanya is highly regarded for the work she does.  Not only is she visually gifted, but she has the secret advantage of really understanding how the online web site needs to integrate with the customer- facing and back office functions.  She has spent hours listening to her Mum talking about how daft the computer system at work is and how it makes life difficult.  Tanya is working on something very similar.  She is slowly introducing ideas and suggestions that make the site easier to use.  Only her immediate boss knows that she is the source of this information.

She is about to accept an offer from another agency.  She is sick of not being paid.

Woman housework sadness pop art retro style. International womens day. Wife and housewifeTanya confronted the agency after four months and said she had to be paid. They paid up reluctantly but replaced her with another college leaver who was desperate for work. They spend a lot of time recruiting and training and have a high labour turnover. No-one knows if the end client really doesn’t pay on time or whether the agency is using this as an excuse. The family don’t care. They heard that ‘x big brand’ wouldn’t pay and that is what they talk about. I often wonder if the client knows how much damage is being done to their reputation. Tanya decided that this ‘self-employment’ was not as bad as it looked – provided you had more than one client and provided you got paid. She has set up her own design agency and it is slowly turning into a good little business. She took a couple of clients from the design agency with her. There wasn’t much they could do about that as they had never paid her in accordance with her contract. She is working with a number of her former colleagues – and they collaborate on bigger projects. She is learning a lot about how to make her business work and which clients are good to work for (and which are not). She is taking it slow and steady as she doesn’t want to be in the position of not being able to pay the people who work for her. And she has a really big personal design project on the go – she and her Mum are planning her wedding to Stevie.[/otw_shortcode_content_toggle]

Meet Stevie

Human hand greeting hi pop art retro style. Friendship meeting acquaintance. A gesture of peace. Good intentions

Stevie met Tanya at college and helped out with the babysitting emergencies. Over time they have got close – they are now a lot more than friends. Without Stevie’s help Tanya and her little family would not have survived financially when Tanya’s end-client didn’t pay their bills on time. Stevie has just proposed and Tanya has accepted. Stevie went straight from college to a high powered job and after a year of intensive training and development is that rare creature – the technical expert with people and managerial skills. Stevie ticks all the boxes for attitude, experience and skills. There are three organisations speaking to Stevie at the moment. Stevie has interviewed very well and has three job offers on the table. Stevie wants a challenging and developmental job but Stevie also wants a life worth living. Stevie also needs to feel proud of the organisation and work that is taking so much time and energy.

The first job offer is from Anita’s former employer.

The second job offer is from Tanya’s agency’s client.

The third job offer is from an organisation with a great ‘employer brand’. Stevie is cautiously asking around the family and our extended network – does anyone know what it is really like to work for this organisation. All things being equal, which job do you think Stevie will take? But it’s not just about the ‘talent’ that Stevie represents. Let’s have a little look at what happened to Anita and Tanya.

Wedding female male gold betrothal wedding ring pop art retro style. The bride and groom, husband and wife. The ceremony of marriage.The wedding date has been set. Stevie made it a condition of accepting the job offer that the wedding and honeymoon dates would be honoured. Anita is in a regular job now and Tanya is the boss. So we know at least three people can go to the wedding. As to the rest – well we are hoping their bosses learn to plan more than 24 hours in advance. It is impossible to tell you what effect it has on family life if no-one can ever plan a family get together, or to babysit, or to visit a relative in hospital. There have been too many empty seats at weddings and too many family lunches and picnics where someone had to turn around at the last minute. Please give the family (and every family) a present. Have a look at how you manage your ‘contingent workforce’ – the temps, the zero hours, the agency workers – and see if you can improve your employer brand by improving how you affect the people who work for you. Not just the ‘people who matter’ because the truth is even if some people matter and some people don’t (which I am not sure I agree with) you don’t know which is which. Put yourself in the position where you retain Anita, pay Tanya and recruit Stevie. The next time you put a date in your diary for a family occasion think about this.


We heard Annabel Kaye speak at London HR Vision in 2016 and invited her to do a series of guest blogs for us. She is an experienced employment law and HR specialists whose speciality is “Creating Flexibility that doesn’t hurt”.

Annabel Kaye is an employment law and HR specialist who co-founded Irenicon in 1980. Her fascination is the space where relationships and law combine. She works with teams who want to create an engaging and flexible work space that takes on board the real legal situation but it not confined by a compliance mind set. Through these stories she is inviting you to look deeper and dig deeper into the parts of your organisation you don’t always see. You can connect with her on LinkedIn or follow her on Twitter (AnnabelKaye). Irenicon can be found at

To organise a free review of your freelance contracts click this link or to have a confidential chat about how your ‘contingent’ workforce is managed – call 08452 303050 (local rate number).

This blog is copyright to Irenicon Ltd and is reproduced here with permission. All rights reserved.