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Charity Regulation During the Coronavirus Outbreak

View profile for Julia Seary
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The Charities Commission assured charities last week that their approach to regulation during this uncertain period will be as flexible and pragmatic as possible in the public interest, and they will be helping trustees to be aware of and think about the wider or longer impact of their decisions on their charity. 

How do I get support to pay my charity staff?

Many charities will be concerned about their staff in what are unprecedented times and the government has announced that organisations, including charities, will get support to help them pay wages.  Employers can contact HMRC for a grant to cover most of the wages of their workforce who remain on the payroll but are temporarily not working during the coronavirus outbreak. Any employer in the country, small or large, charitable or non-profit will be eligible for the scheme.

Can a charity cancel or postpone its charity AGM or other key meetings?

Coronavirus is having a major impact on charity events and the government’s health advice may lead to some charities having no choice but to decide to cancel or postpone their AGMs and other critical meetings. If as trustees, you decide it is necessary to do so, you should record this decision to demonstrate good governance of your charity. This is particularly important if it is not possible to hold your AGM which may make it difficult for you to finalise your annual reports and accounts. Wherever possible, try to get your annual reports to the Commission on time. However, where the situation impacts the completion of annual returns and accounts, charities with an imminent filing date can contact the Commission’s contact centre on 0300 066 9197.

Can a charity use video, teleconferencing and the internet in place of face-to-face meetings?

In the current situation, it is becoming increasingly difficult to hold face-to-face meetings. Some charities have clauses in their governing documents that allow them to meet virtually or to use telephone facilities, so the Commission advises trustees to check their governing documents and see if they can make amendments themselves to facilitate changes as to how or when meetings are held. Where there is no such clause in your governing document and you decide to hold meetings over the phone or use digital solutions, the Commission has stated that it will understand but you should record the decision to take this approach in order to demonstrate good governance of your charity.

What should be reported to the Charity Commission?

It is ultimately the responsibility of the charity trustees to continue to report serious incidents using Commission guidelines; trustees should use their judgement in deciding whether an incident is significant in the context of their charity and should be reported to the Commission.