What I Learned When I Quit My Job With No Plan, Part TwoRead part one Here.

Not long ago, I quit my job.

When I told my housemates, I spent the first five minutes hastily promising them I had money for rent. By the time they’d heard the full story of why I chose to quit, they didn’t seem to mind. They told me not to worry about it. They said, though they’re happy I wasn’t risking our house, they supported my decision. That I did the right thing.

I said I hoped so.

I used to work in charity fundraising. I would organise teams of street collectors to go out and raise money for good causes. I’d met a lot of the people the money benefited and it made my job really rewarding.

And then we ran into some trouble. A handful of fundraisers left and we had trouble replacing them. We weren’t pulling in a lot of money and instead of listening to anything the team leaders advised, HR decided to cut costs by not paying fundraisers. In the time I worked there, no fewer than three members of staff were not paid at all, and when they left upper management just stopped answering their calls.

Staff were often paid late with no warning. Not a single member of staff was given a contract, payslips or a P45, all of which employers are obliged to provide by law.

It was my job, as the connection between fundraisers and management, to convince staff that it was worth them staying. That contracts and payslips were coming. That their pay would be through in a couple of days at the most, that nothing could be done.

But after a while I stopped believing that there were problems at the bank. No matter how often I spoke to upper management, things just didn’t change. The charity itself hadn’t received donations in months, but the staff weren’t getting paid either. I was never offered an explanation about where the money had gone aside from ‘problems with the bank’. I was once told a ‘direct debit’ had taken £200 out of the company account, but was never told what that money was for.

I got sick of hearing one thing and seeing another.

I was no longer willing to tell people things would get better. I didn’t believe they would.

So I left.

Around looking for another job, I looked a little bit into employment law. I looked into what employers are allowed to do. I looked into whether it was different for charities.

If a charity has chosen to pay its staff, it has to comply with the same employment laws as any other organisation. That means providing contracts, payslips with every wage payment and a P45 when a staff member leaves. It also means that not paying staff at the agreed time is a breach of contract.

When this happens, it is generally advised to sort out the issues within the organisation. I trusted that the woman in charge of the charity wasn’t aware that fundraisers were being treated like this. When I contacted her, she seemed eager to meet with me to resolve things.

I understood that she was a busy woman, but I felt that the issue was urgent, so explained in my messages to her that the man in charge of the fundraising aspect of her organisation was breaking the law.

She told me almost instantly that she would terminate her contract with him.

Then fundraisers went out the next day.

The man who took over my job is a close friend of mine. I’d kept him updated on what I’d been told and when he was sent out to work he was confused. He spent that morning on the phone to the man in charge of fundraising and the woman in charge of the charity, but couldn’t get a clear story out of either of them. Both of them told him to keep people working.

We were both disappointed that she didn’t do anything. That she had lied to me directly about the action she would take.

I messaged her again and got no reply.

The man who took over my job talked to the remaining fundraisers. He explained my situation and my concerns. I got in touch with them, too, and gave them all the information I have – everything I’d found online about employment law, every message I had in which my ex-boss had admitted to late payments and non-existent documents.

A lot of the staff quit then. A lot of them offered to send me messages in which my ex-boss had also admitted to breaches of employment law. One of them forwarded me a message explaining why he’d paid her in euros that week instead of pounds.

The same girl found a review online of someone who had ‘worked’ with him before and, after a few days in his company, suspected he was little more than a con man.

My last payment from them is still not through. The three people in charge of the company are ignoring my messages.

But no fewer than five ex-members of staff have joined me in reporting them to the authorities, enquiring at both the Citizen’s Advice Bureau (where we were directed by the police) and submitting complaints to the Charity Commission, the government authority set up to ensure that established charities are legitimate and act within the confines of the law.

Disappointing though it was to feel like the corruption and incompetence went further than I’d guessed, it was reassuring to know that I wasn’t alone in objecting to it.

Everyone I told my reason for leaving was sympathetic. A lot of them offered me help in whatever way they could – some offered to talk to their managers about getting me a job, or offered me some food, some even money. All of them said that finding somewhere to report them was the right thing.

While we had all wanted it to be sorted from within the organisation, I was glad that the other staff were willing to stick with me even when it became apparent that that wasn’t an option.

It’s difficult taking on people who feel they are above common morals. But it’s a lot easier when there are people on your side. People who know the difference between right and wrong and are willing to fight for what’s right, even when it’s easier to just let it go.

And while we’re all still waiting for responses from the authorities, we’ve taken steps that a lot of wronged people don’t realise they can take.

And we’re determined to make a difference.

Kirstie Summers,

Daily Zen.

Read part three Here.

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