Pension advice for small charities

2015 05 01 Clerks Reference booksPension Advice

There was a time when the only reference books found in a meeting house were similar to those seen at the Clerks’ table at Yearly Meeting. Over the years, as many Area Meetings have registered as charities, this has changed and now legal advice is as necessary as spiritual. While pensions are mentioned in the bible, it doesn’t qualify as helpful advice.

At the Managing Meeting Houses course last month there were several anxious questions about pensions.

  1. Do they apply to all employees?
  2. Do we have to set one up for our volunteer wardens?
  3. What about ‘flexible’ employees with limited contracts – often known as zero-hour contracts?

Obviously, I’d recommend seeking professional advice if you have any concerns. The guidance given here is a summary of what I’ve found useful, and supplied to my clients on request.

  1. Yes – every employer with at least one eligible member of staff must enrol them onto a workplace pension scheme, and then contribute towards it.
  2. Volunteer wardens aren’t employees and so don’t qualify for auto enrolment. You aren’t able (as a meeting) to contribute into a pension for them as this is seen as payment in kind. That creates problems for their employment status. From the very helpful gov.uk website: Workers employed and paid by the charity for the work they do are eligible for pensions if they:
    • earn more than the current minimum wage
    • are aged between 22 and the state pension age
    • work in the UK

    ‘Workers’ include contractors and agency staff, as well as people working under an apprenticeship. Volunteers and unpaid staff are not eligible.

  3. Contractors who are on zero hour contracts and work in other places may not qualify for pensions. You may need to take legal advice regarding the contracts you use and your employment and recruitment policies.

The Charity Finance Group (CFG) has produced a useful guide to pensions – downloadable from that link. The publication hopes to provide some guidance for the 22,000+ charities, each with less than 25 members of staff, who are due to be auto-enrolling their staff between 1st January 2016 and 1st April 2017.

The guide is easy to read with advice on how to prepare, implement, and build the necessary processes. It urges you to plan early and budget for additional costs created by auto-enrolment.

Fire Drills During Meeting for Worship

2013 07 15 fire truck 2Fire!

Fire Alarms and the necessary Fire equipment and signage are all an important part of any building’s safety plan – and we always hope they won’t be needed. However, if the worst happened – would your meeting know how to respond?

Mount Street, Manchester recently held a fire drill during Meeting for Worship. Although there were several mishaps, and originally many people were upset, by the end they had learnt so much it was decided this should be done again.

Have your Premises and Elders sat down to work out an evacuation plan? Appointed marshals to ensure the building is empty, count everyone out and to ring the Fire Brigade?

Consideration of where to meet – and when to reunite children and parents are two important issues.

Are there any people who need special consideration?

  • Is anyone hard of hearing who wouldn’t hear the alarm for example?
  • Is there anyone who would need help in getting out of the building for any reason?
  • Does your Children’s Meeting meet in a different part of the building? If so do the helpers know where to go and have enough people to ensure everyone can leave safely?

We’re not alone in needing to do this – Ship of Fools has a thread about other churches who have done drills during services. One suggestion was to hold the drill at the end of the services so everyone was still there but the evacuation practice was done. Another was to do it at different times of the month to cover any changes to routine.

Reminding us that this risk is real one post commented that there was a priest who started each Sunday service with information about fire exits as their previous church had burned down.

  • Have you ever held a fire drill during Meeting for Worship?
  • Would you consider it? If not – why not?

Managing Meeting Houses Conference 2016

2011 01 Front of building

Managing Meeting Houses

Managing meeting houses can be a lonely job – it is easy to feel that you are alone in dealing with matters. It is equally important to ensure that you don’t spend time re-inventing the wheel.

This annual conference organised jointly by Quaker Life and Woodbrooke is a great chance for new wardens, trustees and premises committee members to learn about their new role. But there is always enough sharing of good practice, tips and tricks for a more experienced person to take away too.

Sessions ranged from those essential nuts and bolts of Employment and Health & Safety to more inspirational – what is special about your Meeting House? We considered them as a place of worship, as part of the local community and as a venue for customers.

Employment Matters

Pensions – especially for smaller meetings with only one worker, or many part time workers were discussed. Friends House recommends The People’s Pension which several participants said had worked well, but we were also encouraged to apply earlier rather than later. There is a worry that these suppliers will fill their quotas of small charities and some meetings may miss out.

Employment – especially ways to decide if someone is actually employed or truly self-employed was a perennial favourite. I’ve discussed this before here – and my favourite definition is from another of these conferences in regards to wardens.

“If your meeting could arrive Sunday morning to find the building locked up tight with a note pinned to the door saying, “I’ve gone to Peru.” And deal with this without any real hassle – then your warden is a volunteer…

If your meeting couldn’t cope then it is more likely that your warden should be an employee.”

The importance of all meeting houses being properly organised – with back up for wardens and resident friends was mentioned several times. Ensuring there are contingency plans in case of sickness and to cover regular days off were both stressed as necessary to prevent burn out and stress.

Laughter greeted the suggestion that members of Premises and Trustees should do any job they were asking someone else to do – to have a more complete idea of the specification they should give as well as some idea of how long the job should take. Several attendees gave examples of how doing this changed their time expectations, and their appreciation for how quickly (and well) a professional can do a job!

Employers’ resources and support

The transfer and rewrite of the new Employers’ & Wardens resources and support pages from the old quaker.org site to the new has been completed. There are newly updated template documents and of course more guidance can be found both here and in chapter 13 of Quaker Faith & Practice.

As always it was a pleasure to stay at Woodbrooke. I made sure to get outside into the gardens, to walk the labyrinth and enjoy catching up with old friends, as well as meeting new people.

If you’ve not been before – or haven’t been for some time do look out for the next in January 2017.

Reading Quaker faith &Practice Chapter 2: Approaches to God – Worship & Prayer

Qf&P stones Chapter 2 Approaches to God - Worship & PrayerReading Quaker Faith & Practice Chapter 2: Approaches to God – Worship & Prayer

This chapter is one that most Quakers I’ve spoken to have dipped into.

Not surprisingly ‘Quakers and God’ is a continually popular Quaker Quest session.

There are four sections

  • Experience and nature of worship
  • Silent Waiting
  • Prayer
  • Meeting for Worship

and ninety-two passages, quite a lot to read in 31 days, but fourteen which contain the word “LIGHT” so they are in my current Qf&p journal. I reread through my journalling, and worked through the four remaining.

My word for 2016 is BELIEVE – I was interested to see that although BELIEVE appears ten times in Chapter 2, there are only three (2.24, 2.57 & 2.58) that also included LIGHT.

I’m looking forward to pondering and journalling on the remaining seven in this year’s journal.

  • Are you taking part in this reading project?
  • Is your meeting arranging a monthly discussion group?

This post is part of my Reading Quaker Faith & Practice series – click here for the introduction and explanation or here for all posts in this series.

A Living Wage Must Pay Enough To Live On

Living Wage.indd

The Living Wage Campaign

Lancaster Quaker Meeting are tasked to take the lead nationally within the Society of Friends to promote awareness about the payment of The Living Wage.

As part of their work they have produced an information pack, which can be downloaded from their website, which includes the poster above and others.

Pay Compare is an independent, not-for-profit organisation funded entirely by donations, founded by Stuart Hill, a member of Quakers in Business, who works for Pay Compare on a voluntary basis.

This is what Stuart says about it:

‘We invite business leaders and owners to lead the way towards a fairer, better economy by publishing their organisation’s pay ratios at the website www.paycompare.org.uk for everyone to see and compare. In doing so you receive the Pay Compare Mark which can be proudly displayed to show your commitment to pay transparency – a consideration promoted in Q&B’s Good Business Ethics at Work book. Be in the vanguard of organisations who are empowering citizens and investors in this way, including Triodos, TSB, Charity and Unity Trust Banks, numerous social enterprises and charities, and a growing number of local councils and private companies. Those not active in business can take action as Ratio Requesters by simply visiting www.paycompare.org.uk to tweet, email or write to any employer to ask them to publish their pay ratios at Pay Compare. Together, we can help pay ratio reporting become common practice in the UK so that we can all favour those who pay fair.’

  • Does your business, employer or supplier publish its pay ratios?
  • Find out, and if not suggest they do!

Pay Compare is a company limited by guarantee and registered in England as No. 8974596

 

‘Reading Quaker faith & practice’ conference at Woodbrooke

Woodbrooke Conference & Quaker Study centre

All area meetings in Britain have been invited to nominate a Friend to participate in the ‘Reading Quaker faith & practice‘ conference at Woodbrooke, 22nd to 24th April 2016.

The conference will provide an opportunity to:

  • Learn from one another’s experience of participating in the Reading Quaker faith & practice programme so far.
  • Gain ideas and resources for setting up and inspiring groups in meetings.
  • Share reflections and insights emerging from existing groups.
  • Understand more about the origins, purposes and development of the current book.

The conference welcomes participants from all area meetings, including those which have not yet decided to participate in the Reading Quaker faith & practice project.

Every Area meeting is being asked to nominate a Friend or attender who has one or more of these qualities:

  • is involved in an existing Reading Quaker faith & practice group
  • is willing to promote the programme around the area meeting
  • has a concern for spiritual learning in the area
  • will be able to communicate with others about what they have learned

If you would be interested in attending the conference on behalf of your area meeting, please talk to your AM clerk or nominations committee. For more information about the conference contact: qfp@quaker.org.uk

I have found the process of reading from a specific chapter and then discussing it with others (including members of my local meeting) such a benefit this year. Combined with my Qf&p journal it has been both inspiring and challenging.

 

Stone Cleaning – before and after

2003_0199 Banner at FH Trish Carn watermarked

copyright Trish Carn, used with permission.

Stone Cleaning at Friends House

While looking for photos of the banners at Friends House, I was struck by the difference between the 2003 photo (above) and the 2015 photo (below).

Hard to believe they are of the same building.

2015-08-18 banners at FH Trish Carn 2 watermarked

copyright Trish Carn, used with permission.

Isn’t it nice to realise that the money we spent on cleaning the stone work at Friends House made such a difference?

You can just see the gilding done in the carving as well in the bottom photo.

Building a Fairer World

2015-08-18 banners at FH Trish Carn 2 watermarked

Copyright Trish Carn, used with permission


After all the long term struggles to get banners on Friends House with Camden council, I have so enjoyed seeing them go up – temporarily and now permanently. Such a good form of outreach and of brightening up the neighbourhood. Lovely to see them as I exit Euston station.

23.13 Seeking to live at all times in a divine order of life, Quakers have always counted social service part of Christianity. In fidelity to the genius of their inward experience, they have set themselves the task of developing their own spiritual sensitiveness to the light of truth; and have then resolutely confronted the unawakened conscience of the world with the demands of the new light, and have borne witness to it with undaunted patience.

This has resulted in progressive enlightenment for themselves, and in the slow but sure triumph of many of the causes of which they have become champions. The reform of the criminal law, the improvement of prisons, the suppression of the slave-trade and of the institution of slavery, the abolition of the opium traffic, the protection of native races, the repeal of the state regulation of vice, the emancipation of women, have all been powerfully helped to victory – however incomplete – by Quaker action on these lines, side by side with that of other noble-hearted reformers.

Other great ills, patent or latent in our civilisation, have yet to be overcome, perhaps have yet to be perceived; the old philanthropy has to deepen into something more vital if the full demands made by the teaching of Christ are to be obeyed; but the faithful following of the Light that illumines the alert conscience still seems to many of us the truest way for securing this deeper experience and for recognising and combating the evils that menace social and international life.

William Charles Braithwaite, 1919

During the discussions one of my groups has been having regarding reading Qf&p, the comment was made that short passages can spark inspiration, more than slogging through some of the longer passages.

I see where that is coming from – and some of my favourites are quite short. However, there is also a power in the slow unfolding of a message and the explanations of attitudes and theories.

This passage featured in several conversations around here over the last week. That last thought that ‘other great ills, patent or latent in our civilisation… have yet to be perceived….’ is one that stops me and haunts my thoughts.

What great ills are we not aware of, or have not yet started to struggle to overcome? Climate change? Housing inequality?

The ‘yet’ brings me hope for both the perceiving and the overcoming.

This post is part of my Reading Quaker Faith & Practice series – click here for the introduction and explanation or here for all posts in this series.

Everything can happen….

2015 09 26 everything is possible23.32 is one of my favourite passages – Ursula Franklin talks about the her enjoyment of sitting in silence at the beginning of meeting knowing that everything can happen.

It always makes me think of an encounter with a homeless ex-catholic priest while volunteering at the Quaker Centre at Friends House. A large part of the role is to meet the public and discuss aspects of Quaker beliefs and history with them.

Suddenly, in the middle of a personal history monologue, my visitor leant forward and putting an arm on the desk said earnestly,

“I have been meaning to ask you…. do you go to Meeting?”,

after I confirmed that I went most Sundays, he continued.

“So…. do you have miracles every Sunday?”

I don’t remember exactly what I said, something along the lines of ‘not every Sunday’. But ever since, that question has been mulled over on a regular basis. Remembering the idea of all days being created equal, I’ve felt the question could have easily been: “Do I have miracles happen every day?”

Maintaining that expectant waiting that I go into Meeting for Worship throughout the week would be tricky but I think returning to it regularly would also be worthwhile. Something to consider the next time the days start to blur together through work or family stresses.

So – what miracles have happened in your life?

Do you look for them?

This post is part of my Reading Quaker Faith & Practice series – click here for the introduction and explanation or here for all posts in this series.

Qf&p Chapter 23: Social Responsibility

2015 04 12 Qf&P stones Chapter 23

This chapter is the first in the calendar to read through.

It contains the following sections:

  • Faith in Action
  • Corporate Responsibility
  • Social Responsibility – poverty and house; slavery; torture; discrimination and disadvantage
  • The Individual and the Community – work and economic affairs; education
  • Friends and state authority – conscription; crime and punishment

Fifteen passages have the word ‘Light’ in and therefore are part of my current Qf&P journal.

I had already journalled several earlier in the year, but will be contemplating the remaining nine throughout this month. Exploring the chapter through discussion with my groups and reading through some of the other Quaker blog posts as well.

I’m looking forward to the reading, as this isn’t a chapter that is as heavily thumbed as some others – but with 103 passages, plus an afterword this is a full month of reading.

 

This post is part of my Reading Quaker Faith & Practice series – click here for the introduction and explanation or here for all posts in this series.