Charities & not-for-profit

Responding to sexual harassment claims in the charity sector
15 January, 2018

In our last blog post, we looked at the Charity Commission’s new safeguarding strategy. This blog post looks specifically at allegations of sexual harassment and best practice for dealing with those.


Oxfam recently made the headlines for mishandling an allegation of sexual harassment brought by Lesley Agams, the charity’s former country director in Nigeria. The Charity Commission have since investigated the claim and published a Case Report which found “incidents of behaviour that did not meet the organisation’s culture and values…”. Oxfam has now committed to an externally led review of its HR culture and the Charity Commission has promised to publish a follow up Case Report on the charity later this year which will include lessons for the charity sector as a whole.


In the meantime, what should charities be doing to avoid sexual harassment claims and what should they do if the worst happens and a complaint is received?

man with hand on woman's shoulder



  • Ensure procedures are in place for efficient tracking and reporting of incidents of sexual harassment and abuse both internally and externally;
  • Forward-plan the allocation of resources to deal with allegations;
  • Train and manage staff in line with charity values about harassment, abuse, and your charity’s safeguarding practices; and
  • Internally review your organisation’s culture to determine and mitigate any risks.


Responding to a complaint

  • Refer to your organisation’s harassment policy to ensure the correct procedure is followed.
  • Don’t dismiss complaints before investigating them. When deciding whether the alleged conduct is sexual harassment it is important to remember that it is the effect of the behaviour on the recipient that counts and not how it appears to another person.
  • Deal with any complaint quickly and confidentially. Make sure all paperwork and electronic documents regarding the complaint have suitable protection.
  • Be fair. You will need to be supportive to anyone who makes a complaint while at the same time treating the alleged harasser fairly.
  • Consider whether the complainant and alleged harasser can continue to work together. If not you may have to suspend both on full pay for the duration of the investigation. You should not move the complainant or pressure them to move unless they have specifically asked for this.


If you have any specific questions about sexual harassment or safeguarding or would like help putting together a safeguarding and / or anti-harassment policy, please contact Emma Saunders.

New safeguarding strategy published by the Charity Commission
5 January, 2018

Sadly, it seems that charities are not immune to the recent sexual harassment scandals that have rocked Hollywood and then Westminster. An investigation by the Times recently uncovered a mishandling of an allegation of sexual harassment at Oxfam and back in October a number of military charities hit the headlines due to safeguarding concerns.


The Charity Commission was quick to intervene in both instances and has recently published a new safeguarding strategy reminding charity trustees of their responsibilities. As Harvey Grenville, Head of Investigations and Enforcement at the Charity Commission says:

“The public rightly expects charities to be safe and trusted environments where people are protected from harm, including the charity’s own staff and volunteers.”


The strategy emphasises that it is trustees who are accountable for safeguarding even where certain aspects of their work delegated. Furthermore, trustees must ensure the welfare of anyone that comes into contact with their charity not just beneficiaries. So whilst charities working with children or vulnerable adults will need to pay special heed to the new strategy, all charities should review their own strategy for preventing/ dealing with safeguarding issues. That said, the steps a charity should take need only be reasonable and will be seen in the context of the charity’s work.


Importantly the strategy makes it clear that safeguarding goes beyond preventing physical abuse. It also includes protecting people from harm generally. This includes neglect, emotional abuse, exploitation, radicalisation, and the consequences of the misuse of personal data.


So what steps should charity trustees take to tackle this issue?


Annex 1 of the strategy provides a useful breakdown of a trustee’s safeguarding duties.


The first step is clearly prevention and Annex 1 helpfully signposts the key areas to target in terms of prevention:

  • Trustees should first of all ensure they have a thorough understanding of their safeguarding responsibilities and along with Annex 1, should become acquainted with the Charity Commission publications on this topic (see links in para 4.1. of the Strategy).


  • Ensure the charity has a robust safeguarding policy which is publicly available. Review this policy if this hasn’t been done in the last 12 months. This should include a procedure for responding to a safeguarding incident.


Glasses and DBS check

  • Ensure the charity follows good practice when recruiting trustees and staff. For example, obtain a DBS check where the individual will have regular contact with children, or adults at risk.


  • Charities should carry out due diligence on any overseas partners they work with to ensure they too have appropriate safeguarding policies in place.


  • Some charities (for example educational charities) will also be subject to the Prevent Duty e. the requirement to have ‘due regard to the need to prevent people from being drawn into terrorism.’ See statutory Prevent Duty guidance here.


In the event of a safeguarding incident, trustees should ensure they create records of their investigations and keep these securely. Where a beneficiary of the charity is involved, the charity may need to make a serious incident report to the Charity Commission.


Safeguarding is one of the key areas of risk identified by the Charity Commission and this new strategy is a positive move towards minimising this risk in the charity sector.









The legal status of full-time volunteers
13 November, 2017

Charities rely heavily on their volunteers but would giving full-time volunteers legal status be helpful or a hindrance?


Currently, full-time volunteers have no legal status and a number of charities have asked the government (in a written submission to the Lords Select Committee on Citizenship & Civic Engagement) to give full-time volunteers legal status largely it seems to encourage more young people to volunteer perhaps by taking a ‘domestic’ gap year. They cite examples of other countries such as the US and Germany which have well established and successful social action programmes for young people which require full-time attendance.


So what particular problems do full-time volunteers experience in the UK?


Full-time volunteers are not entitled to National Insurance Credits. This contrasts with those on Jobseeker’s Allowance, caring for children or sick relatives or doing jury service who do qualify.


Also, charities must be very careful to limit any training they give to volunteers to that needed to carry out the volunteering activity in question. Anything beyond that, for example, personal development training, could provide ammunition to a volunteer that they are in fact a ‘worker’ or ‘employee’ and entitled to all the rights that go with that position.


It is not clear what the legal status proposed by the charities would look like. However, concern has been expressed by others in the charity sector that a specific status for full-time volunteers could create a two-tier system for volunteers, disadvantaging those who are unable to commit to the specified hours needed to qualify for full time status for financial reasons or due to care commitments.


The Lords Select Committee on Citizenship & Civic Engagement will report their findings by the end of March next year. Alongside this, The Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport is also carrying out an independent review into full-time social action and we will keep you updated on both of these initiatives once full reports are published.


In the meantime, if you have any queries about the status of charity volunteers or need help drawing up a Volunteer Agreement, please contact our employment specialists in the Charities Team: Rhona Darbyshire or Emma Saunders.


Charities: How GDPR compliance can work for you
1 November, 2017

There is little dispute within the charity sector that the prospect of preparing for the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and its potential impact on charitable organisations is daunting. This is entirely understandable as the consequences are so vital. After all, a failure to comply could mean that you are left unable to contact current and potential donors, resulting in a future funding gap.

Some charities, such as the RLNI, have already taken the plunge and made the decision to stop contacting individuals by telephone, email or post unless they had actively given their consent for the charity to do so. padlockWhether or not this would be the right approach for your organisation must be decided on a case by case basis, and certainly this will not be the case for all.

The good news is that there is still time to ready your organisation’s systems so that the changes in legislation represent an opportunity rather than a threat. By focusing on improving your marketing and fundraising activities and processes, charities can actually strengthen relationships with donors and encourage greater levels of engagement.


Here are our top tips:

• Evaluate your marketing initiatives: Consider whether or not they are giving your supporters a reason to want to hear from you in the future. For example, offering tips and advice relevant to fundraising activities or events.

• Understand your supporters: Take the opportunity now to get their consent for you to keep in touch with them. Getting this now will minimise the risk of a funding gap later.

• Tailor the message: Ask your supporters what they are genuinely interested in hearing about. Consider giving them choices. For example, do they have an interest in hearing about opportunities for volunteering? Do they want details of particular fundraising events and, if so, what types of events? Such pro-active engagement will create trust and also enable you to develop longer term strategies to maximise funding.

• Build trust and respect: Explain how you will respect the personal information of supporters and potential donors when you get it. This will involve some leg work now but they will value the organisation for it in the long run. Be clear as to how it will be used and equally what you will not be doing with it. Be specific about how you will be contacting them and how often.

• Know the data: Consider what data you are holding and what consents have already been given. Determine whether that is sufficient given the forms of direct marketing undertaken by your organisation. Charities may actually find that the consent they already have is sufficient for their purposes.

• Finally, don’t assume: You don’t need consent for all forms of direct marketing. While emails, texts and automated phone calls are more strictly regulated, charities may still be able to contact supporters by post and make live phone calls on a “legitimate interests” basis.

To help provide more clarity around the various aspects of the GDPR and provide organisations with a clear way of achieving compliance we have created a GDPR Hub

To keep the process as simple as possible, we have developed a five-step approach to GDPR compliance

This provides you with a straightforward approach and explains what you need to do and how we can help you.

If you would like more advice or to speak to one of our GDPR team, please contact Rhona Darbyshire

Selling charity land: the do’s and don’ts
16 October, 2017

When it comes to selling land, with property likely to be the most valuable asset on the books for most charities, trustees are under specific obligations to ensure that any disposal is in the charity’s best interests and that property transactions are properly managed.


Earlier this year a Charity Commission (CC) inquiry report into the sale of charity land by the trustees of The Spiritualist Association of Great Britain criticised trustees for failing to act in the charity’s best interests.  Nicola Paffard from Cripps Charities Team discusses the case and the report’s findings here.


Meanwhile, what can you do to ensure compliance with statutory requirements when selling or leasing land?


  • DO think carefully about the reasons for wanting to sell the charity land.  Trustees must be satisfied that any disposal is in the best interests of the charity.


  • DO carefully read the CC’s comprehensive guidance note which fully explains the processes that charities must follow when disposing of land.  Among other things, you may be required to:


  • Obtain an order from the Charity Commission or from a court allowing you to proceed with the sale;


  • Obtain a statutory form of report from a suitably qualified surveyor confirming that the terms of the sale are the best reasonably available in the market;


  • Advertise or market the property for sale/lease in accordance with your surveyor’s recommendations.


  • DON’T enter into any binding legal document without obtaining legal advice and/or advice from an appropriate surveyor in accordance with CC guidelines.  This includes option agreements where charities agree to sell property at a later date, and lock out agreements where you agree not to deal with other potential buyers for a set period of time.


  • DO take time to check and assess the buyer, the offer and the motivations behind it.  As charity trustees you have a duty to ensure that the charity’s best interests are served.  Most transactions will be straightforward, but if something seems too good to be true, it’s usually because it is.  Your advisors will know what is unusual in the market place, and whether any alarm bells should be ringing.


  • DON’T solely rely on advisors who have a strong involvement with the other party in the transaction.  Advisors who receive payment from both parties in a transaction (in one form or another) can be useful in brokering a deal, but it is vital that charity trustees also receive independent advice.  Often as part of a charity sale, the buyer pays the fees of the selling charity’s professional advisors, but your advisory team must understand that they act for you alone, and that the interests of the charity are paramount.


  • DO choose your advisors carefully – you should always appoint surveyors and solicitors who, like Cripps, have a strong record of expertise in both charity and property law, to help you navigate the transaction and ensure that the steps you take are fully compliant with your duties.


Two people shaking hands


For advice on your charity property transaction, please contact Nicola Paffard or Rebecca Crosdil who will be happy to talk through your requirements.