HCR Law Events

16 June 2020

Charity Commission guidance update: serious incident reporting during the coronavirus pandemic

On 3 June 2020, the Charity Commission provided some clarification on reporting serious incidents during the coronavirus pandemic. The general guidance on reporting continues to be the main resource you should use when deciding whether to report. However, the Commission appreciates that the pandemic has given rise to some unprecedented challenges and scenarios that were not envisaged when the guidance was originally published.

Supplementary examples table

The Charity Commission has provided a supplementary examples table which provides details of various specific coronavirus-related incidents that the Commission deems to be either reportable or not. The table includes, amongst others, the following examples:

  • It is not necessary to report that a single individual has, or is suspected to have, contracted coronavirus, but it does need to be reported if there is an outbreak that means the charity cannot continue with its normal operations.
  • It is not necessary to report that some or all of the charity’s staff have been furloughed, unless it impacts on the charity so much so that it is: (a) unable to deliver vital services to at risk beneficiaries; and/or (b) insolvent and/or forced to close permanently (or is highly likely to be within the next 12 months).
  • You must report if a member of staff alleges that they have suffered significant harm due to their working conditions during the pandemic.

A link to the supplementary examples table can be found here.

Significant incidents

You, as trustees, should continue to exercise your own judgement when deciding whether an incident is ‘significant’ in the context of your charity and take account of its staff, operations, finances and/or reputation. However, you should also now consider the following key points in your decision-making during the pandemic:

  • Taking certain action, such as closing premises, to meet government rules should not be considered a significant incident in itself. However, the impact of this action on your charity is key to determining whether this should be reported.
  • You should focus on the significance of the impact of losses rather than the amount of the loss. Therefore, the expectation for the charity to report financial losses, that do not involve a crime exceeding £25,000 or 20% of the charity’s income, does not apply when considering financial losses that are related to the pandemic.

Other continuing considerations

It is important to remember that the decision whether to report an incident or not can be delegated to certain individuals within the charity, but the charity’s trustees will always be ultimately responsible for the decisions that are made.

You should continue to submit any reports to the Commission online as soon as is reasonably possible after the incident or when the charity becomes aware that significant harm or loss is highly likely.

If you take the decision not to report an incident, you should record a copy of the decision along with your reasoning for not doing so.

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Kate Hickey, Partner

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