A good way in which to supply a committee with guidelines on standards of behaviour and dealing with any problems that may occur is by developing and introducing a Code of Conduct.
A committee wants its work to be respected. They need to handle matters in a businesslike manner to secure the best possible level of service for everyone, and avoid any action which might bring the group into disrepute. A Code of Conduct applies to all members of the committee and should incorporate the following:
Members should respect all individuals confidentiality, whether present or not, and refrain from mentioning specific individual cases which may cause embarrassment or identification of an individual unless the person gives their consent.
Committee members should not use their position in the committee to bypass procedures for personal gain. Members should say if they are personally involved in any issue being discussed by the group, and accept that they may not be able to speak or vote on such issues if the group feels it would not be right for them to do so.
Members must accept that the group works for the benefit of all its members, irrespective of race, age, sexuality, class, disability, gender, religious or political beliefs or appearance. The group should be prepared to eliminate all types of discrimination from the way it works, and actively promote equality of opportunity.
Respecting Each Other
Group members should treat each other with consideration, showing regard for people’s feelings and respect for their contribution. Membership of the committee is voluntary; members do not have to suffer being treated unfairly.
Because a committee works best as a team, every member should take responsibility for helping. Contributions should be welcomed from new members, or those whose circumstances make them less active, so that the group is not dominated by a few. Members who are not as busy should not criticise those who are and vice versa.
Members should always try to do what they promise, and not let other members of the team down. If a member is unable to do what they have promised, they should let the group know as soon as possible.
Differences of Opinion
The group is working for everybody’s benefit but differences of opinion are bound to occur. Group members should recognise this and respect different views. They should be prepared to talk differences through and accept any group decisions made.
Differences will sometimes get personal, or be hard to resolve for other reasons. Members should be prepared to recognise when this is happening. They should be ready to find fair ways of cooling things down through mediation or team-building sessions, for example, to allow the group to work together and for their good name to continue.
The group will have clear basic guidelines for handling money. These will include keeping a bank account, numbers of signatures needed for cheques, items money can be spent on, maintaining accurate records of spending and income and providing regular finance reports to meetings. No money should be spent without a decision at a meeting to do so.
Causes for Concern
Issues that can cause concern include: –
• Conflict between committee members that results in the group ceasing to operate effectively and is no longer representative
• Financial mismanagement
• Behaviour in breach of equal rights guidelines
• Inappropriate or offensive behaviour
• Allegations of verbal or physical assault by a member of the group
• Allegations of criminal behaviour made against a group or member of the group
Breaking the Code of Conduct
The committee at the earliest opportunity should consider any report of a breach of the Code of Conduct. In responding to any breach, the committee can carry out any action it decides is appropriate, provided the action is in accordance to the Constitution.