Meet the team: Kate Booth, Human Resources Business Partner at New Dawn Resources

At New Dawn Resources we pride ourselves on being the ‘People’s People’. From our earliest days it was clear that there was an appetite among business owners and directors for a different approach to HR outsourcing, and the contracts and clients grew quickly. As we have evolved, so has our team. 

In the coming weeks we shall be introducing members of the NDR team. We’ll be giving you a peek into their working life, while sharing insights into how their expertise may aid your business. 

Up first is Kate Booth. Having previously worked as an employment law Solicitor Kate joined out NDR in 2018 and since then has been an invaluable member of the team. Kate’s considerable experience and knowledge of any issues relating to employment law such as contracts, redundancies and tribunals come under her speciality and are called upon by our clients every day. 

So Kate it’s over to you...

Could you tell us a little about your background?

My full name is Andrea Kate, but when I was 6 years old, I told my teacher that I wanted to change my name to Kate. Then I went home and told my parents “everyone calls me Kate now”. I feel like a Northerner because my parents are both from the North East and I’ve lived in the North for most of my life, but I was born in Cheltenham. 

I studied in Stirling for a Business Studies and Business Law Degree. During my 2nd year, I decided I wanted to become a lawyer because the business law modules were really interesting. I would have had to do another 2 years (Scottish degrees usually take 4 years to complete) and then a 1 year conversion, so it made more sense to spend the 3 years getting a Law Degree. I saw out the 2nd year and then moved to Newcastle. 

In Newcastle I began my Bachelors of Law Degree. Amusingly, the film Legally Blond had just been released and there were definitely some Elle wannabes in my tutorials! After graduating I chose a training contract with a national firm (Irwin Mitchell) and alternated between their Sheffield and Leeds offices. The firm had a large intake of trainees, approximately 20 each year, and so the social side of the job was great.

You worked as a solicitor previously. Tell us about your time in that field.

Being a Solicitor is always eventful. Each day delivers a new challenge, much like HR! It’s also very competitive, so even getting a trainee position is hard. I managed to get a position in employment law, which led to a full time role after qualifying. Back in 2007 employment law was the place to be and there was strong competition between the trainees to get the available jobs, so I appreciate how fortunate I was. 

As my career progressed I worked at national firms Irwin Mitchell and DWF LLP. Later I moved to Eaton Smith in 2010 and became a partner when I was 34. I’m also a qualified Notary Public.

I loved my time in employment law and tried to make a difference. During my time, I voluntarily collated and submitted data to the government’s Select Committee on Employment Tribunal fees. This led to being selected to be among ten legal experts called to give oral evidence and be questioned by the Select Committee on whether the fees restricted access to justice. Unfortunately, I cannot claim that it was that process that led to the fees being abolished, but it did lead to me being shortlisted as one of the top 5 lawyers aged 35 in Yorkshire in the Yorkshire Legal Awards in 2016.

What attracted you to make a drastic career change and switch to Human Resources?

The change wasn’t as drastic as you think. In both roles, my job is to understand employment law and then use that understanding to give clients practical, commercially sound advice on how to deal with their staff issues, whilst also managing their risks.

The reason for moving away from the traditional law firm environment was that I was ready for an opportunity to broaden my horizons. As an employment lawyer, life is mostly contracts and disputes. Although I have retained that work and am still drafting contracts, dealing with employee relations matters and defending Employment Tribunals claims, moving to HR means I am also involved in the nicer side of people management such as delivering training and working on projects to update appraisals and reward systems, etc. The move has given me more balance.

Knowing I wanted a change, I started my CIPD Level 5 to give me a wider knowledge of HR issues. I moved to New Dawn Resources because I knew the firm and knew Vanessa and Cheryl, both by reputation and more personally. It was a great opportunity for me.

What sort of clients do you work with?

The team at New Dawn Resources works with clients across a wide range of sectors. The clients that I work with are really diverse. I do a lot with GP Practices and I enjoy the specialism that their world requires. I also work with manufacturers, retailers, the hospitality sector, and many specialist and professional service companies such as surveyors, electricians, insurance brokers, recruitment businesses, and lawyers. 

Although I am working with many different sectors, the same issues often come up across each sector just with a slightly different angle. I love the variety of queries and contexts for queries. And, it allows me an interesting insight into how different organisations are being impacted by what’s going on in the world, for example, by Brexit and Covid. Fortunately, our clients have come through the pandemic well and are planning ahead with great positivity. The main difficulty across all sectors right now is recruitment.

There appears to be many women working in your field. Why do you think that is the case?

I’m not sure to be honest. I’ve had a quick search online and it looks like various studies indicate at least 2/3 of the UK HR workforce is female, with similar figures for the US. It may be that there is a perception that HR is about nurturing staff and using empathy and interpersonal skills to manage staff who may be unhappy, struggling with something, or in a dispute. Perhaps the role appeals more to women or there is an assumption that women are better suited to the role as a result of this. Emotional intelligence is part of the role, but it is by no means the full picture.

At a senior level, HR is a very strategic and commercially important role. For most businesses, people are their biggest resource and so the business plan has to include review and development of organisational structure, strategies for recruiting and retaining the right people, identifying and exiting the wrong people, and succession planning for the future. This requires analytic skills and commercial awareness.

Please give us a brief description of your average day at work.

Each day is different. I try to strike a balance between time out with clients, time in our Holmfirth office and time working from home. In one week, I might have a day out on site conducting a grievance investigation, another half day managing a disciplinary process, and then office time. When I’m in the office, I move between answering short queries from clients to working on projects, such as overhauling contracts and handbooks, updating an appraisal and performance management system, or developing a new training course. 

We try to keep our clients out of the Employment Tribunals, but from time to time a claim does come in and I deal with those. The tribunal process can be very time consuming as I try to take a lot of the work off my clients’ shoulders, so that they can concentrate on running their business.

I also oversee our marketing, which gives me a bit of a creative outlet. I need to keep my employment law knowledge up to date and am regularly reading new case reports and checking in on the development of employment legislation. I like to share the most interesting and important updates with our clients, which I do through regular updates to our website and periodical employment update emails and seminars.

In fact our Autumn employment update seminar will be taking place on 3rd November at Briar Court Hotel.

What aspects of your role do you enjoy most and why?

It’s about the relationships I have with my clients and feeling as though I’m part of their team and helping them. I like that I have clients I can have a laugh and a joke with, or who will tell me about their home life, or the time they stuck their hand in a wasp’s nest! And, I like that they feel they can just call me for a bit of advice and more importantly rely on me if they’re struggling with a situation or even face a claim. It’s great to see our clients face to face, and so many have interesting businesses, I love a site tour. Over the years, I’ve seen how pet food is made, seen blast furnaces in operation, found out how carpets and blinds are made, and been behind the scenes of shops, restaurants and health centres. 

A huge attraction to my role is being part of the team here at New Dawn. In my last role, I was the Employment Partner for a small local firm and worked predominantly on my own. Although I had some lovely colleagues, they did not share my employment law specialism. Joining the team here has given me the opportunity to work alongside other people-focused professionals dealing with the same scenarios as me.

I’m so proud to be part of the New Dawn team as we share an ethos on putting our client’s interests first and delivering a high-quality service at reasonable rates. Between us, we have the knowledge and ability that might be on offer in a far larger and more expensive corporate set up. but we get to work in our friendly office and build really good relationships with our clients. I was also very chuffed to become a Director and Shareholder after my first year here. It was a generous gesture and something I really appreciate.

What aspects of your role do you find the most challenging?

There are aspects of the role that are emotionally challenging. In order to do our role well, we need to be able to empathise with others and that can be quite emotionally draining when we are working with employees who are struggling in difficult circumstances. 

For example, we provide support in situations where an employee is very ill and might not be able to return to work in any capacity. Clearly this is a difficult time for them and their family, as well as their manager and colleagues. And, there are times where that employee is a manager that we’ve been working alongside for years and have a personal relationship with. We work hard to steer everyone through the situation in the fairest and kindest way possible.

What advice would you give to someone starting out in your industry today?

It’s not enough to have a good understanding of employment law and HR procedures, your clients will expect that as a given. In HR outsourcing your clients need you to have commercial awareness and to give advice that is practical and fits in with the needs of their business. The best way to develop this is to spend time with businesses, talk to business owners, find out what challenges they’re facing – take any opportunity you can to do this. If you’re still in education, look for work experience opportunities and join LinkedIn – see what the businesses you’re interested in are talking about.

After a busy week how do you like to relax with your family and friends?

Why wait until the weekend to have fun? I’m an extrovert and draw energy from being out and about, seeing people. During lockdown, although I was at home, I found that not seeing clients and not seeing friends and family left me feeling tired. So, as things get back to normal, I’ll usually be out with friends at least one night a week and my husband and I try to do something nice every Wednesday. 

At weekends, I might catch up with friends and family who are a bit further afield. My family moved to Norfolk, so I visit them when I can. I’m not really a sit and relax person. If I sit for too long, I start to think I should be doing something and, unluckily for him, that my husband should be doing something, so he’ll probably suggest we go for a walk before I start looking at our walls and thinking we should decorate.

To discover how New Dawn Resources can aid your business then why not drop us a line. You can contact Kate directly on kate.booth@newdawnresources.co.uk

Or attend our next autumn Employment Law Update on 3rd November at Briar Court Hotel, Huddersfield