Coronavirus (COVID-19) Charity Serious Incident Reporting FAQs

We are a charity and we want to know whether we should make a Serious Incident Report to the Charity Commission if we need to furlough staff or make them redundant as a result of Coronavirus?

In ordinary circumstances, making all or a large number of your staff redundant would very likely require you to file a SIR. In these extraordinary times, a decision to furlough staff on the basis that they cannot currently carry out their roles but you think the organisation will be able to re-employ them in the future could be made without having to file a SIR. For example, an organisation which puts some of its activities on hold (because they involve close contact with beneficiaries) and furloughs the staff which deliver those activities, but is otherwise able to support its beneficiaries by staff working in new ways, may decide that these changes will enable the charity to operate as well as possible in the circumstances and therefore that it does not need to report these changes as a SIR. However, if so many staff are furloughed that the organisation is not able to operate and there is a risk that beneficiaries will suffer because of a lack of services provided, then broadly our advice would be that an organisation should file an SIR. This is broad guidance only and must be considered on a case by case basis. Please do get in touch with your usual Stone King contact, or Reema Mathur should you require further advice.

Should we make a Serious Incident Report if Coronavirus is having a significant negative impact on our organisation, or will the Charity Commission take it as read that all charities are facing significant issues as a result of the pandemic?

The Charity Commission has provided guidance on serious incident reporting on its website:

“We appreciate that during the Coronavirus pandemic the charity sector will face extremely demanding and ever-changing challenges. Charities’ primary interest, and ours, must be looking after the public and the communities that we serve.

“It is ultimately the responsibility of the charity trustees to continue to report serious incidents using our current guidelines, and we will continue to ask trustees to use their judgement in deciding whether an incident is significant in the context of their charity and should be reported to us.
“We will continue to prioritise those incidents that place individuals at risk, or incidents that have had a significant impact on a charity’s operations and therefore serious harm to the charity’s work.

“In conclusion, therefore, there are a wide range of issues that could come up during the pandemic which may require reporting to the Charity Commission depending on whether it is deemed that the issue or incident is ‘serious’ in accordance with the Commission’s guidance.  Please do contact us for advice if you are unsure about whether to report, or if you require professional advice when preparing to submit a report.”

The law and practice referred to in this article or webinar has been paraphrased or summarised. It might not be up-to-date with changes in the law and we do not guarantee the accuracy of any information provided at the time of reading. It should not be construed or relied upon as legal advice in relation to a specific set of circumstances.

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