People disqualified by new rules should leave posts by 1 August, says regulator

The Charity Commission has published two sets of guidance to changes in the law on the disqualification of managers and trustees

Trustees: disqualified people will have to relinquish their posts
Trustees: disqualified people will have to relinquish their posts

Anyone affected by new rules that disqualify people who have committed certain offences from being senior managers or trustees of charities will have to resign their posts by 1 August, according to new guidance from the Charity Commission.

The regulator has issued two sets of guidance to help prepare charities and trustees for changes to the law on the disqualification of trustees and senior managers, introduced by the Charities Act 2016.

The new rules disqualify people from being charity trustees or senior managers if they have committed such offences as being put on the sex offenders register or if they have unspent convictions for crimes such as terrorism or money laundering.

Under existing charity law, trustees can already be automatically disqualified for bankruptcy and for crimes that involve dishonesty or deception, and charities are already prohibited from appointing trustees who are disqualified.

The regulator said the latest guidance was designed to help people work out if they would be affected by the changes and to help charities prepare for the new regulations.

Anyone affected by the changes to the law will have to resign their post from 1 August, the guidance says.

The guidance also sets out how waivers can be obtained to allow affected people to continue as trustees or senior managers, something the Charity Commission will decide on a case-by-case basis.

Waivers, which can be general waivers for all charities, for a class of charities or for a specific charity, will allow someone to remain in post as a trustee or senior manager. Waiver decisions can be appealed.

The commission will not grant waivers to people who are banned from holding positions at charities according to their own governing documents, the guidance says, but the commission will have to grant waivers once five years or more have passed since the original disqualification, except in certain circumstances.

These includes cases in which the commission believes the person affected will repeat the original offence(s) that led to disqualification, where other trustees at the charity don’t support the application for a waiver or there is evidence of the person’s unsuitability for their position.

Waiver applications can be submitted from 1 February, the guidance says.

The guidance for charities advises them to identify any trustees or senior managers who might be affected by the changes, and to update pre-appointment procedures to reflect the new offences covered by disqualification laws.

Christopher Stacey, co-director of the charity Unlock, which supports people with convictions, urged people who might need to apply for waivers to do so soon.

"We think the changes to the rules are unnecessary and ineffective at protecting charities, but we do know they will have significant consequences for a number of people currently involved in charities," he said.

He added that his organisation would be publishing guidance on the subject in the next couple of weeks.

"Understanding of the current rules is low, so it won’t be surprising if these changes are met with confusion and uncertainty by charities," Stacey said. "Charities will need to update their recruitment processes to reflect the changes to the rules."

Previous guidance from the Charity Commission about its new disqualification powers was criticised by the Charity Law Association as being too broad. The CLA said it "falls short of what the public should expect from a regulator attempting to explain its use of new powers".

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