Governing body Responsibilities

The structure of the organisation will determine its governance arrangements and the specific responsibilities which management committee members / trustees / directors have.   In this briefing the term “governing body” is used to denote the governance structure of the organisation whether it is a management committee, board of trustees or directors or any other structure.

Regardless of structure and governance arrangements those involved have a duty to act in the best interests of the organisation, part of this duty includes ensures that the organisation complies with its legal obligations, including equality and human rights responsibilities.

Equality and human rights responsibilities
Voluntary organisations and charities are required to comply with equality laws in relation to employment, access to goods, facilities and services, and education in relation to gender, race, disability, sexual orientation, religion & belief, and age.   Governing bodies will, depending on the structure of the organisation, be responsible for any actions or inactions of the organisation relating to these equality obligations.   Members of governing bodies also be personally liable where they have acted in a discriminatory way or failed to prevent discrimination occurring, and will be vicariously liable for actions or inactions of any staff or volunteers which constitutes harassment on any of the equality grounds.

Voluntary organisations and charities although not specifically covered by the public sector equality duties in relation to gender, race and disability, may find themselves indirectly liable for these if the organisation is undertaking services on behalf of a public body which is covered by these duties.   The responsibility for complying with these duties ultimately remains with the public body, but the voluntary organisation / charity should ensure that they are complying with best practice and may find that there are clauses in their contract / service level agreement which require them to do this.

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