Charity Trustees - what is needed from an HR prospective?

I’ve just been appointed as a new trustee for a local charity and have been asked to manage all things HR related. The charity works mainly with volunteers and has just one paid employee. This is the first time I’ve worked in the charity sector as well as my first trustee role - can I ask for some advice on what I should be looking at putting in place from an HR prospective please? 


  • With just one paid employee, it's hard to know what they're expecting of you in HR terms. I suspect it's more what I would call "HR adjacent" stuff: GDPR, volunteer training, H&S, responding to complaints etc. As the charity has an employee, you should check that you have the minimal policies in place and that the employee has a contract - but that's kind of one-off stuff and won't fill your time as a trustee.
  • Depending on what sort of charity it is, you might need to look at DBS information too.
  • In reply to Robey:

    Thanks for this.

    What HR info should I be making sure we have for each trustee as a minimum? A rough job/role description, eligibility check, dbs check.......

    I suspect I’ll be mainly be working with the volunteers but it would be good to have things in place in case anymore paid staff are taken on. It’s a relatively small local charity at the moment.
  • Hi Penny

    If you haven’t done so as yet, I’d urge you to check out the Charity Commission website. They have all sorts of guidance on the roles of trustees. You should review what kind of documentation there is in place for the trustees such as a trustee agreement and register of interests. You definitely need a conflicts of interest policy. A skill matrix of the trustee body would be useful and some thought around how the trustees maintain their skills. As you have identified, you definitely need to look at what checks have been carried out. The Charity Commission is very helpful on managing governance issues. I’d also look at how your trustees are inducted: what information they are given about the role and responsibilities of a trustee (I’d Issue them with the relevant CC paper), how they are inducted to the work of the charity, take them through the accounts ... what is included will partly depend on the nature of the charity’s work but there are some basics that apply to everyone.

    Also have a look at the NCVO website. You might find this site more useful for managing staff in the 3rd sector (all 1 of them!).

    Does your charity have volunteers? See if there is a volunteer bureau near you. As well as advertising voluntary positions, they will probably offer training on managing volunteers and may have template policies and other resources. Their services are very often free.

    Finally, use your network and the professional networks of the other trustees to see if you can find a firm of solicitors who would be willing to “adopt” you as part of their CSR and provide you with legal guidance. This could be on governance or employment law - you do need to think about employment law with volunteers as well as staff so that you don’t inadvertently blur the employment status of your volunteers.