Following Government advice last week I have created the attached poster for you to fix to your front entrance doors if your hall is remaining open and other generic posters from Public Health England. The most recent Government advice given over the weekend is that:
- Everyone should avoid gatherings and crowded places, such as pubs, clubs and theatres
- All "unnecessary" visits to friends and relatives in care homes should cease
- By next weekend, those with the most serious health conditions must be "largely shielded from social contact for around 12 weeks"
- If one person in any household has a persistent cough or fever, everyone living there must stay at home for 14 days
- Those people should, if possible, avoid leaving the house "even to buy food or essentials" - but they may leave the house "for exercise and, in that case, at a safe distance from others"
The group of people who should take "particular care to minimise their social contact" were:
- People over the age of 70
- Other adults who would normally be advised to have the flu vaccine (such as those with chronic diseases)
- Pregnant women
We are awaiting further advice for hall committees from ACRE and insurers. But in the meantime…
Closure: Given this advice, many hall committees may choose to close the hall for an indefinite period – this is a decision of the hall committee that can be made by email and/or telephone but which you should record in Minutes. However if a preschool operates from the hall they may wish to continue in operation in line with Govt guidance and the hall committee may feel happy to continue to offer this limited use of the hall.
Cancellations: I would recommend the hall committee consider the cancellation of large parties and gatherings and the hirer may have already instigated this. Depending on what your hire agreement states regarding cancellation, you may have to return the booking fee and deposit, however, hirers may wish to consider donating part of the fees to the hall if asked. Your hire agreement should contain a clause allowing you to cancel bookings for exceptional reasons but if it doesn’t a hall committee decision to cancel bookings on government advice should be legal.
Regular hirers: fees paid in advance by regular hirers may need to be held over until their session resumes.
Meetings: Going forward, governing documents usually state hall committees have a duty to hold at least two meetings a year. I’ve attached the Charity Commission guidance on meetings and what constitutes a ‘meeting’ – this is when the hall committee can both hear and see each other, so video conferencing is acceptable. Outside of these two required meetings, and in these exceptional times, hall committees may decide to make decisions by email but please follow up any decisions made by email with Minutes stating the outcome of these decisions.
AGMs: Those of you who have AGMs planned in the coming months should consider delaying this meeting until such time when the current restrictions have eased. Most governing documents allow for an AGM to be held in a particular month, or as ‘soon as practicable thereafter’. If you governing document doesn’t state this, then again, in the exceptional circumstances, a decision can be made by the hall committee and Minuted.
Finances: The hall committee should check with their insurers to see if cover includes ‘business interruption’ and the circumstances in which this will be paid. Hall committees should have sufficient reserves in the bank to cover at least 3 months operating costs but bear in mind your costs will reduce if the hall is closed. Government support advice for businesses can be found at: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/coronavirus-support-for-employees-benefit-claimants-and-businesses
Employees: If the hall committee engages self employed cleaners/caretakers/booking secretaries then you may wish to consider changing and reducing their hours of work. If you directly employ, you will need to discuss with your employee the possibility of a temporary reduction in hours or taking some annual leave at this point.
Please bear in mind this is guidance and not ‘set in stone’ – hall committees will have to consider the Government advice and their own particular local circumstances, governance and hiring agreements when arriving at decisions. The situation is changing very rapidly and halls should keep up to date with the latest government guidelines and take their own advice if they have any specific concerns.
We will, of course, inform you as soon as possible of any further guidance.
Please contact Sue Gibson if you have any queries: firstname.lastname@example.org