Charities are still feeling the effects of COVID-19. While no strangers to funding cuts, the combination of an increase in demand for services against a significant decrease in income has hit the sector hard. 

With lockdown forcing the cancellation of fundraising events and causing charity shops to close, it’s thought that the funding gap between income and expenditure could reach a staggering £10 billion, meaning more difficult decisions lie ahead.


At the same time, charities still have obligations to fulfil. Health and safety, for example, is an area that cannot be sacrificed in the interest of saving money, and those in the third sector will need to find sensible, proportionate, “reasonably practicable” ways to maintain their duty of care. Like all employers, charities must also continue to manage their staff in line with the law and best practice, and with COVID presenting many difficult employee-related issues to for organisations to contend with, this will prove an ongoing challenge.

So, against this background, how can Ellis Whittam help charities remain resilient, continue to operate safely, and fulfil their legal responsibilities in 2021? And why is now the right time to enlist support?

1. Supporting the transition back to work

While we don’t know exactly when lockdown will be lifted, charities need to prepare for bringing staff back into the office – if that is your intention – when the time comes. People are now accustomed to working from home, so you may encounter some resistance and an influx of flexible working requests, especially if employees can prove that remote working hasn’t impacted their ability to do their job, or perhaps even made them more productive. Dealing with conflict and having these conversations can be incredibly difficult, especially if your managers aren’t properly trained to do so effectively.

At Ellis Whittam, we help employers to manage these situations confidently and compliantly. Whether you need advice on an employee dispute, dealing with flexible working requests, or any other aspect of the employment relationship, our fixed-fee service gives you access to unlimited support from your own small team of legally-qualified professionals. That way, you can talk through your situation, quickly identify the best course of action, reduce the potential for legal missteps, and stop issues from dragging on longer than they need to.

From a health and safety perspective, it’s important to remember that trustees and management have a legal duty to consider and manage risks to its clients and employees. Safety will naturally be a top priority when bringing people back into the workplace or resuming your usual services and fundraising activities. Our Health & Safety support is designed to help you meet your responsibilities and maintain safety and compliance through dedicated consultant support and simple risk management software.

2. Getting to grips with the Good Work Plan

The Good Work Plan came into effect on 6 April 2020, right in the midst of the first national lockdown. This introduced certain changes to the employment relationship. For example, employers must now:

  • Include additional information within employees’ contracts (existing staff will be able to request a new one, which you must provide within one month);
  • Provide all staff with a written statement of terms on or before the first date of employment (as opposed to within two months from the date they start work); and
  • Use a 52-week average when calculating holiday pay (instead of a 12-week average).

Understandably, employers’ attention was elsewhere at the time the legislation came into effect, but you should ensure you have made the necessary adaptations. This is primarily an administrative inconvenience, rather than changing anything too fundamental, but it’s important to get it right in order to avoid issues down the line.

Our fixed-fee service includes making sure your contracts are robust, compliant and offer maximum protection and flexibility for your organisation. We can review and update your existing contracts or, if necessary, issue you new ones for each category of worker so that you can be sure they are fit for purpose. We can also keep you up to date with any future changes that may impact how you operate.

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3. Restructuring your workforce

Sadly, according to a report by the Charity Finance Group published in August last year, 58% of charities said they needed to cut back on services, resulting in a projected 60,000 job losses. Meanwhile, nearly one in 10 large charities said they anticipate reducing their headcount by up to half.

At the time, 19% had already made redundancies, and separate research by charity leaders body ACEVO and the Centre for Mental Health revealed that seven in 10 charities could cut jobs over the next year.

Did you know? Ellis Whittam has provided valuable support to UK charities for over a decade and is proud to be a trusted partner of ACEVO.

With the furlough scheme set to end on 30 April, the future remains uncertain. One thing we know for sure is that any decision to downsize your workforce requires careful consideration and employers must follow a fair process. At Ellis Whittam, we relieve some of this stress and reduce legal risk through pragmatic, step-by-step redundancy and restructuring support.

Linked to this, having to scale back your team may leave you without in-house HR or health and safety support. These areas will still need to be managed, and outsourcing provides a cost-effective solution. Our Employment Law support is typically 45% cheaper than a traditional law firm and, because our fees are fixed, you have better budget control and can utilise funding well rather than incurring unexpected legal costs. What’s more, our costs are based on the number of employees you have and won’t increase even if your charity grows – so if you have recently scaled back your workforce, now is the optimum time to take up our service.

Get in touch

For more information about our support for the voluntary sector, including help with any of the issues mentioned in this article, call 0345 226 8393 or request your free consultation using the button below.

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Call us on 0345 226 8393.

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