David Ogilvy, Partner and Elizabeth Bremner, Associate at Turcan Connell discuss some of the more common employment issues for Charities. Watch David and Elizabeth discuss employment issues for Charities.
David: "Charities as employers are affected by the whole and ever-increasing range of employment legislation, both in the UK and in the European Union. However, I would say there is one particular area where charities need to be particularly cautious. Many charities in the UK rely upon not just paid members of staff, but also volunteers. The distinction between a volunteer in law and an employee in law is very, very important."
Elizabeth: "There is also an exemption in the national minimum wage legislation that applies to volunteers. It's a very narrow exemption, but it provides that charities, where they have true volunteers, do not need to pay the minimum wage to them. So that is something for charities to be aware of – they need to be familiar with the definition in the legislation. All employers, including charities, need to be wary of claims for unfair dismissal and discrimination. The discrimination claims tend to be those of the highest value. They also pose reputational risks to charitable clients or charitable organisations – especially those in the health sector."
David: "The legislation regarding the right to be paid not less than minimum wage and the legislation relating to what is, in law, 'working time' is becoming ever-increasingly difficult and complicated."
Elizabeth: "Amongst our charity clients, we tend to have organisations which employ carers and that gives rise to a risk in terms of minimum wage claims and working time claims, especially when carers are working overnight and are able to sleep on the premises. Then questions arise to whether they are in fact working, and whether they should be paid."
David: "Some charities could be facing claims for unpaid wages going back five or six years in circumstances where employees feel they have been working at night, when they have been sleeping and, therefore, have not been receiving the minimum wage. Well, the marvellous thing, in our experience of working with charities, is that they want to do the right thing. This is a feature of the sector; people go into charities and work for charities because they are passionate about doing something and it is usually something that is right. That philosophy follows through in our experience when it comes to treating staff fairly. There are, of course, very good reputational reasons why charities would want to treat their staff fairly, as well as financial reasons, but we find that there is a will, and usually when there's a will there's a way."
Elizabeth: "Many organisations tend to replicate the enhanced terms offered by the NHS. So, for example, many organisations may offer enhanced sick pay for periods of long-term absence. This, although I can understand the purpose behind it for the organisation in recruitment, it can prove expensive and costly for charitable organisations when faced with an employee who is absent for a long period of time."
David: "In our experience, many employees actually opt-out of large public sector organisations, such as National Health Service Trusts, in order to work for charities where the terms and conditions are maybe not as attractive, and an example of that would be pension. But they opt out for cultural and philosophical reasons, because they want to work for the charity and help it achieve its goals."