I support voluntary and community organisations with information and signposting on a range of matters they need, to run legally and efficiently, and HR issues are in the list of things I get asked.

I don’t know whether this is unique to the voluntary sector, but the nature of our funding means that organisations often get money to set up a project, usually time limited, often requiring appointment of new staff, maybe even a new office base, and very often this new team quickly develops its own strong identity, sometimes in conflict with the employing organisation’s identity. I Even had dealings with one group where the sole project worker was liaising with a local charity, a national charity and a regional steering group and had no idea who she was employed by! (I suggested she look at her contract of employment.)

Some organisations aren’t very good at instilling a sense of corporate unity in these projects (the whole “corporate” thing tends to be anathema to a lot of people in this sector) and you can end up with little mini republics forming. I’m trying to get over the message that the managers of these organsiations need to stop this republicanism happening in the first place, and where it does emerge, they need to nip it sharply in the bud.

An example is a project in an organisation I support, where there is a team of staff employed by a charity to work with a network of people in the community, and they seem to have developed the idea that they are a separate organisation from the Charity employing them. The employing organisation has tried to deal with it by the senior member of staff attending staff meetings and telling them how it is. They’ve made some improvements in terms of internal compliance with systems and procedures, but the problem still arises when dealing with other organisations and staff try to dissassociate themselves with their employer.

It seems to me they are at (if not past!) the point where staff who persistently challenge and undermine their employer’s authority and do so publicly, need to be taken through the disciplinary procedure. Any guidance and in particular any points of employment law to back me up would be much appreciated, as well as any suggetions about how employers can avoid getting into this in the first place (the nature of our funding and project working being unavoidable). Many thanks.
Jane Thompson

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