Wednesday, 16 October 2013

No Smoking, it's Stoptober

For the last few years, since the UK smoking ban in public buildings, smokers have been banished outside when they wish to light up.  Often in the winter I see them huddled together outside of buildings, discussing business, office politics or just generally gossiping.  They appear not to be feeling the cold.  As a non-smoker I often wondered if smoking in some way made you forget the cold temperatures by building up some sort of endurance within you body.

Fortuitously, there may be an alternative for smokers who are banished outside!  The electronic cigarette or e-cigarette or vaporiser, are becoming ever more popular for smokers who wish to reduced their nicotine intake or give up completely.  Whatever your choice of name, the e-cigarette which was meant to help smokers is now as controversial as the regular cigarette.

Since e-cigarettes do not give off any smoke, should employees and visitors to public buildings be allowed to use them inside? The main reason for non-smoking in public buildings was due to the passive smoking risk element.

If e-cigarettes are banned inside public buildings, what is a reasonable justification for this?  Reasons given by some companies who have banned the use of e-cigarettes inside are around the fact that it is not the impression they wish to portray as a company or, it is difficult to distinguish between e-cigarettes and normal cigarettes and therefore a ban on all types of cigarettes is warranted. As PAs do you agree with these reasons?  Would it bother you if you went to the bank/post office or some other public building and were served by staff using e-cigarettes? What are the rules in your office?

In addition to the views as to their use inside or outside, there is now the argument over their safety from a health perspective.  Manufacturers, distributers and marketers have promoted e-cigarettes as being the healthy alternative to cigarettes.  However, research is now showing that some e-cigarettes contain carcinogenic chemicals that make some as harmful as normal tobacco.  This is a claim made by a new study in France.  The French Government have announced plans to ban e-cigarettes in public places.  Should this happen here?

Whatever your views on smoking, e-cigarettes appear not to be as safe as originally thought and further research is being carried out into their safety.

For smokers who are trying to give up, it’s not too late to register and take part in the “Stoptober” campaign which is a UK-wide initiative in October each year, encouraging smokers to give up.  It provides resources, advice and support.  The link to the official website:

Yvette Squire FAPA

Friday, 28 June 2013

office* 2013: Katie Piper confirmed for headline Keynote

Charity campaigner, TV presenter and bestselling author Katie Piper will host a headline Keynote at this year’s office* show, which returns to London’s Olympia on 8-9 October. 

As the UK’s leading annual event dedicated to meeting the business, training and networking needs of Britain’s PAs, office managers and executive support professionals, office*’s free Keynote programme is renowned for attracting a host of ‘inspirational’ names.  Previous headline Keynote speakers include Deborah Meaden, Karren Brady, Michelle Mone and Jacqueline Gold – and this year it’s Katie Piper’s turn to draw in the crowds. 

Having successfully rebuilt her life after surviving a horrific sulphuric acid attack in 2008, Katie has been a familiar face on UK television – first appearing on Channel 4’s Katie: My Beautiful Face, which won best documentary at the 2011 Broadcast Awards.  In 2009, she set up The Katie Piper Foundation to improve rehabilitation facilities for burns survivors, providing support and information on burns, scars and treatment. Winner of countless inspiration awards, including the 2011 Women of the Year ‘You Can’ Award, Katie’s office* Keynote (taking place at 1pm on Wednesday 9 October) promises to be the most thought provoking speech of the show.  Sharing the title of her second book – Things Get Better – her true story of triumph over adversity shares the inspirational message that no matter what we face, things really do get better.

 “I’m so excited to be speaking at this year’s office show,” says Katie Piper, “it’s great to be involved in the UK’s leading event for the modern-day office professional!”

 “Katie Piper is an inspiration to all those lucky enough to hear her story and we are delighted to welcome her to office* 2013,” says David Maguire, event manager of office*.  “We’re anticipating a capacity crowd for her session at this year’s event.”

Gareth Osborne said: “I agree with David, Katie will add great value to the show and prove an invaluable draw for attendees. She is a personal hero of mine and I will enjoy hearing her speak.

Thursday, 18 April 2013

Craving inspiration and leadership

Britain’s female workforce is craving inspiration in the workplace to empower them to break away from traditional expectations, according to new a new study on flexible working released by O2.

As the role of women in the workplace becomes increasingly more prominent, the research reveals differences in the way that men and women like to work and the things that motivate them when it comes to job satisfaction and well-being.

Women want to be inspired by their environment and leaders, rating an inspiring working environment and clear leadership as more important than traditional benefits, such as healthcare or a pension — compared to men, who place more importance on these.

Women also want their bosses to do more to empower them in new ways of working. More than half say that their boss should make it clear that working flexibly won’t have a detrimental effect on their career (56%) and make them feel more trusted to work from home (52%), compared to less than half of men who say the same.

“The digital world offers huge opportunity to suit the demands of different people in the workforce — whether through flexible working policies that empower staff to shape their own working day, to creating an inspiring workplace that breaks down barriers across teams. To create a truly flexible working culture, actions speak louder than words — and employers must lead by example to ensure that every member of staff feels empowered to shape their own definition of the 9 to 5,” Ben Dowd, O2 Business Director, commented.

APA supports the call for employers to liberate their workforce to maximise their own work effectiveness. An inspiring environment and great leadership are at the heart of the APA Diploma in Personal Assistance (DipPA) and support a PA role in that culture.


Wednesday, 17 April 2013

APA welcomes increase to the national minimum wage

APA welcomes the planned increases to the national minimum wage, set out recently by the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills. Gareth Osborne said: "The announcement to increase the minimum wage for adults by 1.9% and to increase the youth and apprenticeship rate by 1% is a welcome one. APA believes that most employers support the concept of the minimum wage and support increasing it to boost the living standards of lower paid workers*. This is particularly important given the Government's efforts to reform the benefit system and incentivise work, especially for the long-term unemployed.

"We also welcome the announcement that there will be a stronger set of measures put in place to enforce the minimum wage. Many employers already pay more than the minimum wage but it is good to see that more will be done to ensure that the small minority of rogue businesses, who are exploiting their workers by not acting within the law, will be brought to book."


Goodbye Yellow Brick Road

On the day of the funeral of The Right Honourable The Baroness Thatcher LG OM PC FRS it seems only right that we pay tribute to this indomitable woman; the first female Prime Minister, who led in a male-dominated world.

Upon moving into 10 Downing Street in1979, Mrs. Thatcher introduced a series of political and economic initiatives intended to reverse high unemployment and Britain's struggles in the wake of the Winter of Discontent and an on-going recession. [Sounds a little like today]. Combined with her mission to tame the Unions she set a tough agenda and stuck to it – even though it led to her ultimate rejection.

Gareth Osborne (himself non-political) worked closely with her in her first 3 years in office said: “She had a way of talking down to everyone but once you got to know her I found her warm, engaging and amazingly inspiring. She strived to support business; especially the entrepreneurial spirit in Britain, for that passion I thank her. To me she was a great leader. Mrs. Thatcher should have and could have done wore for women but alas she missed that opportunity – it may have been a strategy that could have saved her political career; we’ll never know.”

She was always a topic for graffiti from the whit who wrote: “Get Maggie Thatcher, before she gets you” to the recent addition that “Iron Lady: Rust in Peace.” All hail a legend.


We're back!

The APA website is live again. Not fully, and it is not the full re-launch, but the technology is up and finally under operational testing as we speak. Members can’t yet get in as we will be sending them all new entry details but it’ll happen in the next 10 days. It’s time to draw breath, recover posture, regain our composure and start again. It feels like one of those unbelievable American disaster movies where the heroes XXXX wide-eyed into the brave new world after the nuclear/alien/viral attack (choose any one). Excuse the melodrama but I’ts been quite a ride!

I would of course like to thank each and every APA Member for being so tolerant. We have had nothing but message of support, massive understanding and sympathy and warmest wishes from you all. To Sarah from Norwich who sent flowers on our lowest day, thank you , you saved us all..

In truth, we did have a few who mumbles and grumbles but we apologised (which we do to everyone) and hoped they will stick with us.

 To vent my spleen I have to share with you all my feelings:

“In my time I’ve been cast adrift in the treacherous and icy-cold Atlantic (and I can’t swim), I’ve had two engines fail on a two engine aeroplane and had a brain tumour but none was as gut-wrenchingly scary and beyond my control as the hacking of our system was. It amounted to total violation of our business – it must pale against personal violation but it makes me even more sympathetic. I have nothing but rage and violent imaginings for the perpetrator of this heinous commercial sabotage.  Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow but soon are for the rest of their lives we will work to find out who did it (or commissioned it).”

To all those new members who still chose to join when we told them the website was down and all those wonderful people who found a route to booked training and qualification courses, well done. Now we take no prisoners.

Monday, 17 December 2012

Seasons Greetings and a Happy New Year from all at APA

As the holiday season approaches and we prepare for a whole New Year we can all look back on 12-months of mixed fortunes; for some the year will have been monumental and worthy of celebration and for others it will be better forgotten. For everyone it should be the subject of a moments reflective thought and a vow to do even better in 2013.

APA would like to wish all Members a happy, healthy and successful New Year. I hope we have touched your life in the last year and will feature again in the coming one.
The Directors and staff of APA

APA downtime for Website - update

There won’t be many of you needing our support over Christmas, if you do we won’t be far away and an email ( or a call to the helpline 0800 107 1030 will quickly find us.

After three months of the merciless hacking of our website, during which we successfully managed to defend our database, your data, from the ‘unknown’ aggressor, we are undertaking a complete rebuild over the holiday period (feel sorry for the techies who will be working throughout).

The new incarnation will be fresher, more informative and provide more PA professional tips, best practice and career development opportunities.

Please bear with us during this taxing time..


Thursday, 6 December 2012

Comments on the Chancellor of the Exchequer’s Statement

Gareth Osborne commenting on the Chancellor of the Exchequer’s Autumn Statement, said:

“As APA expected, the Chancellor’s Statement has focused overwhelmingly upon the fiscal outlook which has deteriorated since his Budget speech. This is largely due to the reduction in the growth forecasts driven by the deteriorating European and Global economic performance. From a tax policy perspective, next week’s ‘Legislation Day’ will contain much more of interest to business.”

APA views tax policies from the perspectives of business friendliness, simplicity, certainty and fairness. Focusing upon the first two criteria, we welcome the new opportunities for businesses to win new work from the infrastructure and housing initiatives announced by the Chancellor. However, we consider that a more rapid reduction in the mainstream rate of corporation tax to the Chancellor’s target of 23%, or preferably to 20%, would have attracted more entrepreneurs and global businesses to increase their investment in the United Kingdom rather than the package of highly targeted tax reliefs announced today.

We consider it regrettable that the Chancellor has considered it necessary to restrict the 100% capital allowances in Enterprise Zones to less than a third of the zones previously announced. We are similarly skeptical of the impact of the proposed ‘Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme’ but it appears that this could also be the Treasury’s view as they are predicting that the tax cost of its introduction will only be £50 million in 2013/14 falling to £20/£25 million in later years, a trifling sum in comparison to a tax take from corporation tax of approximately £50 billion per annum.

 Both individual and business taxpayers might have feared an announcement of new taxes or broad-based tax rate increases in order to maintain the necessary reduction in the fiscal deficit. They will be relieved that the Chancellor has not felt the need to take these steps. The favourable tax changes he has announced are not broad based but will, nonetheless, be of value to the taxpayer groups concerned.

Gareth concluded: “The situation remains bleak for the individual and business. The economy looks set to bounce along the bottom and show little sign of real improvement for a further five years. This means that a whole generation of new entrants to the workplace who will have an uncertain future ahead of them and people approaching retirement who, instead of a comfortable future, will be horribly disadvantaged. It is not a peaceful future to look forward to as Christmas approaches.


Thursday, 20 September 2012

End of the road

APA has applauded the business secretary's attempt to 'reduce the burden of the employment system and create a more flexible labour market.

In announcing his measures APA feels Vince Cable has given companies more flexibility and confidence in managing their workforce and helped to reduce employment law red tape, including support for settlement agreements aimed to end employment relationships in a 'fair and consensual' way.

APA says, 'Ending a employment relationship is always a last resort, but is at times necessary to protect all involved. Better to create an environment where all parties reach an agreement and part equitably than to soldier with one party or both being unhappy. Companies need to be confident that they can offer an employee a settlement to end the relationship without fear of future action.

APA supports moves by the government to make the process of offering a settlement easier to navigate.”


Better broadland to boost business opportunity

The Government has pledged £114m towards its stated aim to make the UK the fastest place in Europe by 2015 in terms of broadband. It has been revealed how this funding is to be divided up between the UK’s top cities.

The money is to be used to build city-wide networks, offering homes and businesses speeds of up to 100Mbps. London will receive the largest chunk of £25m, followed by Leeds and Bradford, who will receive £14.4m between them. Belfast, Manchester, Bristol, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Birmingham and Newcastle will each receive substantial payments, and a further £50m is to be awarded to ten smaller cities.

Award-winning UK tech entrepreneur Dan Wagner, who has built four global multi-million pound tech companies and recently launched a new service which is empowering companies to take payments for their services on mobile phones, said: “Anything that helps set the right conditions for UK entrepreneurs to start new tech businesses is to be welcomed. The UK is a hotbed of entrepreneurial spirit, but I know from my own experience that this is simply not enough to succeed. Much more could be done to help budding entrepreneurs and start up businesses, in particular in the tech field.”

Gareth Osborne, whose doctorate reflects his many years working in the high-tech business start-up arena warned that: “I totally support and agree with Dan but offer a word of caution. While it is possible for everyone to be entrepreneurial and start a business, spirit isn’t enough alone. Entrepreneurs have to have talent, guts, determination, a willingness to make and take a calculated risk and good financial backing; especially if they do well. Too few do have these components and too many fail. Government should concentrate on backing the package.

APA will offer help and guidance to all PA members looking to explore their entrepreneurial side.


Wednesday, 19 September 2012

And we are back ..

The last 10 days have been tortuous with the website down and Members calling for updates and having little to say. We thank everyone (well, almost everyone) for being so understanding and giving us room to get it sorted; after all it was our first 'system failure' in five year! - and during the busy Office* period as well. I'll tell you more tomorrow. For now - all systems are go!

Gareth, APA

Sunday, 16 September 2012

APA supports Cable

Business Secretary Vince Cable has announced a new business bank as part of the coalition's latest plank of its industrial strategy but APA feels it is another desperate attempt to bypass the broken British banking system which it believes remains one of the major obstacles to economic recovery.

The plan is meant to result in a surge of new loans to small businesses; yet net lending continued to fall, and it remains the lender of last resort just like the long standing Loan Guarantee Scheme – which has failed miserably. Past experience suggests the new institution will be hemmed in by tight financial restrictions imposed by a nervous Treasury and many believe government should definitely not get involved in banking at all. But Cable and his Ministerial team recognise something must be done to stimulate growth in the financial sector and APA applauds its commitment to be brave..

A new report by the Institute of Public Policy Research (IPPR) suggests that £40bn would be the minimum size worth bothering with if the new bank is to make a serious difference to the economy, and urges the Treasury to allow it to raise funds on capital markets to boost its lending power to £100bn.

APA’s Gareth Osborne sees the new bank as a positive solution to some of Britain's long-term economic problems but not a rapid cure for the immediate slump. “It could help to boost investment levels which remain far too low in the UK; when compared to international rivals. And a state-backed bank could take a more long-sighted approach than small firms are accustomed to seeing from risk-averse high street lenders, with their uncompromising computerised loan models and centralised decision making and poor local management.”

So Mr. Cable is to be encouraged for floating the idea, and we wish him luck as he tries to persuade the Treasury to be bold; but it also serves to underline the unfortunate truth that Britain's banking system is failing and it must be brought into line if real growth is to return.


Tuesday, 11 September 2012

We’re back … and in time for Office*

After a weekend of hugely frustrating downtime the APA website is up and running and thankfully no damage has been done. Our data remains perfectly secure and everything within our 3450 pages of PA best practice and knowledge is waiting for you to access.

If you are coming to Office* make sure you come and see us on Stand 4001.


Sunday, 9 September 2012

Don't you just love technology?

A message to all APA Members and our friends from Gareth Osborne

At the moment we have a major technology crisis which has resulted in the website shutting down – we don’t yet know why. We have a failsafe system built into our online presence to protect members’ data and we believe this may have cut in. We have no reason to believe any data has been compromised however, it is enormously frustrating; especially in Office* week, when we are hoping to recruit a huge amount of interest in our site. We will keep you apprised of progress and hope to be back to our usual high visibility within days.

Gareth, APA

Saturday, 1 September 2012

Beware the Ides of September

September is the most popular month to go on holiday, research by a professional body reveals. Nearly a quarter (23%) of respondents indicated that September is the most desired month, followed by August (17%) and then June and July (both 13.6%).

Other interesting findings have shown that almost half (47%) are planning to go on a beach vacation, followed by an activity-based holiday (21%). A third (34%) of respondents said that their next holiday destination is in the UK, followed by the USA (11%), Spain (7.4%) and then France (6.7%). Sadly, however, one in six (16%) said they have no holiday planned in 2012.

In some places in Europe, like Italy, many businesses close down for the month of August to limit absences at other busier times.

Gareth Osborne of APA said: “With so manypeople predicted to take time off in September, organisations need to ensure that they have contingency plans in place. This problem has been exasperated in 2012 by the extended summer of celebrations keeping people at home. It is possible that September could see a significant reduction in staff force productivity.”


Friday, 31 August 2012

Only days to go to Office* 2012

APA will again be at Office* this year to meet existing PA members and recruit new ones; so please make sure you visit us on stand 4001 and meet the team and your peers. This year APA might even be making a very special announcement about its continuing growth and success around the world.


Pressure mounting on Osborne (the other one)

There was further bad news for Chancellor George Osborne as APA joined the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) and the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) in today warning him that it believed the UK economy would shrink by 0.4% in 2012 against government forecasts.

Not only that but APA believes 2013 figures are also overstated and growth is more likely to be around 1.2% rather than the government forecast of 1.9%. The Eurozone crisis (now focused on Spain) and a sharp rise in food and oil prices pose the greatest threat.

APA’s Gareth Osborne said: “The austerity plan (known as Plan A) is destined to fail while prices are rising so steeply and are outside the control of government. However, Plan B (the spend, spend, spend solution) is even less likely to succeed. We support an externally funded recovery led by massive capital investment by or through penalty on the Banks..

However, APA strongly backs planned growth measures such as creating a business bank and Bank of England support for small business borrowing but believes the banks should still do more to fund the recovery from recession which they so successfully fuelled.


Every PA is a Manager

t is regularly argued that most people are promoted to be managers not trained and qualified for the job – APA offers a solution for PAs who find themselves increasingly responsible for managing the assets of the organisation and who deserve best practice to help them excel.

APA starts from the premise that every PAs is a manager; whether it simply be a junior PA  managing the diary, travel or emails, every PA manages the organisation’s most valuable resource – its business leader – and more importantly the effective use of that person’s time. Every APA course embraces this belief and trains PAs in the skills necessary to be great managers.

The highly popular ‘PA as a Manager’ programme is a dedicated APA course for those PAs who have delegated authority to oversee people, money and time and want to learn from others PAs how to succeed in the role. It provides a short, sharp injection of knowledge designed to understand who, what, when, where, why and how to manage.


Pictured (L-R) are: Marie-Helene Bancquart (who flew in from Switzerland for the course) and Bethany Fovargue.

About the course Marie-Helene said: “Many thanks for the course today, it gives us very good tools and I am sure I will from now on use them regularly!”

Bethany Fovargue said: Another “thank you” for your help, support and insight on yesterday’s training course; it was very valuable and I am pleased to have been able to attend."

Thursday, 30 August 2012

Qualifications boom this autumn

APA is preparing itself for the busiest training season ever as autumn approaches; it has major contracts running with two government departments, a national executive agency and 3 major corporates all from diverse and challenging sectors. And these are in addition to its regular qualification programmes running at locations across the UK and Europe.

The APA Diploma (DipPA) is continuing to attract a high level of enrolments in the UK; with many autumn courses already full or having only a few places remaining. This is also true in Scandinavia and Germany where the Diploma is equally the ‘must complete’ qualification for PAs.

Gareth Osborne, Director General of APA said: “The Diploma is the most rewarding programme for all experienced, professional PAs, it embraces new tools and techniques to help maximise the effectiveness of their Boss and explores some exceptionally valuable management and leadership skills to help elevate the PAs involvement in the organisation.”

With more and more PAs playing an important role in Project Management the Diploma equips them for the toughest challenge – not just the staff Christmas Party.


Pictured are recent Diploma takers (L-R): Caroline Date, Alison Grayley, Watcharin (Apple) Sharpe, Alison McMurtrie and Lucy Mott (who flew in from Singapore to attend the course). Missing is Jacqui Deveney. All are seen here with Debs Eden (far right) who attended as an observer.

Saturday, 25 August 2012

No longer a single glass ceiling for working women

The concept of a single glass ceiling is an outdated model and no longer reflects the realities of modern working life for women, according to the results of a poll released by Ernst & Young. The survey of UK working women between the ages of 18 - 60, revealed that two thirds believe they faced multiple barriers throughout their careers, rather than just a single ceiling on entry to the boardroom.

Based on the results, Ernst & Young has identified four key barriers to career progression for today’s working women. These barriers are: age, lack of role models, motherhood, and qualifications and experience.

The professional services firm says that the barriers aren’t chronological and can be experienced at anytime; often several at once. While some aren’t exclusive to women, it believes it is clear from the research that employers need to provide better support to help women overcome them.

APA strongly opposes gender stereotypes and arcane working prejudices and actively encourages the enforcement of the Equal Pay Act (1970); not yet
and perhaps the oldest remaining form of discrimination in the UK workplace.

Ernst & Young conclude: "British business is losing its best and brightest female talent from the pipeline before they have even had a chance to smash the glass ceiling. Professional women clearly experience it; that’s what they have told us.”


Thursday, 23 August 2012

Small business owners rely on their partners for support

According to research by Direct Line for Business (DL4B), more than half (51 per cent) of small business owners and managers rely on spouses and partners to help run their company. The research revealed that 46 per cent of small business owners and key decision makers rely on their partners to carry out general business administration while one in five (19 per cent) employ their partner as a receptionist.

In fact more than one in seven (14 per cent) trust their partners to look after legal and accounting services. A further 8 per cent look to their partners to carry out sales, marketing and new business generation responsibilities.They suggest their partners work on average two days a week (with one in four working three or more days a week), nearly a third (31 per cent) do not pay their partner any money at all.

Gareth Osborne said: “Small businesses are crucial in re-energising the UK economy. Partners have always been the unpaid directors and managers and this is where HMRC needs to be enormously more creative in allowing tax breaks to apply. In the current climate unpaid workers (of any type) are omitted from company insurance cover and therefore at risk should accidents occur.

"It is clear that small trade businesses are seeking voluntary help from their partners to avoid high legal, secretarial or IT support fees but it is vital that these businesses ensure their partners are adequately covered in event of an accident.”

The research interestingly showed that a small trade business employing less than five people typically has an average annual turnover of around £124,000. This makes it hard to sustain average UK salaries and national minimum wage.


Friday, 17 August 2012

Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau

Cardiff was the port of call for the ‘PA Professional’ – Module 1 of the PA Diploma (DipPA) –yesterday and delegates joined Gareth Osborne for the full day programme at the Park Plaza hotel in the city centre.

Gareth said: “Again we had a great group of enthusiastic and energetic PAs from diverse backgrounds all keen to share experience and learn a host of new tools and techniques aimed at making them more aware of the importance of the role and elevate the effectiveness of their support for their boss. Their good humour and professionalism made it a hugely enjoyable day and all confirmed that they would take away valuable knowledge to enhance their PA role. Lunch was pretty good as well!”

Helen Jones MAPA said: “Dear APA, I’d like to thank you very much for the course you delivered yesterday in Cardiff. It was incredibly insightful and revealing; it has really opened my eyes and has given me added confidence. I have also, this morning, introduced the RYGB tool to my manager and colleagues and I am currently organising the next team meeting where I will be presenting this!”

APA would like thank South Wales Chamber; especially Rhiannon Hendry, for their support in promoting the programme.


Pictured (L-R) are: Deborah Stewart, Bethan Constable, Helen Jones and Michaela Benjamin

Monday, 13 August 2012

Qualification developments

Last week saw APA directors call a meeting of elite and long standing Members to discuss professional qualifications and their future development. The meeting was generously hosted by Tina Skilton of the RAF Benevolent Fund in Portland Place, London and the debate was chaired jointly by APA Directors Emma Kernan-Staines and Laura Richardson.

The discussion led to some positive outcomes and a series of new opportunities; more on this as plans evolve.


Pictured (L:R) back row are: Vicky Fryer, Laura Richardson, Heather Senu, Inta Batsman, Aisling O’Meara and Katie Manning. On the front row are: Joan May, Tina Skilton, Emma Kernan-Staines and Joanne O’Rourke.

Sunday, 5 August 2012

Eviva España

This week has seen the first ever delivery of the APA Diploma (Module 1/PA Professional) in Spain and our resident hispanophile, Maggie Mooney, led an impressive group of experienced Spanish PAs through their paces with great success.

Maggie is a near fluent Spanish speaker but the course was presented in English. with everyone comfortable the international business language. The PAs who all worked for British companies with subsidiaries in and around the Andalucía region gathered at a Marbella hotel in glorious weather to learn about new tools and techniques for PAs and how to maximise the effectiveness of their support for their Boss.

APA’s southern Europe region is growing steadily with members joining from across Spain, Portugal and Italy.

Maggie said: “This was a great course, relaxed, friendly and very creative. Every one of the companies had paid for their PA to stay overnight before the training and it gave us all an opportunity to get to know each other, laugh and really share opinions about the role of a PA. It made training the next day so much more effective. If only UK employers would do the same.”

For more details of APA professional training and qualification programmes please go to the website or email: .

Attendees included (L-R): Alandra Moreno, Lali Guzman, Sonora Vasquez, Palmera Rios, Garbine Ortiz and Felicia Reyes

Tuesday, 31 July 2012

PAs on parade

PAs from around the country joined Gareth, Maggie, Faye and others at the third PA weekend ‘boot camp’ – a mixture of PA training, team building and downright fun; compete with a night stop at a ‘secret’ military location with a party and overnight stay in the Officers’ Mess.  The weather was good for the outdoor elements; including how to shake a following driver, and the event was scored highly by attendees.

Miriam Degardo MAPA said: “By the end I was shattered and was glad to be getting back to the office for a break but it was massively stimulating and showed me that I can tackle even the biggest challenge. I doubt many of my colleagues at work would have done any better than me and they regard me as the junior. Something I plan to change.”

Gareth said: “It was a lot of hard work and the input of the military instructors really tested the PAs. Everyone rose to the challenge and got an enormous thrill from the experience. We definitely plan to repeat the event later in the year.”


Monday, 23 July 2012

'Not Bothered' attitude in the workplace

Corporate scandals are eroding trust in senior leaders and will have a damaging impact on employee engagement, warns CIPD. Quarterly Employee Outlook survey reveals a nation of employees who are simply 'not bothered' about their work

Only 36% of workers trust their senior leaders and more than half (58%) of workers display signs of having adopted a 'not bothered' attitude to their work. That's according to the CIPD’s latest quarterly Employee Outlook survey of more than 2,000 employees across the UK, which asks employees a number of questions to gauge their level of engagement in the work place and attitudes to working life.

The survey found that employees who display 'neutral' engagement are about half as likely to go the extra mile with regard to workload and hours than those who are engaged and nearly three times more likely to be looking for a new job. It also found a strong correlation between employee engagement and knowledge of the organisation's core purpose.

Peter Cheese, Chief Executive at the CIPD, comments: "Given the number of examples reported in the media in recent months of unethical behaviours and corrosive cultures overseen by senior leaders, it is perhaps unsurprising to see trust in the workplace eroding.

Gareth Osborne said: “This survey reflects a gut reaction to current media hype. If CIPD are suggesting that either Bob Diamond of Barclays or Nick Buckles of G4S have operated unethically then I think they are not supporting business. In both cases the individual organisations would have been under enormous pressure from government intermediaries to deliver (or give the impression of delivering) and both have been ‘hung-out-to-dry’.

“I would also like to distance PAs from the ‘not bothered’ culture. PAs spend most of their life going the extra mile and their bosses would be even more vulnerable to attack without them helping protect their brand and reputation.”


Friday, 13 July 2012

A sunny training day in London

Yesterday saw the start of another journey towards the much-prized Diploma for a group of talented PAs from London, the East Midlands and Singapore.

On one of the rare sunny days this year the outstanding Melia White House Hotel again played host to Gareth Osborne and the group and provided a superb setting for professional training and a relaxing environment for breaks and lunch.

Gareth said: “The Diploma course continues to be the jewel in our crown and we are puuting on a host of extra dates to satisfy demand. People should always call the training team if they are interested in enrolment and not be fixated by the calendar of published dates; we can accommodate most needs and add extra locations and dates as volumes demand.”

"Many of the published courses for the summer months; especially tfull he Diploma, are technically full but we always try to not disappoint a PA with a lust for learning. and find a solution. With dates for the entry level PA Apprentice course and the specialist PA as a Manager programmes looming people should contact APA now for places on 0800 107 1030 or email


Pictured (L-R) are: Alison Matthias, Claire Pickford, Aimee Bird, Denise Butts, Lucy Mott (from Singapore) and Janet Evans.

Saturday, 7 July 2012

FTSE companies challenged to pay on time

APA has joined other professional bodies in throwing itself behind a new campaign which is calling for all of the UK’s top 100 FTSE companies to sign the PPC. Read more at:

The scheme is part of the wider ‘Be Fair - Pay on Time’ campaign conceived by Debbie Abrahams MP, which asks all firms to pay their suppliers as quickly as possible under the agreed terms and conditions set out at the start of the contract, and without retrospectively changing payment times.

A letter countersigned by a number of leading business organisations, including the Institute of Credit Management (ICM), good friends of APA, has been sent to the UK’s top 100 FTSE companies not already signed up to the PPC, inviting them to show their commitment to pay their accounts on time and help SMEs stay afloat as the country recovers from the recession.
Currently, just a quarter of the FTSE 100 companies have signed up to the voluntary payment code.

Gareth Osborne said: “The Prompt Payment Code is something all large organisations; public and private, should subscribe to. It asks nothing more than to pay suppliers as and when agreed. Sadly still too few of them actually do. They should be leading the way and not mumbling platitudes and shuffling away. There has always been a belief that large organisations should be role models; in terms of professional ethics and morals, modern times have started to suggest otherwise and it’s time they conformed.”

APA always pays invoices on time; or earlier where possible. PAs; especially those in large business, should ask internally if their organisation does the same.


Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Sam becomes number 12

APA is delight to announce the award of its twelfth 'Distinction' grade pass in the highly prestigious Diploma in Personal Assistance (DipPA). The recipient, Sam McElhill, joins the PA Elite - known collectively as the 'Tenacius Twelve' - who represent just 2% of PA diploma holders who have taken this qualification with APA.
About her Diploma journey Sam said: "Achieving my diploma has given me a new found confidence, I feel I can be more assertive but in a constructive way and therefore colleagues take more notice of my suggestions. As part of module 1 I was able to bring back to the office the RYGB exercise and this has allowed me to understand my colleagues and the team dynamics in a different light. I am very proud of my diploma and the grade of distinction was unexpected but a wonderful outcome. Gareth and the rest of the APA team are hugely supportive and I am sure I would not have succeeded without their help."

Gareth Osborne said: "Sam definitely excelled on the diploma course. She absorbed information intelligently but never
hesitated to challenge it when unsure of its relevance or impact on her own role. I think she is a PA to watch and expect she will
be invited to a number of events. She joins a ery elite group."


Friday, 15 June 2012

Diploma enrolments keep on coming

This week has seen Diploma delegates start training in London, the Midlands and Scandinavia and the summer months promise to be busy for Module 2 – the final taught session and the test, new dates are constantly being added.

Gareth Osborne said: “We now encourage Members to call us about locations and availability as the published schedule went out-of-the-window months ago; it still exists and is accurate but we have a host of additional dates, locations and even in-house courses where major clients allow us to accommodate additional individual delegates. Let’s call it a moveable feast.”

All those interested in booking a training place should contact Shelley young at APA

APA will be launching a series of new and more adventurous programmes for senior and career orientated PAs in the autumn.


Pictured (L-R) are: Caroline Date, Apple Sharpe, Tracey Henry-Yeo and Gemma McKenzie.

Monday, 11 June 2012

APA on 'Settlement Agreements'

APA has responded to the Government’s announcement on 'Settlement Agreements' suggesting it is a better option than others proposed but still no substitute for good business management or basic common decency

APA believes the government's proposal on 'Settlement Agreements'; as a method of releasing underperforming employees, merits careful consideration. Plans are still sketchy; with work still to be done, and will need to be studied hard when government publishes details of how it will work in practice.

Gareth Osborne says: “We agree with CIPD when it stresses that it is imperative that settlement agreements should be used to encourage better and more consistent performance management by employers, not as a substitute for it. It is important that the government exercises its duty of care to employers by not overselling or oversimplifying what it is doing here. Employers need to understand that settlement agreements tabled in the context of without prejudice conversations will do nothing to protect them from discrimination or constructive dismissal claims if they act improperly.

"In the final analysis, the simple message for employers is that, with or without 'settlement agreements' there is no substitute for good performance management. Get that right, and there is no reason under the existing law why you can't remove underperforming employees and replace them with the ones you need to drive your business forward.

As the great Jim Collins (author: Good to Great), a hero amongst APA trainers, said: You get the right people on the bus, the wrong people off the bus and the right people in the right seats”.


Wednesday, 6 June 2012

All hail number twelve

The number of people who have taken and passed the Diploma in Personal Assistance is growing fast but finding those who achieve the ultimate accolade a ‘Pass with Distinction’ remains rare - less than 2%, making this achievement all the more exceptional.

Today has seen the scoring and announcement of only the 12th (twelfth) ‘Distinction holder.

Samantha McElhill FAPA DipPA (pictured left) of Silver Stone Search & Selection in Oxfordshire was thrilled to receive the news this afternoon from APA Director General, APA. Gareth said: “Sam was an exceptional participant, quiet and thoughtful but positive, professional and challenging when the situation demanded, I knew she would do well but was delighted when the judging panel (titled - the Panel of Members) scored her results and course assignments at distinction level. She richly deserves this success.”

Those who would like to follow in Sam’s wake should book their place soon for the exciting and prestigious Diploma in Personal Assistance by contacting


Saturday, 2 June 2012

Previously worn clothes

Staff members at PwC in Newcastle have donated their old suits to a charity for the homeless.

The old clothes will be used as part of a campaign to help disadvantaged and homeless job seekers return to work. Supporting the community is a key priority for PwC, and the firm has a number of activities planned to support local causes.

PwC said: “The Suit Amnesty campaign fits well with our objective to deliver help in the area of employability and we hope to be able to make a real difference to those that need it most. ”

Gareth Osborne of APA, who is well known for regularly taking barbed swipes at accountants and lawyers but resisted this time, said: “We’ll done to PwC I think this is a great initiative and really hope it inspires others to follow suit.”


Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Tax back for business

Hundreds of thousands of UK small business owners may be due a sizeable tax rebate from HMRC, according to a number of tax specialists. Any company that owns commercial premises has a high probability of receiving a capital allowances tax windfall to the tune of thousands, or even tens of thousands of pounds.

Research from accountancy firm Deloitte confirms that in nine cases out of ten, capital allowances reports will uncover a tax rebate for the owner of a commercial property. To date, it is claimed that the rebates have been recovered in the region of  £25,000 net for smaller UK commercial property owners, with the biggest tax rebate more than £10 million net. Because claims can be made historically, estimates suggest that there is £65-£70 billion of net tax rebate lying unclaimed in the UK's commercial property stock.

Smaller businesses that own commercial property are most likely to be due a rebate as their accountants will often not understand the intricacies of capital allowances and how to uncover them. For obvious reasons, HMRC isn’t shouting about it from the rooftops, either.

Many accountants appear to be too embarrassed to approach their clients about the issue, as this is something they should have alerted them to years back. The truth is that often these allowances are too complex for smaller accountants to understand but a cheque from HMRC would be a real boost at present.


Sweden 8, Norway 2, Finland 3, Denmark 2 ad England 1

The weekend saw PAs from across Scandinavia travel to Stockholm for an APA PA Professional training session at a famous corporate hotel and spa. With the extra ‘entertainment’ of England playing Norway late afternoon and the Eurovision Song Contest in the evening spirits were high and competition between the countries was well-fuelled.

Fortunately the PA training provided more than enough physical and mental challenge and by the time the football kicked-off friendships overcame rivalries.

Gareth Osborne joined Anders Magnusson to talk team dynamics and managing leaders under stress and for the end of day refreshments and euro singing. The Swedish contingent was euphoric about their nation’s success but it was a bad day for Mette and Kristanna from Norway who saw their country crash out in both events; even finishing lower than ‘The Hump’.

For all PA training dates, locations and details email


Friday, 25 May 2012

Diploma sunshine

As the summer sun reached London a new group of PAs completed their programme for the APA Diploma in Personal Assistance (DipPA) in the glorious surroundings of the Meliã White House Hotel near Regents Park.

The final stage of training for the diploma is a combination of validation of prior learning, a series of scenario-based team exercises to test understanding and the last teaching sessions ahead of the final skills test. Again the course was found to be challenging but rewarding and gave attendees valuable tools and techniques to use for the benefit of themselves, their businesses and their bosses.

“This was another strong group and reinforced my belief that PAs are special people and their skills massively misunderstood, not by their bosses but, by others around them,” said Gareth Osborne who mentored this group. “They are increasingly an integrated element of the success of any organisation and vital in enabling their boss to achieve his or her strategic goals. As their real duties become better understood the so will their status and reward. I never cease to be impressed by their talents and diversity.”

Pictured (L-R) are three attendees: Karen Lovatt (from Abu Dhabi), Nasreen Burke and Samantha McElhill.


Saturday, 19 May 2012

Fun, fun, fun

APA has joined a call to urged government to reinvigorate its efforts to tackle sickness absence on the back of publication of the EEF/Westfield Health 2012 annual sickness absence report, which includes the UK’s largest private sector business survey of sickness absence.

The overall absence rate remains unchanged from 2010 (2.2%) as has the average working days lost to absence at just over 5 days per employee..

The issue itself has become increasingly significant with 55 per cent of companies expressing concerns in regard to short-term illness and unmotivated employees. However, only 5 per cent of companies currently monitor the cost of presenteeism.

APA Director General, Gareth Osborne said: “With the economy still suffering from weak or no growth we need to improve our economic performance and this requires the engagement of staff. I believe the climate is depressing and it affects workers across the board. Employers have to work hard to make work fun, it is tough but they have to remember there are only four reasons to come to work; money · money · fun and money. If we are deficient of three elements we have to work enormously hard to make work enjoyable.

APA Members can find details in the Members’ Area of the website on ‘How to make work fun’.


Friday, 18 May 2012

Young talent abounds

It’s always good to work with new and aspiring PAs but this week’s London group of ‘PA Apprentices’ has been especially pleasing and bodes well for the future of the profession. Everyone attending was hungry for knowledge, tips and best practice and Liz Clayton FAPA DipPA joined the group to share her experiences and tips to maximise the potential of their respective bosses. Uniquely APA introduced a short 1-2-1 session for each attendee with Liz to enable them to share problems.

Pictured (L-R) are: Laura Wainright, Jenni Arnold, Amy Johnson and Deb Kerr were amongst the 12 junior PAs on the course.

Perhaps one of the most powerful tools taught on the programme is the APA 1-2-3 system for email management and all agreed that it would allow them to focus on the mail that matters. Amy Johnson AAPA said: “We a e inundated with unsolicited emails and it takes a lot of time to weed out the rubbish. Gareth gave us a series of easy to remember tips to reduce the volume and increase the importance of the ones that matter most. I think the course will help make my life easier and give me more time to look after my boss.”  Jenni Arnold added “It was brilliant, the best training I have ever had.”

Gareth Osborne said: “This was one of the liveliest groups ever; full of passion, enthusiasm and a will to get it right for their boss, or bosses to be. I would employ every one of them!”


Thursday, 17 May 2012

Technology Stinks

Technical problems including email and internet failures have been voted the most stressful office issue for workers.

Some 31% of office staff find internet and emails breaking down the most annoying occurrence, according to a new survey. An unrealistic workload came in second with almost 18% finding that there aren't enough hours in the day to get through their tasks. 14% said that a bad commute is the most stressful part of their working day, coming third in the poll.

A spokesperson said: 'Many of us don’t realise how stressful the office environment can be as it just melts into the fabric of everyday life. It’s no surprise that internet malfunctions came top of the list. In today’s technology-driven age so much of what we do is totally reliant on being online we often feel lost and frustrated without it.'

Other items on the list included compiling end-of-period reports (11%) and people being late for meetings (9 per cent). Eight % went out on a limb to identify their boss as the most annoying thing about going to work, with 6% citing demanding clients as the main reason behind their working frustrations.