In my previous blog I spoke about contracting labour. Whether to employ someone on your payroll or to hire a self-employed external contractor. The choice of contract type is not purely legal. There are also values involved. What would a good employer do? What suits your organizational principles and values, and the role you have in your community?
The same is true for the substance of your contracts. There are some elements that you need to incorporate in your contract for it to meet legal standards and requirements. And then there are other elements that you want to add. For instance, based on your values and the quality and integrity of the services you want to provide as organization. These arrangements are usually not part of the main contract but are added as annexes. So, which are important annexes to consider when contracting?
Code of Conduct
In a Code of Conduct you can describe your values and how your team applies these to handle dilemmas to do with ethics and integrity in their day-to-day work. The Code of Conduct must at the same time be clear and specific, see below. But it must also allow for future insights and developments to find their place without you needing to break open all your contracts. This is because ethics and integrity are concepts that are constantly evolving. This is especially the case in the nonprofit arena, where private individuals are (often) working with public money for the public good. As public perceptions of ethical dilemmas and integrity change and evolve, so must the approach of the nonprofits involved.
Example – safeguarding
The Code of Conduct describes what principles will guide the work and all the people you hire, in whatever capacity or legal form, to do this work. You describe what approach your organization takes towards the people it works for. This is important because many nonprofits work with vulnerable individuals, groups or communities. Maybe your target group consists of people that are marginalized. Or maybe you work on an issue that is taboo. Or perhaps you work on human rights topics the government does not approve of. You want these people to feel safe with you. Seeing your policies for that and knowing that everyone working for you signs for these, can help make them feel safe.
Example – bribes
Other issues that a Code of Conduct often addresses are to do with bribery and corruption. For instance, a Code of Conduct can make clear that your team members are not allowed to receive presents for their work from people they work for. Or only presents with a value below a certain (small) amount. Such stipulations might be of interest to your donors as well.
Most contracts include articles referring to confidentiality of information acquired in the course of the work. Nevertheless, some organizations add a separate Annex where the contracted person signs specifically for non-disclosure. Organizations that do this are mostly those where safety of the team and its operations is at risk. For example, they must keep the identities of the people working there secret to keep these people and their families safe. This may sound over the top to you. But, unfortunately, this is reality for more organizations than you might expect. I myself have been engaged in at least three such nonprofit teams, meeting many more. In such cases, donors often also insist on such additional agreement referring specifically to anything to do with the programme they fund and their identity as well.
Use of equipment
A more practical Annex to a contract is one that specifies the arrangements for use of equipment. This can be relevant to you if your employee is taking the organization’s laptop back home to work from there, for instance. In this Annex you agree on the rules for this, including liability for damages or theft. This Annex is almost never used vis-à-vis a self-employed contractor, as they usually bring their own equipment.
My top tip for you:
Make sure that your Code of Conduct is a live document. People should not be able to get away with signing off on it, you must make sure everyone is one the same page as to what integrity means to your operations and relations and how that works in practice. Make sure that developments and new insights can be incorporated.
Have you seen my checklists?
If you are interested in learning more about the legal aspects in differentiating between employees and contractors, get my free Contracting Checklist here.
If you are interested in organizing your staff files, you can get my free Staff File Completeness Checklist here.
Want to know more and ask questions?
If you want to discuss this more – jump into the Facebook group and get input from a wide range of peers and from myself!
Here is how you can join my free Facebook group
You can join my free Facebook group how to become a professional and resilient nonprofit with Suzanne Bakker here. In this group we will create a safe space for open exchange and discussion on potentially sensitive topics like boards, nonprofit management, fundraising, etc.