Changes to charity remote meeting rules

07 June 2022

Jodie Johnson, Trainee in the Higgs charity and not for profit team, explains the changes that charities may need to make if they wish to continue holding remote meetings in the wake of Covid-19.

Flexibility which allowed charities to hold remote meetings during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic has been removed by the Charity Commission.

During the pandemic many charities were unable to hold face-to-face meetings. The Charity Commission granted discretion to charities so that remote (or virtual) meetings could be held during lockdowns and when people were isolating or shielding. This flexibility applied regardless of whether a charity had the power to do so in their governing document.

This important intervention by the Charity Commission allowed many charities to continue operating during this unprecedented time.

However, as of 21 April 2022, the Charity Commission brought this flexibility to an end as many Covid-related restrictions have now been lifted. As such, trustees must now strictly comply with the provisions and requirements set out in their charity’s governing document about how they hold their meetings.  

Charitable companies felt the additional benefit of the flexibility provided by The Corporate Insolvency and Governance Act 2020 (“CIGA”) which permitted company meetings to be held by electronic means. However, these temporary provisions came to an end some time ago on March 31 2021.

Even though COVID restrictions have now largely been removed, and life has returned to some kind of normal for many, charities continue to benefit from the convenience of holding meetings remotely.

Call to action

If charities want to continue holding meetings remotely, they must review their governing document to find out if they have the express power to do this. Alternatively, charities can make amendments to provide express powers to allow them to hold meetings in a way that best suits the charity.

This could include online or telephone meetings or a hybrid. This needs careful thought to ensure the provisions allow for fair and open voting to take place and all those in attendance can be seen and heard, for example. Any amendments must still comply with charity law and governance best practice.

How a charity can make amendments will depend on its charitable structure (for example a trust, unincorporated association, charitable incorporated organisation (“CIO”) or charitable company) and the powers available to it in its governing document.

This review would also provide a good opportunity for a charity to bring its governing document up to date with current best practice, regulatory guidance and legislation more widely.

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