Archives: Resources

Calverts workers handbook

This example of an internal handbook is from Calverts. There’s also a general profile of this co-op in our case studies resource.


1 Introduction
2 Calverts as a workers coop
3 Employees becoming Members
4 How we organise and manage Calverts
5 Co-op meetings
6 Your Employment Agreement
7 Hours of work and timekeeping
8 Our environment, and working safely
9 Time off
10 Other benefits
11 Disciplinary procedure
12 Grievance procedure
13 Loss of Membership

1 Introduction

1.1 This handbook is to help new people get familiar with working at Calverts, and remind Members what they signed up for. It contains information about Calverts policies and procedures.

1.2 The handbook is given to all workers, and it gets updated from time to time. Along with your job offer letter, job description and individual Employment Agreement, it forms part of the contract between Calverts, its workers and Members. We are individually and collectively bound by the policies set out here, or otherwise agreed by the Members.

2 Calverts is a workers coop

2.1 Calverts is like any other firm in some ways, and different in others. From the outside, it may look like any other company. Unlike most other companies, we are a cooperative. A co-op is a group of people organising to meet their common economic, social and cultural needs, through a jointly-owned and democratically owned enterprise.

2.2 We’re a workers coop. Most firms exist to provide profit for the owners. Calverts exists to provide decent work. By that we mean jobs that are well paid and secure, with equality, dignity and respect, the opportunity to develop peoples’ skills and aptitudes, and to collectively self-manage our working lives.

2.3 There are other kinds of coops, providing housing, financial services, shops, shared services and so on, for their Members. Coops around the world have agreed on a basic set of values. The co-op values are self-help, self-responsibility, equality, equity and solidarity.

2.4 We put these values into action using the seven co-op principles:

• open and voluntary Membership
• democratic control
• Member economic participation
• autonomy and independence
• Member and public co-op education
• cooperation between cooperatives
• care for community

2.5 What these values and principles mean for a worker co-op in practice, are set out in a booklet called the Worker Co-op Code. You can read or download the Code at

2.6 Calverts is committed to equal opportunity policies in relation to recruitment, employment and training practices. You can read our Equality and diversity policy at [internal link]

2.7 In short, a worker co-op is a firm that is owned by, controlled by, and for the benefit of, its worker Members and the wider community. The Members of Calverts collectively own and control the coop. They direct its activity, sharing the benefits and management responsibilities that membership brings.

3 Employees becoming Members

3.1 As a Calverts employee, you have the same legal rights and responsibilities as you’d have in any other job. Your tax and national insurance status treatment the same. You have legal rights to a safe working environment, to paid time off, to join a union, and so on. When you become a Member of the coop, this doesn’t change – it’s just that Members are also co-owners, with the special legal powers and responsibilities that come with being a Director.

3.2 Only people employed by Calverts under an open-ended Employment Agreement to work 14 hours a week or more, can become co-op Members. There is an induction process for these workers, to get the understanding and co-op skills they will need over and above the specific job skills they were recruited for. In general, it takes about 9 months from when you first take a job at Calverts, to the point when you’ll be invited to join. It takes new people time to ‘get’ the Calverts culture and learn co-op skills. It also takes time for us to be sure you’ll make an effective Member.

3.3 During the 9 months, you’ll get support and advice to help you gain an understanding of Calverts’ financial management, what co-op Membership means on the day-to-day level, and what being a Director involves. If possible, we’ll send you on at least one external co-op event.

3.4 As a Member, you will be expected to put yourself forward to carry out one or more of the special roles and tasks needed to run the co-op – for instance co-op secretary, health and safety officer, personnel officer, environmental manager, meeting facilitator, co-op chair or co-op treasurer.

3.5 Other than a symbolic £1 share, it doesn’t cost anything to become a Member. When you leave, your Membership finishes and you don’t get to take away your ‘share’ of the value of the coop. In other words, the co-op belongs collectively to whoever the Members are at any point in time. As people arrive and leave, that ownership and control is passed on.

4 How we organise and manage Calverts

4.1 No Member of Calverts is any other Member’s boss, and every Calverts Member is paid the same. In most firms, there are line managers whose job it is to make all the important decisions, tell people what to do, to hire and fire.

4.2 At Calverts, we have collective self-management in the way we govern the co-op. On the day-to-day level, our productive work is managed by production co-ordinators. This co-ordination is a business process, rather than something that confers special status or power. This way of working means that Members must show a high level of personal and collective responsibility – using their skills and capacities productively, for the development of the coop; upholding the coop’s policies; positively contributing to the coop’s culture; treating their colleagues respectfully and as equals; being honest, open and accountable to each other; and complying with any reasonable work or support request made by another Member or by the coop.

4.3 We work in overlapping departmental team circles. Each team is responsible for making sure its department works well, and has a lot of say in how it is run. Team Members are accountable to each other, and each team is accountable to the other teams, so that decisions don’t get made that go against the interests of the co-op as a whole – or make other peoples’ jobs more difficult.

5 Co-op Meetings

5.1 Co-op policies, or major issues affecting everyone, are discussed and decided by the whole co-op at regular Monthly Meetings. This is when Members receive and review formal reports on things like Calverts financial and sales performance.

5.2 Attendance at the Monthly Meetings is mandatory for all co-op Members. It’s a key part of Membership. The only reason for a Member not to be at a Monthly Meeting is if it coincides with pre-booked leave, if they are ill, or if they have a personal emergency. If a Member does not plan to be at a meeting, they should normally send a formal apology to the co-op Secretary, with a reason for the absence. In any case, Members must attend at least 9 Monthly Meetings out of 12 in a calendar year, unless a dispensation has been requested by the Member concerned, and agreed by the other Members.

5.3 From time to time, Calverts has a longer special meeting. These are often held away from the office, to give time and space to work on complex issues or long-term strategy. These meetings are also mandatory for Members.

5.4 Check-in meetings are held between Monthly Meetings, to keep track of progress and deal with anything urgent. Anyone working at Calverts office when a check-in meeting is held, is normally expected to attend – but it is not mandatory.

5.5 We also form special circles or groups as needed, to work on particular aspects of the co-op such as marketing, finance or strategic planning. These circles report back to the whole coop.

5.6 Mostly, Calverts makes decisions by consensus or consent. Sometimes, we need to record a formal vote. All workers, whether they are Members or not, can have their say; but only Members have a vote.

6 Your Employment Agreement

6.1 Within one month of starting at Calverts, you’ll receive this Handbook, your individual job description and an Employment Agreement. The Employment Agreement contains information about your starting date, wages, holidays, entitlements to paid sick leave, and notice period. Together with the Handbook and your job description, it is part of your contract with Calverts, and you’ll be asked to sign it.

6.2 If you’re new at Calverts, you will receive a fixed-term contract to cover the period of your expected induction for Membership of the co-op – normally 9 months – plus a further month to make a decision about joining, or in lieu of notice. Part of your job requirement will be to work towards Membership, including receiving peer support, training and information to help you make an informed decision and be ready to take up the benefits and responsibilities of co-op Membership.

6.3 If you are invited to become a Member after successfully completing the induction period, and accept, you will receive a new, open-ended contract that is similar to the initial contract, but also includes your Member responsibilities and rights.

6.4 If you choose not to become a Member, or if you do not complete the induction period, your fixed term contract and employment with Calverts will end.

7 Hours of work and timekeeping

7.1 A standard full-time working week at Calverts is 35 hours. All workers are hourly paid. Pay rates are reviewed and agreed by co-op Members from time to time.

7.2 You will be paid monthly, and your pay is calculated on the total hours you worked during the previous pay month – taking into account any time worked under or over your contracted hours. Any variation from your contracted hours may be factored in to your pay calculation for the month, or carried over from one month to the next.

7.3 Your pay is calculated on the basis of the standard hourly pay rate, together with any premium or special rate for overtime or unsocial hours working. These rates are set and agreed by the Members from time to time. The current policy on overtime pay is as follows:

“Overtime will be paid at single time up to 37.5 hours per week, calculated over the monthly pay period. Over 37.5 hours, it will be paid at 1.5 time. All overtime must be requested or agreed in advance by a production coordinator. Workers are encouraged to use ‘time in lieu’ to even out their hours over the pay period, to avoid overtime.” (Policy agreed 23rd January 2018).

7.4 Basic policy on working hours and pay are the same for all workers, but actual working days and hours for each job role, team or employee vary. This allows the co-op to maximise efficiency, while taking account of the individual needs of workers and responding flexibly to individual requests.

7.5 To start with, your hours and working pattern are set out in your employment agreement. After six months, you have the right to request to vary them. Any variation or change in your contracted hours or working pattern must be negotiated with your colleagues, then agreed at a Members’ meeting. This does not affect your legal right to request to flexible working.

7.6 Except in cases of health or family emergency, or factors beyond your control, you are contracted to carry out all the duties set out in your job description, according to your agreed hours and working pattern. This includes complying with any reasonable work or support request from a colleague, whether or not it is included in your job description.

7.7 You are required to maintain and submit an accurate daily and weekly record of your working hours and breaks, using both:

i) the premises signing-in book, which also serves as a building security and safety log. You must sign in when you enter the building, and record the time when you leave.

ii) any app-based or other system as may be agreed from time to time. You can use this to report hours worked both on and off Calverts premises. This submission, checked against your ‘on premises’ hours as reported in the signing-in book, is used to calculate your paid hours and holiday entitlement.

8 Our environment, and working safely

8.1 Calverts has a duty to ensure that its employees have a safe working environment. It is the responsibility of all workers to be familiar with the current policy and to comply with its provisions. New employees will receive appropriate training and information. Our Health and Safety policy is available at [internal link].

8.2 In particular, compliance with safe working practices around machinery such as printing presses and guillotines is vital. For instance, no employee should operate printing or finishing machinery when they are alone on Calverts premises. Members should be prepared to comply with any reasonable request to provide safety cover.

8.3 Calverts is one of the UK’s leading ‘green’ design and print agencies. We have an environmental management system, which we run under the ISO14001 standard. You will be familiarised with the policy and system and what it means for your work. Complying with the system requirements is an important requirement of working at Calverts.

9 Time off

9.1 Holiday leave: your starting holiday entitlement is equivalent to 6.6 weeks per year, pro rata, including bank holidays and the period when Calverts closes between Christmas and New Year. This rises by one day per year for Members after their second full year of Membership, rising to a maximum 7.60 weeks.

Holiday or other leave of up to one day, including time off in lieu, must be agreed with the production co-ordinator in consultation with other people in your work team. All other leave must be agreed by a check-in meeting.

9.2 Family leave: employees are entitled to time off for urgent family reasons, and to parental leave in accordance with the statutory scheme for the time being in force. This is unpaid.

9.3 Compassionate leave: Members of the co-op may request up to one week’s compassionate leave per working year pro rata. An example of grounds for requesting compassionate leave is close family bereavement. Any such request must be agreed by the coop. Compassionate leave may be taken as additional unpaid leave, and any such request will be considered sympathetically. Exceptionally, the co-op may agree to treat compassionate leave as additional paid leave, but this is at the Members’ discretion and is not a right.

9.4 Extended and sabbatical leave: A Member of the co-op who has been a Member for more than three years may request unpaid leave for a period of up to one year. Such a request will be considered sympathetically by the coop, but can only be granted on a case-by-case basis, and is not a right.

9.5 Public duties: Employees are entitled to time off for public duties such as jury service, in accordance with the statutory scheme for the time being in force.

9.6 Maternity leave and pay: you are entitled by law to take time off to have a baby and to be paid, provided that you have given the correct notice. Please ask the Personnel Officer for details, or read:

Above and beyond your statutory rights, a full-time employee who is absent from work due to pregnancy is entitled to full pay for the first 16 weeks of maternity leave, including your statutory entitlement.

9.7 Paternity, maternity support or shared parental leave: your rights to take paternity, maternity support, adoption or shared leave is provided for by law. Please ask the Personnel Officer for details, or read:

9.8 Health Care: After completing 3 months service, employees are entitled to six preventative visits (pro rata) in total to doctors/dentists/opticians/family planning clinics etc. per year, in paid working time.

10 Other benefits

10.1 Pension: Calverts uses the Peoples Pension scheme to automatically enrol employees, as required by law. Please ask the Personnel Officer for details about how this affects to you.

10.2 Eye Tests: Any Member working on a screen or whose job involves close scrutiny work is entitled to an eye and sight test once a year, paid for by the Co-op, as well as £35 towards the cost of their prescription.

10.3 Child Care Vouchers: Child Care Vouchers to cover childcare costs are available. This is a salary sacrifice scheme, the voucher value being deducted from your gross salary. Please ask your Personnel Officer for details.

10.4 Season Ticket Loan: A season ticket loan to pay for travel costs to work is available, within Transport for London Zones 1-6. All loans are repayable on termination of employment. Please ask the Personnel Officer for details.

10.5 Training and development: In line with the 5th co-op principle of Education and Information, Calverts encourages Members to develop and broaden their skills and capacities through on- and off-the job training, as well as deepen their practical understanding of the cooperative way of working.

Employees who are working towards Membership will be given information to help them understand the way the co-op works, including understanding our financial management and co-op culture.

The co-op will also consider sympathetically any request from a Member for support, in the form of subsidised training costs or flexible working arrangements, to enable them to develop skills and aptitudes that are not directly related to their job at Calverts.

11 Disciplinary procedure

11.1 If a problem is perceived to arise with the performance or behaviour of a Member, and it cannot be resolved through honest and open communication between colleagues, it should be referred to the Personnel Officer or an alternate, uninvolved Member if the Personnel Officer is the subject of the referral. The Personnel Officer, or an alternate Member agreed by the Personnel Officer, may:

i) Make a preliminary investigation.

ii) Convene an investigatory meeting with the Member who is the subject of the issue, in the presence of a Note Taker. The Member who is the subject of the issue will not be entitled to be accompanied at such a meeting.

iii) Convene a disciplinary panel of three co-op Members. The Panel will be appointed by the Personnel Officer, or an alternative Member, from the full list of Members – Members being required when requested to serve in this capacity, unless they are personally involved in the issue under investigation. Where possible, Panel members will be drawn from different work teams, and be appointed in rotation. The Disciplinary Panel will be delegated full authority to carry the disciplinary procedure through to a resolution, including implementing and escalating any necessary measures that are fair and proportionate, in line with law and best employment practice. The Panel will be authorised to seek such professional advice as they may need to fulfil its role. The Personnel Officer, or alternate Member, will attend any disciplinary meetings as an advisor and note taker.

iv) A minimum of one week’s notice of a Disciplinary hearing will be given to the employee or employees concerned. A pro forma complaint sheet will be prepared and presented to the employee. The Panel will decide and notify the employee in writing of any improvement that may be required, and on what timescale. This will constitute a first warning, and it will remain in force for 6 months, regardless of the agreed timescale for improvement.

v) The Panel, assisted by the Personnel Officer or an alternate Member, will monitor and record the employee’s performance during the agreed period.

vi) If there is insufficient improvement within the required period, or if the conduct that led to the hearing is repeated within 6 months, a further meeting will be called with the personnel officer in attendance, and procedure followed as above. This constitutes a second warning, and it will remain active for 12 months, regardless of the agreed timescale for improvement.

vii) If there is insufficient improvement within the required period, or if the conduct that led to the hearing is repeated within 12 months, the Panel may issue the employee with a written dismissal notice.

viii) Within 7 days of receiving either a formal warning or a dismissal notice, an employee who is the subject of the warning or notice may appeal against the Panel’s decision. The appeal will be heard as soon as possible by a full meeting of Members, not to include the members of the Disciplinary Panel that issued the warning or notice. The employee may choose to attend, or not attend, the appeal in person. In the case of a dismissal notice, the employee will be suspended on full pay until the appeal has been granted or refused. If the employee does not appeal within 7 days, dismissal will take effect immediately.

ix) An employee who is required to attend a disciplinary or appeal hearing has the right to be accompanied and advised by a person of their choice.

x) In a case of serious misconduct, the above warnings and timescale will not apply. Any Member who believes an employee to be guilty of serious misconduct may request that employee to immediately surrender their access to Calverts premises and accept gardening leave, pending investigation. Examples of serious misconduct may include:

• intoxication due to drink or drugs
• fighting or other physical abuse
• theft
• dishonesty
• sabotage
• serious breaches of health and safety rules
• offensive behaviour such as discrimination, harassment, bullying or abuse
• unreasonable refusal to work or to comply with a request from a colleague
• accepting or offering bribes
• misusing co-op information or setting up a competing business
• repeated failure to meet the obligations of Membership
• deliberately damaging Calverts reputation and good standing

12 Grievance procedure

12.1 A grievance complaint may be initiated by any employee or group of employees, concerning another employee or group of employees. Initially, any such complaint should be addressed to the Personnel Officer or to an alternate Member if the Personnel Officer is the subject of or closely involved with the grievance.

a) If the Personnel officer or alternate believes that the grievance needs further investigation, an investigatory meeting involving all parties will be held as per 11 (ii) above.

b) If the grievance cannot be resolved this way, a Panel of three Members will be convened to consider the case as per 11 (iii) above. The Personnel Officer or alternate Member may involve an external mediator, and each party has the right to a representative or advisor of their choice.

c) If the grievance is upheld, the Panel will direct a remedy and timescale, and monitor further. If the grievance is still not resolved, the Panel may initiate disciplinary action.

13 Loss of Membership

13.1 Taking an active part in the running of the co-op is a contractual obligation for Members. This includes attendance and participation in the governance and day-to-day management of the coop’s business, including from time to time taking on specific governance and management roles such as Treasurer, Secretary, Health and Safety Officer, Environmental Policy Manager, Personnel Officer, Chair or such other roles as the Members may create; and participating in working groups of Members. Members will receive such information and training as may be necessary to take up these roles.

13.2 A Member could be liable to lose their Membership, and be removed as a Director, if they fail to fulfil their obligations as a Member. This might include consistently failing to positively engage as respectful equals with colleagues, or pursuing individual or factional agendas that run counter to cooperative values and principles, or co-op policies.

a) A Member may be expelled by a resolution carried by the votes of 75% or more of the Members present and voting at a general meeting of the coop. The meeting must be called giving the Member sufficient notice and details of the complaint. Proxy votes are not permissible, as Members would need to hear the evidence before making a decision.

b) Not less than 28 days before the meeting the Member threatened with expulsion must be sent, in writing, a complaint of conduct detrimental to the interests of the coop. The complaint must contain full particulars of the misconduct. The Member must be invited to answer the complaint in writing within 14 days of him/her receiving it. The answer must be given to the personnel officer, who will distribute it to Members.

c) The Member must be invited to attend the meeting and must be allowed to take part even if the Member has not answered the complaint prior to the meeting. At the meeting the Members must consider the evidence in support of the complaint and such evidence as the Member may wish to place before them. If the Member’s evidence is only placed before them on the day of the meeting the other Members may decide to adjourn the meeting to another day not more than 10 working days after the day of the meeting. Should this occur, the Member who is the subject of the potential expulsion shall be suspended on half pay until the hearing is resumed.

d) If, after due notice the Member fails to attend without due cause the meeting may proceed in his or her absence.

e) A person who has been expelled from Membership shall not be readmitted except by a resolution carried by the votes of at least three quarters of the Members present and voting at a general meeting of which due notice has been given.

f) If the meeting fails to vote for expulsion, but it is felt that there is still a problem, a grievance complaint may be initiated by any Member.

Updated September 2023 postcards

There are two postcards aimed at different audiences. These A6 flyers fit into a pocket and inform and educate about and worker co-ops.

Postcard 1 ‘Liberating work: Join us! Help build a world where…’

Postcard 2 Had enough yet? Had enough of meaningless, useless or exploitative work?’

Specs: A6, colour

Members can order by post here (collection available in London, Birmingham, Manchester) stickers

Download PDF of sticker pack

Specs: colour, 6 designs

Members can order some by post here (collection available in London, Birmingham, Manchester)

(Image shows 7 sticker designs alongside the updated Worker Co-op Codes and Liberating work A6 Manifesto

Case study: Leading Lives

Who are we?

Leading Lives is the largest social care workers co-op in the UK. We are based in and around Suffolk.

What do we do?

We provide a range of support to adults with learning disabilities and autistic people in and around Suffolk, enabling them to lead the lives they choose.

Quick facts
Industry Health and Social Care
Turnover£10 million per annum
Who are the members?Employees
GovernanceElected directors
PayVariable pay
Legal formCo-operative Society

How do we operate?

As an employee-owned company, Leading Lives is a democratic organisation.

  • Eligible employees can become members, each member has one share, one share equals one vote.
  • At any one time around 90% of our eligible employees are shareholders.
  • All shareholders can vote on key issues relating to the delivery and development of the company at Annual General Meetings (AGM’s) or SGM (special general meetings when called.
  • The business is managed by a Board of Directors who are elected by the members to be their voice on bigger decisions. The Board can have up to 16 members including 2 ex-officios, 2 non-executive directors and 2 from our shareholder council.

Where did we come from?

Leading Lives spun out of Suffolk County Council in July 2012. We were formed without assets in the bank, without lots of equipment or resources, but what we had was a team of over 300 committed, well trained and experienced staff.

Why are we a co-op?

The decision for an employee-owned company was based on our realisation that the employees will always be our most valuable asset, with the real value of services to the customer being based on the expertise and commitment of the support staff. Through this structure, the commitment of valued staff can be recognised and connected to the needs of the business. Employee members within co-operatives can be the most loyal and enterprising individuals as they work within an organisation they own.

Lessons learned

For anyone just starting out on their co-op journey we would say that it’s helpful to have a positive attitude to learning, and to encourage employees to use any mistakes as opportunities to learn. This keeps us all open and moving forward rather than getting stuck in a blame drain! We’d also say to reach out to other Co-ops, we’ve learnt some brilliant things from other co-ops and it’s great to be part of such a collaborative movement.

Case study: Fruit Works Co-op

Who are we?

We help people in Bradford and Leeds grow more fruit easily.

What do we do?

We have a tree nusery where we grow fruit trees to sell. We manage an old orchard that produces lots of fruit for greengroces and juicing. We work with lots of schools and community groups to manage and use public orchards. We run training courses for people to learn to prune and propogate fruit trees and bushes. Lastly we prune trees for customers.

Quick facts
Industry Agriculture
Who are the members?Employees
PayEqual pay
Legal formCompany

How do we operate?

We have regular business meetings where all the workers make decisions.

Where did we come from?

The two founders met apple juicing after lockdown and started a small community orchard planting service. We took over the shell of a co-op legal structure. We’ve grown steadily and specialise in everything fruit related.

Why are we a co-op?

We believe in democratic control of businesses and workplaces. We are a social enterprise that wants the Bradford and Leeds areas to be more edible.

Lessons learned

We are stronger from holding hands with sister co-ops in Sheffield and Manchester.

Case study: Good Press

Who are we?

We are a bookshop, printing and bookmaking studio, and exhibitions and events space based in the centre of Glasgow.

What do we do?

We sell independently and self published books with a focus on visual arts, graphic design, sound and music, experimental writing and literature. We also have a print service specialising in risograph printing and short run book making.

Quick facts
Industry Arts & Entertainment
FoundedSeptember 2021
Who are the members?Employees
PayEqual pay
Legal formCompany

How do we operate?

All cooperative members are directors and we make collective decisions about how the business is run. Responsibilites are allocated to different members of the team such as bookbuying, accounts, printing, events management and stock management. We make decisions by consensus at monthly meetings.

Where did we come from?

Good Press was founded in 2011 as a bookshop, and ran by a shifting team of volunteers for ten years before forming as a cooperative. We began the bookshop as a place for independent and self publishing in the arts, with a focus on supporting the production and distribution. We maintain an open submission policy when it comes to stocking publications to try promote access to small publishing.

Why are we a co-op?

Although Good Press was run as an informal group and managed by a sole trader in its early years, decisions were always made among the collective, so it made sense to incorporate as a cooperative when we were able to do so and share ownership of the business among its workers.

Lessons learned

We should have incorporated many years earlier, as it was difficult to detangle the finances after having been managed as a sole trader for so long. It can be difficult, and is still an ongoing concern (!) to define what is a group responsibility and what is a responsibility for an individual member, so would advise spending time among coop members when starting out to get that nice and clear.