The Charity Commission has launched a consultation on a new draft of The Essential Trustee (CC3), its guide to trustee duties, which makes clear that trustees who do not follow best practice might be breaching their legal duties.
A document published by the commission outlining the changes says that the new version explains that trustees are expected to comply with specified good practice unless they can justify not doing so. Previously, good practice was explained by the guidance as "what trustees should do", meaning some trustees and their advisers have treated it as optional.
The document says other changes include a better layout, links to other commission guidance to avoid repetition and reflections of the commission's current position and priorities.
Jane Hobson, head of policy at the commission, said: "It’s vital that trustees understand what we expect of them, and the revised guidance provides a clear, succinct and up-to-date picture. Trustees’ basic legal responsibilities have not changed, nor has our role as regulator.
"The changes around ‘must’ and ‘should’ shouldn’t affect most charity trustees, who already take their role seriously. It’s a case of trustees understanding that ‘should’ means ‘really should’ – not ‘maybe, if you feel like it'."