Mary Killen Mary Killen

Dear Mary | 8 October 2011

Your problems solved

Q. I have been building a small business, so far single-handedly, with a tiny bit of input from my parents. We live in a tight-knit rural community and a couple of unemployed graduate friends, still living at home like me, on hearing that I may be expanding soon, have asked me to employ them. They are far too intelligent to do the only sort of work I would need them for — packing up parcels part-time — but they have suggested they do it anyway and I give them equity in my company as a compensation for paying the minimum wage. I don’t want to do this, and my parents, who are friends with their parents, don’t want me to, but even if I could pay them a good wage, much as I love these friends, I don’t want them bullying me in my workplace.
— Name and address withheld

A. Recruit some local schoolchildren to give you preliminary assistance in anticipation of the expansion — perhaps even the younger siblings of the graduates you mention? Children of school age are allowed to work 12 hours a week during term time and are not entitled to the national minimum wage, but perhaps £2.50 an hour would be reasonable. In this way you will make the point of exactly how menial is the work you have on offer. You can find the red-tape details on

Q. Retirement to an idyllic cottage in a Dorset village beckons for a close friend. Both he and his wife have worked in finance, and possess skills valuable to a small community. Their forthcoming neighbours include the somewhat imperious wife of a retired senior army officer who has transferred her talents from the garrison to the village which she now commands.

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