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Joint working agreement checklist

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Step-by-step guidance on what to include in a joint working agreement

Use this checklist to help you think about what should go into your joint working agreement. It walks you through the different areas you should cover and the questions you should ask.

The content of an agreement will vary and you may need to include other sections that aren’t covered here. However, these questions will help you make informed decisions about what to include.

You can read more about joint working agreements in the knowledge bank.

Please be aware that these checklists are for guidance only and shouldn’t replace legal advice

Download and edit this checklist

Download a Word version of this checklist that you can edit and make notes on (Word,30KB).

Introduction

The introduction to your agreement should include:

  • a title
  • definitions of the terms used
  • what you’re trying to achieve by collaborating
  • specific objectives for the partnership
  • each partner’s vision, mission and values
  • the benefits of collaboration to each partner
  • how long the collaboration will last.

Terms of the agreement

Use these questions to help you think through the terms of your agreement.

  • What is the purpose of the agreement?
  • Will it be legally binding?
  • Does it create a legal partnership? (Read more about legal partnerships in the knowledge bank.)
  • What activities does your partnership cover?
  • Who is it relevant to?
  • How long is the agreement valid?
  • When and how will you review it?

Roles and responsibilities

Declarations of interest

State that partners agree to be transparent on matters concerning the collaboration and to declare conflicts of interest.

Expectations

Set out what is expected from each partner.

You could also attach specific outputs and delivery timetables. The table below is an example of how you could lay this information out. Download a Word version of the table that you can edit (Word XXKB).

Partner

Action/Obligation/Service

Deadline

Partner X agrees to:

or

Obligations of partner X:

or

Service to be provided by partner X:

Partner Y agrees to:

or

Obligations of partner Y:

or

Service to be provided by partner Y:

Quality standards

  • What quality standards do you agree to meet?
  • What performance measures will you use?

Decision-making process

Give an outline of the decision making process.

  • How many people will be required to legitimise a decision?
  • What are their roles?
  • Do you require unanimity?

Making commitments that bind all partners

  • Can one organisation do this?
  • What are the limits to this?
  • When do partners have the right to be consulted?

List the areas where decisions cannot be taken without the express agreement of partners.

Hierarchy

  • Are all partners equal?
  • What is the role of the accountable body?

People

  • Who is the designated point of contact for the work in each organisation?
  • How much management time do you expect each partner to give to the collaboration?
  • Who will legally employ the staff who are working on your collaboration?
  • Who will line manage them?
  • How will their time be divided between partners?
  • Will they work in more than one location?
  • If you use a steering group to oversee your collaboration, who will sit on it?
  • What will their role be?
  • What decision-making powers will they have?
  • What role will your trustees have?
  • How much time do you expect them to contribute?

Your trustees should discuss the collaboration before it begins as part of their duty to assess risk and make sure their organisation acts legally.

After that, the level of trustee involvement depends on the scale of your project. Trustees need to be kept informed, but may not need to sign the agreement.

Cost and assets

Being clear about who owns what will be helpful when the collaboration ends.

  • Who will source or pay for facilities or support used by the collaboration (eg premises, equipment, phone line and consultants)?
  • Will these assets then become the property of the collaboration (ie jointly owned) or remain owned by one partner?
  • If jointly owned, can each partner use them?
  • Who has copyright on written material produced during the collaboration?
  • Who owns the intellectual property rights?

Accountability: roles and responsibilities

Your accounting arrangements should include the requirements of your funders. Charities must also account for their collaborative projects in line with the charities’ statement of recommended practice (SORP). Get professional advice to make sure that you comply.

Your funder may need to liaise with just one organisation. This organisation would be the accountable or lead body, which makes them accountable to the funder or commissioner for the funding and funded work.

The accountable body carries most of the risk, but it can share this risk among partners by putting conditions on the funding they get. If you don’t need to have an accountable body, you still need to assign financial and co-ordinating responsibilities among the partner.

Think through these questions.

  • What is each partner’s specific liability, including liability for the defaults of other partners (as agreed with funders)?
  • What are the responsibilities of the accountable body (eg reporting to the funder according to an agreed schedule, circulating reports among the partners for them to sign off before they are submitted)?
  • How many payments to partners will you make? How much will they be? When will you make them?
  • How will you determine and divide management costs?
  • What management charge will be allocated to the accountable body?
  • Which partners are taking on which other costs?
  • How will any earned income be divided?
  • What will happen to underspent funds (eg will they be returned to the project’s central funds to be incorporated into next year’s budget? Do funders agree to this?)
  • How often will you review spending?
  • When will you agree next year’s budget (eg by the last quarter of the previous project year)?

Monitoring and audit

What will the audit arrangements be for your joint work?

What financial information will the accountable body give partners so that each one has the information it needs for its own reporting?

Partners should agree to:

  • keep records for monitoring purposes.
  • provide certain information at set times in a set format.
  • respond to additional requests for information (eg from the accountable body, direct from the funder or from regulators)
  • submit copies of annual accounts to the accountable body
  • take part in evaluating the joint work to assess how the partnership is achieving its aims.

Other kinds of accountability

You may have to meet legal and regulatory requirements that are specific to your area of work, as well as those set out by the Charity Commission and other regulators. For example:

  • Which organisation takes responsibility for looking after children?
  • Which organisation takes responsibility for making sure staff and volunteers are DBS checked?
  • Whose child protection policy will be followed?

Fundraising

  • Will one partner take responsibility for identifying funding sources and securing future grants or contracts?
  • How will you co-ordinate this work?
  • Will time spent on this be incorporated into payment made to the partner who is responsible?

Communicating with partners

  • How will you communicate with partners about the progress of your project?
  • Will you share additional information so that you can from each other?
  • How will you make referrals between partners?
  • How much information will you share about clients?
  • How will you handle confidentiality?

Data protection

You need to comply with data protection law. Work out how you’ll deal with any personal data that needs to be shared among partners.

  • How will you collect data?
  • How will you handle data?
  • How will you store data?
  • How will you use data?
  • Who will be told what?
  • Who will tell them?
  • When will they be told?
  • How will they be told?

Meetings

As a partnership, you may want to state minimum attendance at meetings as a condition of being involved in the partnership.

  • How often will you meet?
  • Who is expected to attend?
  • Who will chair and note action points?
  • Will you undertake to send substitutes when main representatives cannot attend?
  • Where will you meet?

Public relations

Reach agreement over publicity materials. Where you need to follow your organisation’s brand guidelines, make sure all partners discuss what this involves.

  • What will the collaboration be called on publicity materials?
  • How will you use logos and what order will they be displayed in?
  • Will time spent on this be incorporated into payment made to the partner responsible?
  • How will you share publicity costs?

Exit strategy

  • Under what circumstances would you mutually decide to end the collaboration?
  • Under what conditions would your organisation withdraw from the collaboration?
  • Who will decide?
  • How will you decide?
  • How many months’ notice will organisations give their partners?
  • What will happen to staff?
  • How will you divide assets and liabilities when the collaboration ends?
  • How will you handle any costs associated with termination?

Dispute resolution

  • How will you address misunderstandings or conflict (eg mediation or professional arbitration).
  • How will you pay for this?
  • Will you use sanctions if a partner breaks the agreement?
  • Under what circumstances would you ask a partner to withdraw from the collaboration?

Legal clauses

Below are some other areas that you may think about including in your joint working agreement. Get legal advice on how they apply to your work.

  • Right to subcontract
  • Right to inspect each other’s books and records
  • Confidentiality
  • Representations and warranties
  • Indemnities
  • Force majeure (removes liability where agreed activities can’t be carried out due to barriers outside the partners’ control)
  • Legal basis for the agreement (eg this agreement is governed by English law)
  • Contact details of partner organisations
Page last edited May 19, 2022

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