Union backs charity sector bodies’ focus on flexible working

Charity sector trade union Community has welcomed a move by National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) and the Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations (ACEVO) to launch a taskforce to look at the role of flexible working.

The move by the organisations follows a rise in home working during the Covid pandemic and increased interest among charities in flexible working arrangements.

This includes hybrid arrangements, sharing time between home and office, as well as four-day weeks and flexible working hours.

Adrian Axtell, national officer for Community said the move is “a vital step forward for the third sector”.

He said: “Over the last year the third sector, often working to support people in hardship, has felt the challenges of the pandemic more acutely. It has frequently been the third sector that has been there picking up the pieces and keeping the country together.

“Having passion for your work and a desire to make positive social change should not come at the expense of being treated fairly and having a healthy work-life balance. This is not a zero-sum game: having both is possible.

“The rise of flexible working is a positive thing. It has been shown to produce happier workers, lower costs and greater productivity. For those with caring or childcare responsibilities, it can be a game changer.

“We’re delighted to see this task force examining how we can best incorporate flexible working into our sector, and believe it is important that unions are the voice for workers on this issue. The pandemic has showed us there are benefits to flexible working - it’s time to make this permanent so we can work to live not live to work."

The ACEVO and NCVO taskforce will explore the role of flexible working, address barriers and share examples of good practice.

This is being supported by recruitment firm Starfish Seach and is chaired by Beckey Hewitt, the former chief executive of Changing Faces and ex-communications director at Girlguiding.

"At a time when we need a diverse pool of exceptional, motivated, passionate leaders more than ever, we urgently need to change our attitude to flexible working," said Hewitt.

Its working group is to meet three times across September and October and is looking for members.

“It will include up to ten members from across the voluntary sector who have a diversity of experiences and views to share,” said a statement from ACEVO.

“The group will report their findings later this year, which will include signposting to key resources on flexible working to support voluntary organisations.”

NCVO interim chief executive Sarah Vibert added: "I know from personal experience, home-schooling two young children while in a charity leadership role during the pandemic, how important flexibility at work can be.

"Genuinely flexible working arrangements that respond to individual circumstances such as those who have caring responsibilities, physical or mental health conditions or to support staff wellbeing more broadly brings huge benefits to individuals and organisations. Flexibility is central to inclusion."

Charities already embracing flexible working

In July Charity Times showcased charities that are already adopting flexible working arrangements after lockdown and as the health crisis eases.

This includes Director of Social Change, which has moved to a four-day week, and St John Ambulance, which is looking to reduce its property portfolio.

Blackbaud’s Future of Work report, which was published earlier this year, found backing among charity staff for flexible and hybrid arrangements. It found that eight out of ten charity workers support working from home more often, but not exclusively. It also found that a fifth of charity workers would like to work mostly from home, while the same proportion favour spending more of their time in the office.

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