Legal responsibilities at a glance

The management committee/board must ensure that the organisation understands and complies with its own governing document, relevant laws, contractual obligations and the requirements of any regulatory bodies.

(Supporting principle to Principle 2 of The Code of Good Governance)

To help guide you through some key areas of law that affect the organisation and the Management Committee, we've provided brief introductions below.

There is a link for each, where you can access more information and key contacts.  At the end of this section is a list of helpful websites for official information and advice, and suggestions for further reading.

Charity Law

If your group or organisation is a charity, then it is bound by charity law. This limits the scope of activities that can be carried out, as they must be recognised as being charitable. The Management Committee of charities are referred to in law as ‘charity trustees'. Relevant legislation includes the Charities Act (NI) 1964 and the Trustee Act (NI) 1958.

More on Charities

Company Law

If your organisation is set up as a company limited by guarantee, it is bound by the Companies (NI) Orders 1986-1990 and the Companies Act 2006. This requires a company to follow certain procedures, for example, in the calling of meetings and in the appointment of directors and a secretary. As a Management Committee of a charitable company, you are its directors and its trustees.

You must also, for example:

  • keep a register of members and directors;
  • make returns to the Registrar of Companies; and
  • forward a copy of your annual accounts to the Registrar.

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Employment Law

If your group or organisation employs staff, the Management Committee must ensure that it is a responsible employer and that the organisation complies with employment law. Not only is this a legal responsibility, but a breach of employment law may result in a claim from an employee, which can be extremely damaging to your organisation's reputation and your finances.

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Tax, PAYE and National Insurance Contributions

Every organisation has a legal responsibility to pay tax. There are various types of tax such as income tax and value added tax (VAT) on goods and services. Most charities are entitled to certain tax relief, if they are registered as such with the Inland Revenue. Whether your group or organisation is a charity or not, you must ensure that all relevant tax requirements are met (and paid!). For organisations that employ staff, PAYE and National Insurance Contributions payments are mandatory.

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Fundraising

Most groups or organisations in the voluntary and community sector run fundraising events and should, therefore, be aware of relevant legislation and tax requirements. There are specific legal requirements, for example, for carrying out street collections, ballots and lotteries. In addition, VAT or other tax payments could be required as the result of some fund raising activities.

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Contracts

Organisations enter into various contractual agreements, for example with grant providers or to purchase goods or services. The Management Committee is responsible for ensuring that any terms and conditions within these contracts are reasonable and complied with.

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Data Protection

The Data Protection Act 1998 specifies rules for how personal information is handled and stored. The data protection principles mean that information held on individuals must be:

  • accurate;
  • relevant;
  • secure; and
  • kept no longer than necessary.

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Protection of Children and Vulnerable Adults (Please note that this section is currently UNDER REVIEW)

If your group or organisation works with children and young people or vulnerable adults, you need to be aware of your specific legal responsibilities, including those defined within the Children (NI) Order 1995, the Protection of Children and Vulnerable Adults Order (2003) and the Safeguarding Vulnerable Adults (NI) Order 2007.

These include obligations:

  • to carry out checks on all paid staff and volunteers carrying out regulated activities;
  • for certain groups to register with their local Health & Social Services Trust and meet the related requirements; and
  • to ensure that you meet your ‘duty of care' obligations by developing good child protection policies, practices and procedures. 

By complying with the relevant legislation and applying good practice principles, Management Committees will also be helping to protect the organisation, its staff and its volunteers.

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Common Law Duty of Care

Everyone including Management Committees has a duty to take reasonable care to avoid causing injury or loss that could have been reasonably anticipated and prevented. If this duty of care is not met it may be considered negligence. Therefore, it is important that the Management Committee takes steps to keep people and property safe.

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Insurance

Having adequate insurance for your group or organisation is essential! Insurance not only provides protection against loss or damage, but also in some cases it is a legal requirement. The Management Committee is responsible for ensuring that your group or organisation is properly insured. For example, if you employ staff, it is a legal requirement to purchase employer's liability insurance.

Other types of insurance that may be required include:

  • Public liability insurance;
  • Buildings insurance;
  • Contents insurance;
  • Professional indemnity insurance; and
  • Trustee indemnity insurance.

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Volunteers and the Law

The vast majority of community and voluntary organisations involve volunteers - whether as Management Committee members or as individuals who help the organisation carry out its activities. The Management Committee needs to be clear about the particular legal issues that affect how volunteers are involved in the organisation.

The following information sheets are useful for volunteer-involving organisations.

Remember, volunteers are not employees. If your organisation involves volunteers, the Management Committee is responsible for ensuring that they are effectively managed and properly supported.

More on Managing Volunteers