Charity staff 'prevented from standing for election'

Employers fear it will bring allegations of political bias, recruitment expert claims

Some charities are preventing their staff from standing for election because they fear it could lead to allegations of political bias, according to the founder of a specialist recruitment consultancy for campaigners.

Jonathan Dearth of The Right Ethos said campaigners had told him their employers were unhappy about them seeking office. One woman, he said, had even been told she could not stand for her local council.

"It's an increasing problem because the campaigning sector has ballooned in the past decade and looks set to get larger," said Dearth. "This could limit the sort or number of people in campaigning - particularly at the top end."

Several campaigners are hoping to be elected to Parliament this year. Stella Creasy, head of public affairs and campaigns at the Scout Association and Labour's prospective parliamentary candidate for Walthamstow, said the charity was aware she would be standing for election when she joined in 2008 and it had not caused any problems.

Joe Hall was advocacy and communications manager at Save the Children until September, when he left to campaign as an independent candidate for Luton South. His opponents will include ChildLine founder Esther Rantzen. Hall said the charity was unconcerned about his political ambitions and even offered him the chance to stay on part-time.

Charity Commission guidance on charities and elections, which was updated in January, says employees should declare when they are standing for election.

"The trustees should then consider this potential conflict of interest and assess the risk to the charity in terms of both reputation and legal liability of the person taking on both roles simultaneously," the guidance says.

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