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When you start your operations as a nonprofit, you may not have enough money to offer someone a full-time engagement. Or maybe you feel uncomfortable becoming an employer right out of the gate. If that’s the case, you could try to team up with a similar organization an offer someone a labour contract jointly. So what if you want to share staff with another nonprofit like this?

What does this look like?

Sharing staff is called secondment. So, someone can be employed by another organization and be seconded at your organization for a specific task and specific period of time. For instance, 2 days per week for half a year for project abc. The other organization signs an employment contract with the person, for example for five days per week. For three of these days per week, the person works at that organization. And for the other two days, they work for you. The other organization is the formal employer. They pay the full (five day per week) salary. And you compensate them for the two days a week the person works for you.

Contracting

This way of arranging work, responsibilities and payment requires a precise contract. One that clarifies arrangements and expectations for everyone involved. Usually, parties draw up a contract between the two organizations. And the individual who is seconded then signs this, too. In this contract you agree on how many days the person will be working with you and in what role. You agree on what labour conditions and benefits apply. You agree on the duration of the agreement. And you agree on a price: what will you pay to the other organization for salary costs, tax and social insurance, benefits and other issues as agreed? Finally, you agree on how the other organization will invoice you for these costs.

Equal standards & equal treatment

Make sure you understand the conditions of work and benefits offered at the other organization, the formal employer of your team member. If you have a Code of Conduct that is very important to you, make sure that the person signs your Code of Conduct for agreement. Similarly, if you offer your team a token amount for phone costs, and the other organization does not provide this, add this (pro-rated) to the agreement. In other words, make sure that the seconded person is treated the same way and meets the same standards as your own team.

What to look out for

Think about a good confidentiality clause, so that the seconded person does not share your confidential operational information with their other boss and vice versa. It’s good to keep in mind what happens at the end of the agreed period. What will happen to the person then? Will you be able to continue this arrangement? Will one of the two organizations offer them a full-time contract on their own? Would you like to take over the role of employer? Would you like to be the one offering the person a full-time contract at your organization?

Think in scenarios

Think about these issues beforehand and agree between the two organizations what to do in each of the scenarios you can come up with. Consider possible consequences, in case one organization wants to keep the person for themselves while the other would prefer to continue sharing. This could mean one of the two organizations needs to start a recruitment procedure, and that might be time-consuming and possibly costly for them.

What about the seconded person?

For the seconded person, the big advantage is that when resources are combined between two organizations, they end up with more paid working hours. But this situation can also create specific challenges for them. And it is good if you are aware of that. Even better if you can think of potentially challenging situations beforehand and can create clarity on how to act if they occur in the contract or annexes.

It is not easy to be loyal to two bosses at the same time, especially if they are operating in the same field or community. It might be hard to always be aware of the different interests of the two organizations. Two smaller jobs can also create extra workload, and extra challenges in finishing tasks in time. Different rules and customs may also cause confusion. It’s important to be aware of these potential issues and to create an atmosphere in which the person feels free to share challenges when they happen.

My 3 Tips

Here are my 3 tips for you:

  1. Consider all possible conflicts of interest during and after the agreement period. What could happen? And what is the desired response of the contract parties? What are risks you need to discuss and defuse before they materialize?
  2. Keep in mind that secondment might be challenging for the seconded person. Loyalty to two bosses at the same time can cause conflicting needs. Make sure you have excellent and frequent communication with them, so that you are sure to notice if a challenge comes up.
  3. Make sure to discuss all arrangements and scenarios beforehand. And that you clarify them in a contract and annexes, that both organizations and the seconded person sign. This may require more time and more discussions than a regular employment contract.

Have you seen my checklists?

If you are interested in checking all areas of agreement between you and a staff member and in organizing your staff files, you can get my free Staff File Completeness Checklist here.

If you are interested in learning more about the legal aspects in differentiating between employees and contractors, get my free Contracting 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.