There is "no excuse" for government departments not to provide payroll giving for their employees, the House of Lords Select Committee on Charities has concluded.
In its report, Stronger Charities for a Stronger Society, the committee says the Office for Civil Society should do more to raise awareness of payroll giving, whereby people can give tax-free donations directly out of their payrolls, and to ensure it is widely available.
"We recommend that the OCS works to improve significantly the awareness and availability of payroll giving by companies," it says.
The report calls on the government to "set an example" on payroll giving by making sure it "is offered to staff as standard by all departments and executive agencies".
"There is no excuse for any government department not offering payroll giving to their employees," the report says.
The report also says the government should review its approach to engaging with the sector on policy decisions and should fully implement the recommendations made in the review of the lobbying act carried out by the Conservative peer Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts.
The report welcomes the government’s decision not to include a clause in public sector grant agreements that would ban charities from using the money to lobby government, describing the clause as "restrictive".
But it says there have been examples where "poor consultation and ill-thought-through policy proposals" have caused "serious unease and disruption" for charities.
As a result, it says: "We recommend that the government reviews its approach to engagement with the charity sector before policy announcements are made, with a view to ensuring that charities feel better informed about legal changes which may affect them and have a greater opportunity to provide input on new policies."
The Transparency of Lobbying, Non-party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Act 2014, usually known as the lobbying act, introduced caps on the amounts that organisations can spend campaigning on issues that could be perceived as party political in the run-up to elections.
In his review of the act, Hodgson called for its scope be reduced to include only activity intended to influence how people vote and for the period during which the rules apply to be reduced.
The report describes his recommendations as "eminently sensible" and calls for them to be implemented in full.
The report recognises that advocacy is a central part of charity work, saying: "Whilst charities are quite properly regulated in their campaigning activities, particularly at election times, any new regulation or guidance should clearly recognise that advocacy is an important and legitimate part of their role and be set out in clear and unambiguous language."
Jay Kennedy, director of policy and research at the Directory of Social Change, said the committee was right to call for the implementation of the Hodgson recommendations, which he said were "sound" but had "been gathering dust for a year with zero action" from government.
The OCS should conduct an audit of the potential impact of Brexit on charities in order to have plans in place to protect them from any negative effects, the committee’s report says.
At one of its evidence sessions, Rob Wilson, the Minister for Civil Society, told the committee he recognised that charities would be affected by Britain leaving the EU and that the OCS was listening to their concerns.
But, the report says, a number of charities that gave evidence said they relied on EU funding as UK public funding decreased and the likely removal of EU funding with Brexit meant "a safety net was disappearing".
In order to deal with this, the committee says, the OCS should conduct an audit of Brexit’s potential effect on charities, taking into account the impact of loss of funding, as well as on research collaboration.
The review should be done and the findings published by the end of the year, and the OCS should then bring forward proposals to address any negative effects, the report says.