Grand Superintendent of Works John Pagella on best practice in lodges

Friday, 08 March 2019

Masonic Centres & the law

The Masonic Halls Best Practice Guidance Manual has a vital role to play in modern Freemasonry, says Grand Superintendent of Works John Pagella

We’re living in an age where standards, particularly in the delivery of public services, are governed by both law and regulation. This carries the implication that unchecked, the quality and reliability of services would decline.

Meeting standards required by law is an obligation which cannot be ignored. Regulation, however, can range from a legal requirement to meet mandatory standards to ‘best practice guidance’. The decision over which approach is appropriate will depend on many factors, of which the consequence of a fall in standards will be one of the more important.

What has this to do with Freemasonry? The answer lies in the status of the Masonic Halls Best Practice Guidance Manual, which offers advice and guidance, but does not require that either must be followed.

Does this mean the manual can be ignored? It certainly does not, and there are several reasons why. As long as a masonic hall or centre is well run, is financially viable and serves the needs of those who meet there, it might not be thought necessary to consider whether it is operating within ‘best practice guidelines’. Indeed, there may well be lessons which should be shared with others and that is why so much time is being spent reviewing the manual to make sure that it reflects current experience. On the other hand, if things start to go wrong and pitfalls clearly signposted in best practice guidance are not avoided, those involved will need to explain why they failed to follow advice based on the experience of others.

There is an even more important reason for recognising that even well-run masonic centres should acknowledge and be aware of the manual. Some of its advice draws attention to obligations imposed by law. Examples include health and safety, and meeting the needs of those who are disabled. In these areas, best practice guidance has to be followed. 

Keeping the manual up to date is therefore an important responsibility. Recent updates have covered project management, advice on assessing the future financial viability of masonic centres and halls, and insurance.

Insurance is easily overlooked until a claim needs to be made. When that occurs, a policy of ‘hoping for the best’ is foolhardy at best. Some aspects of insurance cover, such as employers’ liability, are required by law. In other areas, such as third-party liability or loss of or damage to lodge regalia and furniture, having the right cover is a matter of prudent management. 

In both cases the manual recommends that you contact the Masonic Mutual in advance of when your insurance is due to be renewed. In addition to providing competitively priced cover for masonic centres, the Masonic Mutual is owned by its members – ie the policyholders – and is directed by a board of senior Freemasons who give their time voluntarily. Who better than Freemasons to understand the insurance needs of their brethren? Additionally, the Masonic Mutual serves members directly, avoiding commission to brokers, and retains any surplus for the benefit of its members rather than the shareholders of brokers or insurers.

If things start to go wrong and pitfalls signposted in best practice guidance are not avoided, those involved will need to explain why they failed to follow advice'

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