Trustees’ Attendance at Board and Sub-Committee Meetings

In our latest blog, the first in a series for Trustees' Week, our Head of Charities, Jenny Simpson, revisits her thoughts on the most common governance issues seen in charities.  First published in 2018, the issues remain the same today;

Today we look at attendance by Trustees at Board and Sub-committee meetings;

Through our work with our charity clients one recurring issue that we commonly identify is in relation to the levels of attendance by Trustees at meetings. Of greatest concern is where we see that meetings are cancelled at short notice because insufficient Trustees are able attend to achieve a quorum. This can have serious implications for the running of the charity and can tie the hands of the charity’s management who are unable to get Board approval for planned actions and activities. Thankfully cancelling meetings is relatively rare, but far more commonly we see individual Trustees with very poor attendance at meetings. This is not necessarily an issue for the charity but can pose particular risks for the absent Trustee.

Trustees have onerous responsibilities, with potential personal liability in extreme circumstances, and it can be difficult to demonstrate adequate discharge of those responsibilities if you are not present at meetings. There is no ‘not my fault -I wasn’t there’ defence.

Whilst we saw a marked improvement in this during the pandemic when meetings were forced to become virtual, over the course of the last ten months as normality has returned, the instances of meetings being only-just quorate and individual Trustees having poor attendance levels has begun to increase again.

We would encourage all Trustees to attend as many meetings as possible, and where attendance is not possible, ensure that you have thoroughly read and considered the papers, in advance of the meeting, and submit comments and questions thereon through the Chair. The input from the absent Trustee should be carefully minuted.

Charities may wish to implement a policy setting out expected attendance levels and a policy for removal of Trustees with unacceptable attendance. They may also wish to monitor attendance levels and report these to the Board on an annual basis.

This blog is intended as a general overview and discussion of the subjects dealt with. It is not intended to be, and should not be used as a substitute for taking professional advice in any specific situation. Wbg Services LLP (and its subsidiary Wbg (Audit) Limited) will accept no responsibility for any actions taken or not taken on the basis of this blog. If you would like further advice or would like to discuss any of the issues raised in the blog then please get in touch with your regular Wbg contact or use the contact form on our website.

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