Looking back at the past year, it has been a busy time for HR teams and anyone working in the charity employment arena.
Managing the intricacies of furlough brought with it many lessons and challenges and its impact is undeniable, keeping many in work who may otherwise have lost their jobs as a result of the pandemic. Those working in the employment sector expected to see a significant rise in the number of charities restructuring and beginning redundancy processes as a result of pandemic hardships, but fortunately this accelerated trend does not seem to have materialised.
Perhaps the furlough scheme is to thank for this, or perhaps the charity sector is more resilient than it was feared. The scheme’s legacy is yet to be decided and it will doubtless be analysed and debated for years to come.
The pandemic has brought with it some other, unexpected consequences in employment terms that we have observed at Stone King over the past 12 months.
- The challenges of the pandemic have exposed weaknesses in charities, particularly in relation to employment arrangements. We have seen a number of charities reviewing and updating internal arrangements to make them more transparent and robust. For example, a number of clients working in group structures have made permanent changes to their secondment arrangements.
- In light of Brexit, a perhaps surprising trend we have seen this year is an increase in the number of international charities deciding to make a base in the UK and moving employees to the UK. Again, this may be caused in part by weaknesses in internal structures being exposed during the pandemic, or it may simply be because of new opportunities in the UK.
- An issue that has come into sharp focus – in some cases – is that relationships between trustees and the senior executive have become strained. Again, the increased pressure of the pandemic may have exacerbated an already tense relationship, or it may have triggered a breakdown in relationships. A breakdown in relations is always difficult to manage, but the starting point would be to establish whether the relationship can be repaired, for example, by agreeing working practices and remit moving forward, or engaging in work place mediation. In more extreme cases, a parting of the ways may be unavoidable, whether that be trustees or senior executive leaving. In either case, careful planning will be required to ensure the stability of the charity moving forward, as well as managing any reputational risk. Trustees should carefully consider whether a Serious Incident Report would be appropriate in such circumstances.
The year ahead
Looking forward, in 2022 we expect many charities to review their offering to staff in light of the last two years, adapting their employment policies and structures to fit a dramatically increased level of home and hybrid working practices. Charities may also take the opportunity, where appropriate, to widen the recruitment net to include potential employees and trustees who are not in the immediate vicinity of operations.
Diversity and inclusion will remain high on the agenda and charities must ensure they are promoting it across their organisation. Charities who are keen to embrace the diversity agenda can look at the opportunity to take positive action, although care will need to be taken to avoid positive discrimination which is unlawful. So, for example, action can be taken to target recruitment campaigns towards under-represented groups, but a candidate cannot be selected solely on the grounds of their protected characteristic. It is important that charities also focus on diversity and inclusion in relation to the retention of employees, as well as recruitment practices. This can include looking at workplace culture, together with training and promotion opportunities.