During the pandemic, the Charity Commission issued Covid-19 guidance on a range of matters. This included permitting charities in England and Wales to hold their meetings remotely, regardless of whether the charity’s governing document permitted this. The Commission relaxed its rules to support charities in carrying out their activities in pursuance of their objects in spite of the challenges presented by the pandemic. Company law was also temporarily changed to allow this.
Now that the government has removed Covid-19 restrictions which were put in place to allow for safe working during the pandemic, the Commission has equally decided to revert to enforcing compliance with charities’ governing documents and the flexibility temporarily introduced by a change in company law has been withdrawn. Therefore, from 22 April 2022, if a charity wishes to hold a meeting remotely, online or by telephone, it can only do so if its governing document permit it to hold formal meetings in this way. This includes AGMs, members’ and trustee meetings.
Trustees are therefore advised to review their governing documents to check whether they are permitted to hold meetings remotely and make the required amendments if not.
If a charity’s governing document does not permit remote meetings, these must now be held in person, until the governing document is amended. If this is not a viable option, charities are encouraged to cancel or postpone AGMs or other meetings, provided that the governing document allows trustees to do so. Trustees must continue to show that their decision is in the best interests of the charity having taken all the circumstances into account.
Further updates to the Charity Commission’s guidance can be found here. This includes the ending of the right to apply for Covid-19 related filing extensions for annual documents. Normal filing requirements will now apply, and charities must submit their annual returns within 10 months of the end of their financial year.