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Working in partnership with the charity sector

Adrian Axtell
Adrian Axtell
21st January 2021

The charity sector plays a vital and expanding role in British society. In 2019, over 150,000 charity organisations in the UK employed just under a million people. The sector employs people from all walks of life and with a plethora of different skills, united in the goals of helping people and making the world a better place.

We know that in the third sector, workers are often required to go beyond the call of duty to support their cause. This can mean experiencing conditions or expectations that most wouldn’t be comfortable with from the private sector.  We also know that due to the coronavirus outbreak many third sector organisations are under huge pressure with budgets stretched tighter despite increasing demand.

There are three pillars to Community’s approach to working within the charity sector: partnership working, community focus, and skills and training. A partnership approach has been at the core of the way Community works for decades. We fundamentally believe that although employers and employees sometimes disagree and have differing priorities, they are united by a fundamental interest in the sustainable success of that organisation.

For charities we know that means constant focus on delivering for your beneficiaries, and we know that you have passionate and motivated staff who want to better society. But we also believe that better terms and conditions at work help your staff do even better.

We know that employees of small charities may feel uncomfortable raising issues, but if these issues go unaddressed employees can become disaffected and workplace problems can grow. It is our partnership working approach, being sat around the table as we meet the challenges ahead together, that allows us to continually advocate for our members.

A community focus is pivotal to everything we do – we recognise that trade unionism should not be confined to the workplace. We represent workers not just at work but also in the community, as we know that issues affect people outside of work affect them at work too.

One such example is our campaigning on mental health in the workplace which has informed the public on the importance of taking care of our mental health and tackling stigma, as well as given our members the opportunity to become Mental Health Awareness Champions and First Aiders whilst working with employers to support their employee’s mental health at work.

The modern economy requires workers to reskill and upskill to adapt to changing technologies and the demands of their role. Employers across the country face a skills challenge, and charities are no exception. Workers have to keep updating their skills to remain productive at work.

We are committed to helping our members develop their skills. Since 1997 our learning team has supported over 37,000 people, including by establishing workplace learning centres and signing learning agreements with employers. Our professional training is available completely free to Community members.

A recognised union and a unionised workforce is better for the staff and better for the charity, and we continue to sign recognition agreements with more and more third sector organisations. Tessa Willow is Chief Executive of Sahir House, a Liverpool based charity that provides HIV support, information and training, who have recently signed a recognition agreement with Community.

She says: “Sahir House welcomes the new agreement with Community.  We have always championed employee rights, realising that organisations need to go beyond just minimum standards and legal requirements if they are aiming to be a good employer.  Here in the voluntary sector, our services are key to the communities we serve.  In this climate our sector and client groups are vulnerable and it’s important to network with all partners to continue the vital work”

Community understands the values of small charities and the dedication and passion that their staff bring to the table. From the brave service providers on the front line to the vital back-office support staff, fundraisers, marketing and administrators, Community is proud to support a growing number of workers in the charity sector. We stand side-by-side with them, looking out for them when they’re in work and when they’re not.

We recognise the ethos and drivers of third sector organisations and their workforces, and we want to work with them to ensure that they are using practices and policies that protect their workforce and achieve success for us all.

For more information on our work in the third sector, or to learn more about recognition agreements with us, contact: thirdsector@community-tu.org