Code of Practice

1. Introduction

Bristol and Avon Family History Society comprises Trustees, Committee Members and Society Members.

This Code of Practice sets out the relevant commitments expected of the members in their duties to which adherence will help to ensure the effectiveness of the Society. This will maintain openness and accountability across the organisation and support positive working relationships between the Committee and Society Members.

2. Management

The Management of the Society including its groups is undertaken by Trustees and Committee Members who are elected by and from the Society’s subscribing membership.

a) Trustees

Trustees are the current elected Officers and members of the Committee. Further details can be found in the Society’s Constitution and the Charity Commission’s Handbook for Trustees. The Trustees will be held legally responsible for what the Society does.

b) Officers

Officers are elected Committee Members holding the offices of Chairman, Vice-Chairman, Treasurer and Secretary.

c) Committee Members

Committee Members are elected by the Society’s Members at the Annual General Meeting and hold office in accordance with the Society’s Constitution. They comprise a Chairman, Vice-Chairman, Secretary and Treasurer plus no more than 8 non-office holders.  The Secretary is the first point of contact for the Society’s legal business and for ensuring the keeping of relevant records.  For details on the responsibilities of all office holders, see Job Descriptions.   Further details can be found in the Society’s Constitution.

d) Post Holders

Post Holders are members who have specific responsibilities for areas of the Society’s operations. These are not elected positions but appointments which are approved by the Committee.

3. Duties of Trustees

Trustees of the Society must:-

a) Act with probity, due prudence and should seek and consider professional advice on anything in which the Trustees do not have expertise.

b) Administer the Society and all its assets in the interest of current, potential and future beneficiaries, making all decisions on the objective merits of the case and strictly within the terms of the Society’s Constitution.

c) Hold themselves accountable to the Society’s stakeholders including the public for their decisions, the performance of the Committee and the performance of the organisation. They must submit themselves for scrutiny appropriate to their role to the Chairman and/or one other elected Officer.

d) Not gain financial or other material benefit for themselves, their families or their friends from the Society except where legally authorised; not attempt to use their status as Trustees to gain advantage within the Society; ensure that they abide by written policies on the claiming of expenses.

e) Not place themselves under any financial or other obligation to outside individuals and organisations that might influence them in the performance of their official duties.

f) Conduct themselves in a manner which does not damage or undermine the reputation of the Society or its members individually or collectively and not take part in any activity which is in conflict with the objects of the Society or which might damage the reputation of the organisation.

g) Make decisions together and take joint responsibility for them. The extent to which any one Trustee or a small group of Trustees is empowered to speak for or take action for the Society must be a matter for all Trustees to decide together.  Such decision must be recorded.

h) Not discriminate with regard to age, gender, race, creed, colour, sexual orientation or physical ability.

4. Duties of the Committee

The Committee shall:-

a) Meet at least 6 times per year at a time and place which is convenient to a majority of them.

b) Formulate and review annually the objectives and strategy of the Society.

c) Ensure that the Society complies with regulatory and statutory requirements and exercises overall control over the Society’s financial and legal affairs with the assistance of appropriate professional advisers.

d) Have a commitment to the development and implementation of good practice.

e) Be familiar with, and keep under regular review, the Constitution, Code of Conduct and all other Policies and Procedures as set out in the Society Handbook. Any changes must be made in accordance with constitutional and legal requirements.

f) Attend Society Meetings regularly and develop a good working knowledge of the Society; attend Committee Meetings regularly bringing a fair and open-minded view to all discussions and ensure that all decisions are made in the best interests of the Society and in accordance with its Constitution. Any elected Committee Member failing to attend 3 consecutive Committee Meetings without good cause shall be deemed to have resigned from the Committee.

g) Ensure that minutes of Committee meetings are kept, and that these are available for inspection by members.

h) Be as open as possible about any decision taken, giving reasons where appropriate and restricting information only when wider interests require it. Where matters must remain confidential, the Committee must ensure that such papers are kept securely. Any confidential discussion which takes place will be recorded in a Confidential Record Book.

i) Aim to foresee and avoid any personal conflict of interest with the Society’s business. Where such a conflict arises, Committee Members must at once declare their interest and absent themselves from any discussion or vote.  Any transaction where a Committee Member will benefit either directly or indirectly must have proper authority.

j) Ensure that confidential information or material (relating to members, volunteers, consultants, commercial or business bodies, etc) provided to, or discussed at, Committee Meetings remains confidential within the confines of the meeting and is managed according to relevant legislation.

k) Take responsibility for all discussions, decisions and all documents or records generated in whatever format. It is the decision of the Committee Members as to what should be made available to a wider audience.

l) Develop and ensure the maintenance of a properly constituted, balanced and competent Committee, including clear procedures for selection, training, retirement and, if necessary, removal of Trustees and Committee Members.

m) Decide how the Society is run, ensuring that it keeps within the law set down by the Charity Commission.

n) Discuss and make decisions regarding affiliation to other appropriate bodies.

o) Submit recommendations for President, Vice-President and Honorary Life Members to the AGM of the Society.

p) Conduct disciplinary proceedings.

5. Groups

a) At present there are two Groups within the Society which report to the Society’s main Committee. All the Society’s accounts, including those of the Groups, are subject to scrutiny by an independent examiner.

b) At Group Committee Meetings minutes must be taken. These must be sent to the Society’s main Committee for inclusion within B&AFHS records.

c) No major policy decisions or purchases should be made without reference to the Society’s main Committee. Group Committee Members should not sign documents which place the Society in a contractual situation without the permission of the Society’s main Committee.

d) Prior to undertaking any new projects, Groups should consult with the main Committee to ensure there is no duplication of effort across the Society’s Membership.

6. Objectives

a) The Society’s current operating objectives are set out in the Constitution. The Society’s main and Group Committees will review these on an annual basis and submit any proposed revisions to the AGM.  Such reviews can be conducted as necessary throughout the year.

7. Financial

a) All expenditure will be authorised by the Committee who will delegate spending authority to approved individuals.

b) The Treasurer must ensure that accurate records are kept in line with the Society and Charity Commission guidelines.

c) The accounts will be examined annually and draft accounts submitted to the Society’s Members at the AGM. The final accounts, once approved by the External Examiner, will be printed in the Society’s journal.  A progress report will be submitted to Committee Meetings with a draft annual report to the last Committee Meeting before the AGM.

d) Any cheques issued must be signed by any two of the authorised signatories. Note: Signatories should not normally be from the same household.

e) At the first meeting of the Society’s main and Group Committees after the AGM, the Committee Members shall decide the cheque signatories for the coming year.

f) The value of the Society’s assets is included in the accounts by the Treasurer. A Schedule of Assets which are of financial value to the Society will be recorded in a register which will be kept by the Treasurer.

g) Legitimate expenditure may be reclaimed by Society’s Members for authorised purchases made on behalf of the Society.

h) Legitimate expenses may be claimed by Members when authorised to represent the Society at events. These must be submitted to the Treasurer for authorisation.

8. Intellectual Property

a) All work carried out for the Society, resulting in the creation and / or publication of records or other material, shall be the intellectual property of Bristol and Avon Family History Society.

9. Disciplinary Policy

a) The Society expects its Trustees, Committee Members and Society Members to abide by its Constitution and Code of Practice.

b) If, however, it is necessary to investigate a matter which is considered may bring the Society into disrepute, the disciplinary procedure will be followed.

c) The outcome of the decision could be withdrawal of membership and/or the Society instigating legal proceedings.

d) If a Member of the Society wishes to raise a disciplinary or grievance matter against another Member, he/she should follow the disciplinary/grievance procedure.

10. Emergency Policy

Emergency Procedures will be put in place with regard to the needs of the Society:-

a) Cancellation / change of venue for monthly meetings

b) Cancellation / change of venue for Committee Meetings

c) Research Room closure

d) Loss of key personnel

e) Loss of assets, records or data

11. Data Security and Protection Policies

a) The Society shall establish Policies and Procedures for both Data Security and Data Protection to meet the Society’s needs and its obligations to its members and to comply with current legislation and good practice.

12. Archiving Policy

a) The Society shall establish an archiving policy to ensure the proper retention of relevant records in appropriate formats.

13. Summary

a) This Code of Practice will be reviewed at least every 3 years by the Committee.

b) This document should be read in conjunction with relevant parts of the Constitution and the Society’s Handbook.

c) There is an obligation of all members to support the Trustees in the management of the Society in accordance with the principles of the Constitution and this Code.


The Society is grateful to the FFHS for allowing its model Code of Practice to be used as a resource for this document.

Revised July 2019. Published here 16 July 2019