Trustees must ensure charities have clear bullying and harassment policies, says regulator

11 Aug 2022 News

Charity Commission building and logo

Civil Society Media

Trustees have a central role to play in preventing bullying and harassment at charities, the regulator has said.

In guidance published today, the Charity Commission said trustees must ensure their charities have clear policies and that they handle allegations of bullying and harassment in line with employment laws.

A working group between the regulator, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, ACEVO, UNISON, NCVO and other sector experts informed the guidance. 

Those concerned about bullying or harassment are encouraged to take their concerns directly to the charity and trustees are responsible for ensuring processes are in place to address these concerns. 

Report any serious incidents to the Commission

Welfare, discipline and whistleblowing policies must be in place for charity staff, the Commission said. Clear procedures on bullying and harassment are essential. 

If an actual or alleged serious incident of bullying or harassment occurs, charities should report this to the Commission immediately so the regulator can assess the situation.

Workers and volunteers at charities can also report these incidents. 

A serious incident pertains anything that could seriously harm the people a charity helps, a charity’s staff or volunteers, services the charity provides, the charity’s assets or reputation. 

Intervention by the regulator

The Commission prioritises involvement in addressing cases which pose or have caused the highest risk of harm, for example, when trustees have not addressed reported bullying or harassment within a charity or there are concerns over potential mismanagement of a charities governance. 

It could respond to this by providing regulatory guidance or opening a statutory inquiry into the charity.

The regulator seeks to ensure that charities’ trustees are responding to incidents appropriately and taking steps to prevent any further harm. 

However, the regulator clarified it is not its role to resolve individual employment issues. These matters should be raised with the charity through grievance procedures. 

‘There is certainly no place for bullying in the charity sector’

Paul Latham, director of policy at the Charity Commission, said: “There is no place for bullying and harassment in society, and there is certainly no place for it in the charitable sector. In a sector grounded on kindness and generosity, this kind of culture is unacceptable.

“I am grateful for the leadership shown by our sector group on this issue and am pleased that we have been working so collaboratively to better communicate the Commission’s role and underline the role played by individual charities and the wider sector. 

“We are clear that we expect charities to take action to prevent and deal with incidents, but that we will intervene where there are concerns that trustees are not complying with their responsibilities, including in relation to safeguarding, to protect charities and the wider charitable sector.” 

The working group of charity sector bodies and experts will continue to meet to discuss this topic. 

Jane Ide, chief executive of ACEVO, said “bullying and harassment is unacceptable in any part of our sector” and welcomed the Commission’s guidance on its role in this context. 

“The clarification provided today on serious incident reporting and the role the Commission will – and will not – play in those circumstances is a helpful step,” she said.

“This is just one part of our sector’s response to the issue though. We look forward to working alongside the Commission and our colleagues across civil society to continue to inform, educate and support our sector in creating a safe and inclusive culture for all.”

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