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Always on my own in the office - is this allowed?

(7 Posts)
HidingFromTheDM Mon 19-Oct-09 12:36:12

Hi all,

I work in a small office (me and two other girls and the two bosses) and I am constantly on my own. The bosses have two offices plus a farm to run and are hardly ever here. I am full time, as is colleague #1, and colleague #2 is part time (9.30 - 13.30).

The office is quite busy and colleague #1's job describtion means that she is out of the office most of the day. That means I am usually on my own most every afternoon when colleague #2 goes home. Well colleague #1 is on holiday until next wednesday which means that I will definitely be on my own every day from 13:30 until 17:00.

To make matters worse, colleague #2 is off today as well (lieu day for working a saturday). The bosses had promised me that I would have cover today and that they would be in. I have been here since 8.00 this morning and I have yet to be given any cover. So it looks as though I will be on my own all day - which means no dinner break AGAIN.

Am I just being over-sensitive or is this not on? I have talked to the bosses about it until I am blue in the face and they keep telling me there isn't any more money for another member of staff.

I have been looking for a new job for almost a year and I'm just not qualified for anything in this country. I'm Canadian and have a university degree in criminology and still I cannot find a decent job. 10 years after graduating, I would like a career not a job. I have applied for plenty of positions and the response is always the same - I would need an NVQ or other qualification. I am getting seriously depressed by it now. Surely a university degree is equivalent to an NVQ?? I have been in the UK for 6 years and have had a string of admin jobs (none topping more than £15,000 per year). DH and I would love to move back to Canada but can't until various debts are cleared. On my current salary, that is looking to be in about 5 or 6 years!!

Please - I desperately need some advice. sad

SCARYspicemonster Mon 19-Oct-09 12:45:46

You're entitled to a 20 mins break for every six hours you work so it's not your problem if there's no cover - it's theirs. Can't you put the answering machine on for 1/2 an hour?

Have no suggestions re NVQ etc but sorry you're having a miserable time

flowerybeanbag Mon 19-Oct-09 12:57:53

What is that concerns you about being on your own in the office? Is it a security/safety thing or is it that you are expected to answer the phone at any time and can't go out?

You are entitled to at least a 20 min break if you work 6 hours. Check your contract as well to see what it says about breaks/lunch as most give more than that.

Have you proposed to your bosses putting the answerphone on for a short time at lunch time, or diverting the phone to their mobile or something?

In terms of the NVQ, they are a vocational qualification so although in terms of educational level I think a degree is higher, if employers are asking for an NVQ it would normally be in something specific, a specific qualification for whatever the job is. It's good practice when it comes to recruitment to only ask for qualifications (and skills/experience)that are directly relevant/necessary for the job. So in the same way as employers asking for NVQs ought to really only be asking when they are necessary and in a subject that is relevant, your degree in criminology is neither here nor there unless it's directly relevant to the job.

What kind of job are you applying for where they require an NVQ in something?

HidingFromTheDM Mon 19-Oct-09 13:05:08

The main thing that bothers me about being on my own is how busy the office is. We use an answering service, so if I'm not able to answer the phone it will divert to the answering service who will take a message and it email it through to us. That's great but I just can't keep up. The phone rings constantly (especially on a monday) and by the time I get off one call, there are usually 2 or 3 emails waiting. I just can't keep up.

I have applied to many different types of jobs. When I am looking at admin jobs, most of them require an NVQ (or other qualification) in business administration or a typing qualification. I have neither. I have also applied to the police, the probation service and the prisons and all have said that I do not have the relevent training.

I'm just about ready to lose my mind and I'm sick to death of sitting at work crying.

HidingFromTheDM Mon 19-Oct-09 13:06:20

We do get an hour dinner break, but none of us ever get to take it. As for the contract - I've never been given one. I have been asking for a year and they keep telling me they left it at home hmm

flowerybeanbag Mon 19-Oct-09 13:22:13

Ok so it's not particularly about being on your own in the office, it's more that there's just not enough staff to do the amount of work there is.

I think you need to be a bit firmer about the break. No one works effectively without a break anyway. If you have an answering service it's not a question of needing 'cover', it's just a question of dealing with the amount of work that will be waiting for you when you get back.

I would suggest you try and have a meeting with your bosses, and let them know that although you are supposed to get an hour lunch break (how do you know this if you don't have a contract?), you are proposing to take 30 minutes each day instead as you are so busy. Say you are concerned about the workload issue in terms of the volume of calls you are having to deal with, you understand finances are tight, but you would like to work together with them to come up with a suitable solution as it is not physically possible for one person to deal with that volume. Provide them with a report on how many calls there have been, how much time you spend dealing with each one, and similar information. Ask them for their input into what they would suggest, and give your own. See if that gets you anywhere.

In the meantime, if you are applying for admin jobs, it sounds as though requiring an NVQ in business admin or a typing qualification isn't that unreasonable, as both could easily be directly relevant to the job, and I'm afraid it's perfectly reasonable for a potential employer to think that a degree in criminology will not bring the same level of relevant knowledge or expertise even though the educational level might be higher.

The trouble is with the job market as it is at the moment, employers can afford to be a lot more picky and demanding with what they want from candidates, and I imagine there is no shortage of candidates for admin positions with typing qualifications and NVQs coming out of their ears.

Have you looked into doing a typing qualification or something part time or via distance learning?

HidingFromTheDM Mon 19-Oct-09 14:00:32

Thank you for your reply flowerybeanbag. I know we get an hours lunch as I am here for 40 hours a week but only get paid for 35. That would lead me to believe that we get one hour unpaid dinner break.

All of your suggestions make perfect sense to me, although I have to admit I am loathe to re-approach them as I think I have just given up on them ever fully appreciating just how busy we are.

I don't want to sound dismissive of your suggestions and I appreciate the time and length of your response. At the moment, financially, I am not in a position to pay for further training or qualifications. I just want a job that is specific to my field and justifies the ridiculous student loans I am still paying off.

Although, if I am honest, if were staying in the UK, I would absolutely adore to train to be a midwife. Unfortunately, finances as they are - it is simply a dream.

I'm confused about where to go from here and what to do. I will take all of your advice on board and will consider my options. Thank you for taking the time to respond.

For now, it's back to work.

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