Regulator calls on trustees to ‘have a central role’ in tackling bullying and harassment

The Charity Commission has clarified guidance around the responsibilities of charity leaders to tackle bullying and harassment within and by their organisation.

This includes emphasising that “trustees have a central role to play to ensure their charity has clear policies” in place to address bullying.

Staff should be encouraged to take concerns to trustees where appropriate. Trustees are then “responsible for ensuring they have processes in place to hear those concerns and address the matter”, states the regulator’s guidance.

“Trustees must recognise that there is simply no place for bullying and harassment within, or by, charities,” says the guidance.

The commission warns trustees that it will intervene if they are not effectively tackling bullying.

“As a risk-based regulator focused on charity governance, the Commission prioritises involvement to address the highest risk of harm, for example where there are concerns that trustees have not addressed reported bullying or harassment that is widespread and systemic within a charity,” adds the guidance.

The clarified stance on responsibilities of charity leaders to tackle bullying and harassment has emerged following a working group involving charity sector and workforce leaders, including representatives from NCVO, ACEVO, Unison and the Association of Chairs.

“Bullying and harassment is unacceptable in any part of our sector and at any level of it,” said ACEVO chief executive Jane Ide.

“It is essential that we work collaboratively to establish a zero-tolerance approach to bullying and harassment and to ensure that everyone working in civil society, whether paid staff or volunteer, feels safe and respected in their work.

“We welcome the focus from the Charity Commission on its role as our regulator in this context.”

Charity Commission policy director Paul Latham added: “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.”

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